Alumna, professor reportedly on Obama short list

Two members of the GW community are reportedly on short lists for top positions in President-elect Barack Obama’s new administration.

The Chicago Tribune reported that alumna Tammy Duckworth may become the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Bloomberg News reported that professor Susan Wood is a contender for the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Duckworth, a 1991 graduate of the Elliott School of International Affairs, is the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to being considered for a position in Obama’s cabinet, Duckworth has been reported to be on the short list of candidates to replace Obama in the Senate.

“I would certainly be honored if I was being considered for either position,” Duckworth said in a phone interview with The Hatchet. “I don’t know if I am or not because I have not spoken to (Illinois) Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and I have not spoken to the president-elect about the cabinet position either. If I was being considered, I would be deeply honored.”

During her 2004 tour of duty in Iraq, Duckworth lost both of her legs. She said her experience dealing with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs gives her an advantage in helping other former soldiers navigate the system.

“When I talk about problems facing veterans, or when I talk about the bureaucracy that our veterans have to wade through in the federal VA, or when I talk about the hardships that thousands have to go through, I talk from experience,” Duckworth said.

“My audience knows that I’m not just reading up about this stuff, that I’ve lived it. They know that my husband was deployed, that I was deployed,” she said. “I have had to negotiate the VA program myself and so it gives me an insight that most political leaders don’t have.”

Wood, a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Services, also said she has not heard from Obama about a possible appointment. She served as the assistant commissioner for women’s health and the director of the office of women’s health in the FDA until 2005, when she said she resigned from her positions due to the delay in approval for emergency over-the-counter contraceptives.

She first learned about the possibility of a position in the Obama administration in a newspaper, she said.

“I have not been in communication with the transition team,” Wood said. “We haven’t had any conversation like that, so I can’t say that it’s true or not true at this point. I saw my name in the paper and there you go.”

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