Activities

So Glad You’re Back, We Appreciate You FDAers

By: Deb Autor, Bob Brackett, Joe Levitt, Nancy Myers, and Susan Winckler

Bringing handshakes, hugs, notes of appreciation, words of encouragement, and a little light-hearted laughter with 100 Grand candy bars, the FDA Alumni Association worked to support both furloughed and non-furloughed FDAers who attended the FDA government shutdown event for staff on Jan. 25. The mood was clearly a mix of frustration and sadness, due to the situation. However, what was noteworthy was the true underlying camaraderie of FDA staff and their genuine happiness to engage and reconnect with each other after a long month of isolated insecurity. The event, which included several hundred FDA employees and many of the agency's most senior leaders, was a wonderful reminder of the unique culture that is FDA and how colleagues, show caring and concern for each other in a time of need.

The stories of hardship during the furlough were deeply affecting. The silver lining was the common theme that the need for financial security was often due to a situation in which an FDA employee was caring for their families, extended families or someone else in need. There are so many big hearts at our agency.

Kudos need to go to Commissioner Gottlieb and his leadership team on the way they tried to transparently handle this tough situation. Many a tweet was sent to share information and bolster morale, and to ensure FDAers felt appreciated. The information fair was a unique opportunity for senior management to see staff and explain the situation, and for staff to examine their options.

Now with a three-week reprieve as our political leaders explore how to fund the government's remaining annual appropriations, perhaps it is time to also ask how a non-profit, independent alumni organization like ours can improve its support for those who still serve at the FDA. Hopefully, the e-mail to furloughed employees that FDAAA sent was read by those who needed to hear our encouragement. But without a list of personal emails, we were limited to the age-old chain letter process. When we wanted to provide financial support, such as providing the food for the FDA sponsored event, we simply didn't have time to navigate a lengthy ethics review. If you are reading this and have ideas on how we might create a rapid response plan for unforeseen events like the shutdown, we would love to hear them. Please email info@fdaaa.com.

We were honored to be able to interact with FDA staff at a time of uncertainty, and we hope that we can find ways to expand upon those efforts. As Michael Rogers, Assistant Commissioner for Human and Animal Food Operations, said in a note he sent thanking the FDAAA for attending the event, “We have always said that FDA is a family, and it's the mission and the pride that we have for this Agency that creates and keeps that common bond between us. I just wanted to send you a quick note to say that we appreciate the gesture that shows that you were thinking of us during that difficult time.” We were especially touched that Michael told us he shared the story of our attendance on a call with the field.

The FDA Alumni Association is proud of “Team FDA,” with its caring dedication and professionalism. Now that the furlough is over, it is back to work and hopefully a smooth rest of 2019!