Hamburg, now a scientist at Ted Turner’s Nuclear Threat Initiative, which focuses on reducing the danger of “loose nukes” and other weapons of mass destruction, has a wealth of public health experience. She’s received two degrees from Harvard and at 36 became New York City’s youngest health commissioner.
During her tenure in New York, she reduced tuberculosis rates by 46 percent between 1992 and 1997. She also supported a controversial needle exchange program to slow the spread of AIDS, increased childhood immunization rates and developed one of the first programs to prepare the public for a terrorist attack by anthrax or other bio-chemical weapon.
Hamburg’s not known to kowtow to higher authorities either. She challenged her boss, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, by summoning a health department aide to a City Council meeting whom Giuliani wanted canned. Arguing that science and not “wishful thinking” should drive AIDS education, Hamburg also publicly opposed an effort requiring AIDS educators to stress abstinence to city students.
She’s worked on public health, bio-defense and disease control issues her entire career and also served as an assistant health secretary in the Clinton administration.