The six-year term of John Howard, MD as director of the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety is coming to an end.  An annoucement today from CDC’s Media Relations office said:

“Dr. Julie Gerberding met with Dr. John Howard and let him know that HHS/CDC will begin a search for a new NIOSH director.”

That was the lead sentence.  Ouch….that’s cold.

The announcement came despite appeals from two organizations to President G.W. Bush and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to reappoint Dr. Howard.

The American Society of Safety Engineers wrote

“under [his] creative and dedicated leadership Dr. John Howard has been instrumental in unleashing a wealth of talent at NIOSH and helping bring together the research and educational resources of NIOSH to the day-to-day practice of our members in workplaces across the nation.  We do not know why such a highly competent leader and administrator of an agency that has been, by any measure, a success in the eyes of our members across the country and the entire safety and health community should not be reappointed.”   

A simliar letter of support for Dr. Howard was sent by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (here).

Prior to serving as NIOSH chief, Dr. Howard directed the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) in California’s Department of Industrial Relations.  He earned a Doctor of Medicine degree (1974), a Master of Occupational Health (1982), a a Juris Doctor (1986), and a Master of Laws (1987).

The announcement from CDC’s Media Relations Office concludes:

“During his six years of service, Dr. Howard was very attentive in addressing the concerns and needs of NIOSH stakeholders and he has worked diligently on many challenging issues. We thank him for his service to the country.”

Christine Branche, PhD will serve as the acting NIOSH director beginning on July 15.