The nation’s top occupational health research agency has a new boss. Well, actually it’s a return of an old one.

Dr. John Howard, was named today as the new director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and will reoccupy his old office next week.

Howard served at the top gun in CDC’s crucial worker health research agency from 2002 through 2008 and also held the sometimes uncomfortable position of Coordinator of HHS’ World Trade Center Health Programs.

Dr. Howard brings impressive credential with him. He is board-certified in internal medicine, legal medicine and occupational medicine.

In the past, the doctor/lawyer allowed his talented team to pursue investigations into controversial workplace health hazards such as the diacetyl butter flavoring which sickened hundreds of popcorn plant workers.

People I spoke to in NIOSH said that with a Democratic administration in power it may be easier for Howard to find the funding and support to allow his physicians, scientists and industrial hygienists to chase worker health issues that were unpopular with past administrations.

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