August 14, 2022

Women’s History Month: FDA Spotlights Food Safety Pioneer Jane Henney

In 1999, more than half of all employees of the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were women. Still, no woman had ever held the agency’s top spot until President Clinton nominated Jane Henney, M.D. as commissioner that year. Her accomplishments as a food safety pioneer are being spotlighted by the FDA during Women’s History Month.

jane-henneyBorn and raised in the smallest city in Indiana: Woodburn, population 512. In her biography on the National Institutes of Health website, Henney  says her inspiration was Woodburn’s doctor. “We were lucky enough to have a family doctor in my hometown – everybody knew Dr. Moser and loved him. He fit the stereotype small town doctor. We went to his house where he had his office and all of his medicines… Probably my first memory of thinking about medicine was writing a term paper in the fifth grade about the American Medical Association, about which I knew nothing.”

Henney received her B.A. from Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind. her M.D. from Indiana University. In 1976, she moved to Washington D.C to take a job as a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute (NCI),  working on new breast cancer therapies. She served as Deputy Director at NCI, FDA Deputy Commissioner of Operations and Vice President of Health Sciences at the University of New Mexico before being nominated to lead the FDA.

The position had been vacant for two years. A leader was needed and Henney was well-qualified but the Senate confirmation process was long and drawn out. Eventually she was confirmed. She served as commissioner from 1998-2001. Since that time she has held a variety of health policy leadership positions.

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