FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler Named Dean of Yale University School of Medicine

President Richard C. Levin announced today that David A. Kessler, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, will become dean of the Yale University School of Medicine, effective July 1, 1997.

Dr. Kessler is a graduate of the Harvard Medical School, the University of Chicago Law School and Amherst College. Appointed in 1990, Kessler served as FDA Commissioner under Presidents Bush and Clinton. Before that, Dr. Kessler was medical director of the Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 1984 until 1990.

President Levin said: “David Kessler brings a unique array of skills and experience to the task of leading the Yale School of Medicine. His educational background ranges from basic science and medicine to law and business; his professional experience encompasses hospital administration and national leadership. This is a time of enormous opportunity for biomedical science and medical education, and Dr. Kessler has the intelligence, energy and vision to enhance the quality of Yale’s distinguished Medical School and to help it establish a new standard for excellence in education, research, and patient care.”

During his six-year tenure at the FDA, Dr. Kessler successfully tackled difficult issues as he sought to meet critical public health needs. Under his leadership, the FDA’s accomplishments were wide-ranging, from the introduction of the Nutrition Facts food labels to tobacco regulation, and from mammography standards to world-record times for drug approvals. During his tenure, the FDA cut in half the median time required to evaluate new drugs it approved.

Dr. Kessler, who is both a pediatrician and a lawyer, said: “I am proud and delighted to be joining one of the world’s great academic medical centers. Yale’s tradition of excellence in physician training and its national leadership in biomedical research place it at the forefront of American medicine.”

Donna E. Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services and herself a former University president, said: “David Kessler is a brilliant scientist, a visionary policymaker and a tough-minded leader, but most of all, he is a ‘doc’ who cares. Yale has chosen a winner.”

Dr. Harold E. Varmus, Director of the National Institutes of Health, said: “David Kessler is a person of incredibly diverse capabilities. His proven track record in administration and government combined with his strong affinities for science and education promise to make him an outstanding leader in academic medicine in general and at Yale in particular.”

Gerard N. Burrow, M.D., dean of the Yale School of Medicine since 1992, will be returning to the faculty and will serve as Special Adviser for Health Affairs to President Levin.

The School of Medicine, one of Yale’s 11 graduate and professional schools, has been among the nation’s preeminent medical centers since its founding in 1810. Over the years, its researchers have made major contributions to public health by isolating the polio virus; promoting the early use of cancer chemotherapy; adding to the arsenal of AIDS medications; developing a promising Lyme disease vaccine; discovering genes that contribute to skin cancer and high blood pressure; and making strides in diagnosing and treating Parkinson’s disease, depression and other mental disorders. Yale now ranks fourth among American medical schools in research dollars granted by the National Institutes of Health and has an annual research budget of more than $200 million. Its dedicated staff of 4,000 professionals is committed to the education of leaders in American medicine, the pursuit of path-breaking advances in basic science and clinical medicine, excellence in patient care, and contributions in public health.

While Dr. Kessler was medical director at the Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine – where he was on the faculty of both the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine – he was responsible for directing its clinical activities.

During his service as medical director, he also was affiliated with the Julius Silver Program in Law, Science and Technology at the Columbia University School of Law, where he taught food and drug law. From 1982 to 1984, he was special assistant to the president of Montefiore Medical Center, and served as a consultant to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

Dr. Kessler completed his internship and residency training in pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Kessler has been elected a member of the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Kessler’s many honors have included the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor, the American Heart Association’s National Public Affairs Special Recognition Award, the American Federation for AIDS Research AmFAR Sheldon W. Andelson Public Policy Achievement Award, the American Academy of Pediatrics Excellence in Public Service Award, and the March of Dimes Franklin Delano Roosevelt Leadership Award.

Dr. Kessler is married to Paulette Kessler, a lawyer, and they have two children.

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Media Contact

Tom Conroy: tom.conroy@yale.edu, 203-432-1345