FDA undergoes staffing changes in external affairs

SILVER SPRING, MD: The Food and Drug Administration's office of external affairs is undergoing a number of leadership changes, including the departures of the agency's public affairs and Web chiefs.

SILVER SPRING, MD: The Food and Drug Administration's office of external affairs is undergoing a number of leadership changes, including the recent departures of the agency's public affairs and Web chiefs.

George Strait, assistant commissioner of public affairs for the FDA, is leaving external affairs for a role as special assistant for communications in the federal agency's office of regulatory affairs (ORA).

He said that part of his responsibilities will include building out a communications team to support ORA, the division that leads the FDA's inspections, imports, and enforcements efforts, while ensuring better coordination between the two dozen public affairs specialists working in the field.

ORA also hired Peter Ashkenaz, naming him director of communications. Ashkenaz most recently served as deputy director of media relations for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

He will start his new position in mid-March, reporting to Dara Corrigan, associate commissioner of regulatory affairs for the FDA.

Carl Chitwood, FDA's director of Web communications since September, reportedly resigned after allegations surfaced that he had hired a former colleague although other people were more qualified for the position. Media outlets reported Chitwood's resignation earlier this month.

When asked for comment, Meghan Scott, deputy director of external affairs for FDA, said: "Unfortunately, I am not able to comment on personnel matters, as the investigation of Carl Chitwood is still ongoing."

Plans to reorganize the office of external affairs into four divisions to include a Web division were announced in October 2010.

External affairs also includes public affairs, which oversees media relations; external relations, which provides consumer and industry outreach; and special health issues, which handles patient and healthcare provider communications.

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