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5/7/2009
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Obama Names Science and Technology Director

Tara O'Toole has held numerous senior positions related to biosecurity and biodefense.

Tara O'Toole
Tara O'Toole
CEO and Director of the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC
Photo by Center for Biosecurity at UPMC

President Barack Obama plans to nominate biosecurity expert Tara O'Toole as undersecretary for the Science and Technology Directorate.

Obama announced the plan to nominate O'Toole, founder, CEO, and director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, on Wednesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised the choice, saying O'Toole is an expert on environmental protection and biosecurity, and brings "brings critical experience in health, safety, and technology to the Department of Homeland Security."

O'Toole has focused on responses to biological attacks, containment of contagious diseases, and hospital preparedness, Napolitano said. "Throughout her career, she has worked in leadership posts both in government and the private sector," Napolitano said in a statement released Wednesday.

O'Toole was a founding member and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies. She is co-editor in chief of the journal Biosecurity And Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice And Science. She also led the creation of Dark Winter, a 2001 exercise to handle bioterrorist attacks.

She served as assistant secretary of energy for environment, safety and health, advising the secretary of energy on environmental protection and supervising health and safety for about 100,000 government lab workers. There, she developed the first overall management and safety plan for dealing with waste from the production of nuclear weapons. Before that, she was a senior analyst at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.

O'Toole has served as chair of the board of the Federation of American Scientists and as a member of the board the Google Foundation's International Networked System for Total Early Disease Detection. She also practiced internal medicine in Baltimore community health centers. She received her medical degree from George Washington University, a master's in public health from Johns Hopkins University, and a BA from Vassar College. She completed her medical residency training at Yale and Johns Hopkins.

O'Toole and DHS withheld comment, saying the nomination has yet to be approved.


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