Stewart Simonson


Stewart Simonson

Stewart Simonson is the former Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He assumed office on April 28, 2004. He told the president in a resignation letter May 13, 2006 that he had accomplished what he had set out to do, and it was time to move on.

Simonson served as the Secretary's principal advisor on matters related to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. He also coordinated interagency activities between HHS, other federal departments, agencies, offices and state and local officials responsible for emergency preparedness and the protection of the civilian population.ref|hhs1

History

Simonson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986 and Juris Doctor degree in 1994. He is a member of the bar in Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.ref|hhs1

After completing undergraduate studies, Simonson worked for several years on Wall Street before returning to Wisconsin to pursue a law degree. Simonson worked his way through law school at the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections. Upon graduation he was hired as Deputy Counsel to the Governor, he was soon promoted to Legal Counsel to Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, a post he held from 1995 to 1999. Under Thompson, Simonson served as Chair of the state Pardon Advisory Board, directed the Governor's emergency management efforts (including rewriting Plan Badger the state's emergency management plan), directed the policy development for crime and corrections, and coordinated the state's public safety agencies.

When Thompson became chairman of the board at the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) in the late 1990s, he appointed Simonson as corporate secretary and counsel for the company. Then, when Thompson was appointed to be Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, he brought Simonson with him to that agency as well. From 2001 to 2003 he was the HHS Deputy General Counsel and provided legal advice and counsel to the Secretary on public health preparedness matters. ref|hhs2

Most recently, Simonson served as Special Counsel to the Secretary and acted as the Secretary's liaison to the Homeland Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security. He also supervised policy development for countermeasure research and development programs, including Project Bioshield, a program to speed the manufacture of vaccines and antidotes. Since its enactment in July 2004, Project BioShield has launched nine acquisition programs including medical countermeasureacquisition programs for all four threat agents (anthrax, smallpox,botulinum toxins, and radiological/nuclear threats) determined by theSecretary of the Department of Homeland Security to pose materialthreats to the national security of the US. Of the $3.4 billionavailable to the program between FY04 and FY08, over $1.7 billion hasalready been obligated and the Strategic National Stockpile hassubstantially increased its holding of anthrax vaccines and medicalcountermeasures for radiological/nuclear threats."

Simonson was awarded the Surgeon General's Medallion in May 2006 for "Significant Collaboration with and Contributions to the USPHS Commissioned Corps Response Mission." In June 2006, Simonson received the Public Health Achievement Award from the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research

"For Tireless and exceptional dedication in better preparing our nation and world against the threats of bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases, including pandemic influenza."

On May 10, 2006 the Director-General of WHO Dr. J.W. Lee wrote: "I want to add my personal congratulations for the contributions you have made to international public health since your appointment as Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness. I will be sorry to see you leave. Your personal interest in pandemic influenza has added much to our joint global preparedness and response and response activities. And without your input and actions, the new and critical International Health Regulations likely would be less robust and action – oriented. Action rather than mere words has been the hallmark of your tenure in the Department of Health and Human Services."

Simonson is married, has four children and lives in Alexandria, VA.

Charges of cronyism

Simonson's alleged lack of qualifications and of public health experience have been a target for Democrats attacking President Bush's perceived cronyism, especially in light of the poor job Bush-appointee Michael D. Brown is believed to have done responding to Hurricane Katrina.ref|nation Unlike Mr. Brown, Mr. Simonson 42 years old, kept his job, and remained at HHS under Mr. Thompson’s successor, Mike Leavitt. Some respected public health officials have risen to his defense, describing Mr. Simonson as a behind the scenes fixer who gets funding and political support for long-neglected public-health iniatives.

Simonson coordinated the HHS response to Hurricane Katrina and received high marks. Dr. Louis Cataldie, the Louisiana State Medical Examiner, wrote in his recently released book, Coroners Journal: "I respect Stewart Simonson, Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services, who met me face-to-face and stayed true to his word. Imagine someone from D.C. being a straight guy. He has delivered every time - not so with some of these other cover-your-ass feds."(Cataldie, Louis, Coroner's Journal, G Putnam's Sons, New York, NY (2006) Page 7.)

Some of the nation's leading scientists have been quick to defend Simonson. Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota said: "Of all the people I've worked with over my career, no one is more competent,"

“Here’s the guy who really done a terrific job under very complicated, adverse circumstances. To have him be the target the way he has, has got to be one of the really unfair events in Washington, which is a pretty unfair place to begin with,” says Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an HHS unit (Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2005).

Donald Henderson, a public health expert who is credited with leading the effort to wipe out smallpox in the late ‘60s and ‘70s: “The general feeling was this is someone who may be here because of political reasons, but this is a dedicated person who has the interests of the country at heart.” Dr. Henderson, who joined HHS after Sept.11, 2001, and left in 2002, says Mr. Simonson was instrumental in helping him do everything from finding office space to working on an early HHS purchase of smallpox vaccine (Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2005).

Donald Henderson, the founding director of OPHEP, also says of Simonson. " [He] is not necessarily somebody who has got a lot of depth of background here, but you can get people who have a variety of expertise. I would liken it to having a CEO in a company. . . [Simonson] may not have been qualified but he is a real learner."

Simonson's predecessor, Jerry Hauer, was removed from the job. Simonson replaced Hauer, and was perceived to be less likely to oppose any initiative pushed by the White House.

References

# [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/03/AR2005100301522.html New Worries on BioShield Effort] , "Washington Post", October 4, 2005
# [http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051128/scahill Germ Boys and Yes Men] from "The Nation"
# [http://www.hhs.gov/about/bios/asphep.html HHS Assistant Secretary's Biography] at hhs.gov
# [http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2004pres/20040408d.html Assistant Secretary Appointment] at hhs.gov

External links

* [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/01/27/60minutes/main1245714.shtml The Worst-Case Scenario] from "60 Minutes"


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