Andy von Menschenbach vs the Howling

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  • 08/01/2006

According to Leo Rosten in the Joys of Yiddish, a mensch (or mentch) is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.”

Some have carped that Andy von Eschenbach stirred the pot too much and broke too much china at his stint over at NCI. The same critics complained that as FDA commissioner he was too low key and spent too much of his limited time in pubilc simply saying the same things.

But if you are someone who has survived three forms of cancer your time horizon and your reaction to the cookie cutter criticisms of others can be quite different. You go at your own pace even as you are driven to complete a mission and engage others. You do it by not berating, bleating or browbeating. You are tough but you don’t show it by bulling others or throwing your weight around.

That’s a mensch and that’s Andy von Eschenbach. That was the person who testified in between long rants and howls that comprise the latest installment of the reality TV show, Hillary Knows Best, starring Sens. Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray. This week, as with last week and the week before and week before and week before and week before was an encore presentation of the show on Plan B and WHY THEIR HOLD ON THE FDA NOMINATION IS SAVING SCIENCE.

He was patient and concise, explaining to Senator Dodd why in an era when the science of drug development will allow us to determine that a drug most effective for a patient is also the safest we should seek to integrate safety and efficacy data, not chop it up into two agencie. (Dodd: “Yeah I understand that. But when a drug is on the market, shouldn’t a separate agency from the division that approved the drug pull it from the market….”) He invoked the Critical Path and the importance of transparency. But he also insisted that scientists who disagree with the consensus not claim that the majority is bought and sold or wrong and that they are right and do so by running to the media or some media-hungry Senator. He didn’t say that exactly. Rather he insisted on a standard of conduct, dignified, decorous and responsible. And he demonstrated that standard, behaving in stark contrast to many of the howling handful ho skewered him (Senator Kennedy being a dignified exception) and to those who have made book on counting out Andy in the past.

Andy von Mencshenbach….maybe he can change his name when he gets confirmed…


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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