Published 12:00 am Monday, March 29, 2004

Dr. Lester Crawford

AUBURN — The new head of the federal Food and Drug Administration — a native Alabamian — will speak Friday at Auburn University during the College of Veterinary Medicine’s 97th Annual Conference.

Dr. Lester Crawford, a 1963 AU veterinary graduate and Demopolis, Ala., native, was named acting FDA commissioner earlier this month. His new duties had originally forced him to cancel the AU engagement.

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“Fortunately he has been able to rearrange his other commitments so he can visit his alma mater,” said Dr. Timothy Boosinger, dean of the AU College of Veterinary Medicine. “Our alumni and students are really looking forward to his talk.”

Crawford will speak at 9:30 a.m., on the topic of “The FDA and Veterinary Medicine.” He will follow Dr. Alex Dunlap, a veterinarian and physician with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, who will present “NASA’s Neurolab: Animal Care in Outer Space” at 8:10 a.m.

The conference will be at the AU Hotel and Dixon Conference Center.

Dr. Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, had been scheduled as a substitute for Crawford, but will not be speaking.

Crawford served two years as deputy FDA commissioner, including nine months as acting commissioner in 2002. In 1989 he was named a distinguished alumnus of the AU veterinary college, and in 2001 was the college’s commencement speaker.

The FDA is responsible for the safety and regulation of drugs, most foods, biological products, medical devices, animal feed and drugs, cosmetics and radiation-emitting equipment. The nation’s food-safety efforts are conducted by the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry.

Crawford, 65, has been a frequent witness before congressional committees and European Union parliamentary committees. In 2000-2001 he visited 20 countries on behalf of the State Department to explain U.S. biotechnology policy.

He has played major roles in mandatory nutrition labeling, the formation of the World Trade Organization and the control of chemical and microbiological contaminants of food.

Crawford’s background includes serving as director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy in Washington, D.C., and as executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. He has worked more than 12 years with the FDA and the USDA, including three years as director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

In addition to his AU veterinary degree, he has a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Georgia. He also has an honorary doctorate from Budapest University of Veterinary Science.

More than 2,000 veterinarians, technicians and spouses are expected to attend the Auburn conference that will feature seminars, alumni awards presentations, and 10 class reunions.

“It’s the largest educational conference held each year in Auburn,” said Dr. Gary Beard, assistant dean for outreach. “Veterinarians can earn up to 20 credit hours of continuing education from a wide variety of experts.

“Reunions are a big part of the annual conference, too, and this year we’ll host fifth-year reunions for classes from 1954 to 1999. It’s a great opportunity to visit with classmates and catch up on family news and veterinary accomplishments.”

The College of Veterinary Medicine will also host its annual Open House on April 24. For more information on either event, contact the college at 334/844-3699.