Last year in The New Yorker magazine, James Surowiecki wrote about several recent national crises that were “abetted by inept regulation.” Failure of oversight by the Minerals Management Service, for example, contributed to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Securities and Exchange Commission failed to spot the frauds committed by Enron, WorldCom, and Bernie Madoff.
In contrast, Surowiecki wrote, the Food and Drug Administration is “a rare success story.” The FDA's pristine reputation has not only enhanced its authority with industries it regulates, but also has helped those industries prosper. “The pharmaceutical industry, for instance, would be much smaller if people were seriously worried that they might be poisoned every time they took a new drug,” Surowiecki noted.
This article caught my eye because I had recently heard a Wagner alumnus speak with heartfelt passion about his work for the FDA. Pharmaceutical microbiologist Dennis Guilfoyle M'82 is an International FDA Expert, working out of the agency's Northeast Regional Laboratory. He has done more than 150 inspections of pharmaceutical and medical-device manufacturing plants. “On an inspection, I start from a very visceral spot. I visualize that [the product] is going to be used by someone that I love,” he said. “To find a pathogen before it hurts someone is very satisfying.”
Guilfoyle is part of a Wagner tradition at the Northeast Regional Lab. Many alumni have worked there; currently, Kent Hermann '95 M'98 is the lab's deputy director, and Jennifer Tantillo Canale '96 and Laura Schankweiler Howard '92 work there as microbiologists. They are all helping to detect various harmful pollutants and microbes in foods, drugs, cosmetics, and other products sold to Americans, and to verify that these products do and are what the manufacturers say they do and are.
Wagnerians should be proud that so many of its graduates have found professional success in this important arena of public service. You can also be proud of the College's program in microbiology, which gives students a solid knowledge base — and, just as importantly, the ethical commitments that our country sorely needs.
— Laura Barlament, Editor, Wagner Magazine