A Medical Device Daily

The undermanned FDA has put out the "Help Wanted" sign, saying that it will embark on a major hiring initiative in order to fulfill its government-mandated public health mission by filling more than 1,300 positions within the next several months.

Biologists, chemists, medical officers, mathematical statisticians and investigators are among the experts in demand as the FDA begins a multi-year hiring initiative.

The FDA said it is hiring hundreds of individuals with science and medical backgrounds to help meet the agency's responsibilities to assure the safety and/or efficacy of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, food, cosmetics and products that emit radiation.

"It takes a large pool of talented people for the FDA to protect and promote the public health," said John Dyer, FDA's deputy commissioner for operations and COO. "Each month there is a delay in bringing critical staff on board impairs the agency's ability to fulfill this mission."

In fiscal 2008 alone, the agency said it is looking to fill more than 600 new positions and to backfill more than 700 others to implement the FDA Amendments Act of 2007, the Food Protection Plan and the Import Safety Action Plan. That's nearly triple the number of people hired from 2005-2007.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has granted Direct-Hire Authority to the FDA, an operating division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Direct-Hire Authority is an appointing authority OPM can give to federal agencies for filling vacancies when a critical hiring need or severe shortage of candidates exists. It expedites hiring of qualified candidates by eliminating certain rating and ranking preferences. Qualified candidates could be on the job in as little as three weeks.

The critical need occupations are medical officers, consumer safety officers, chemists, nurse consultants, biologists, microbiologists, health/regulatory/general health scientists, mathematical statisticians, epidemiologists, pharmacologists, pharmacists and veterinary medical officers.

Many of these positions are located in the Washington metropolitan area, specifically Rockville, Silver Spring and College Park, Maryland, as well as across the country in the agency's five regions, 20 districts, more than 179 resident posts, and the newly created FDA offices overseas.

Positions will be available throughout the agency, including in the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the Center for Food Safety and Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, the National Center for Toxicological Research, the Office of the Commissioner and the Office of Regulatory Affairs.

The FDA will be participating in and holding job fairs throughout the country.