Last month, I joined six advocates in sending a letter to Assistant Secretary Howard Koh regarding the recent vacancy on the CFSAC and a proposed change to the committee charter. Yesterday, I received the response below. While there are no promises in the letter, I was pleasantly surprised that it was more than a one line acknowledgement. Someone in Dr. Koh’s office read our letter and drafted a response that acknowledged each of the points we made.
One new piece of information: the nominations from 2011 are being reexamined to fill the current vacancy. There is one statement that may give us a window into the type of replacement we will get. Specifically, Dr. Koh says there are current members with multiple areas of expertise which provides some flexibility regarding the charter membership requirements. Does this mean that the new appointee will not be a biomedical researcher?
It’s not much, but it is the most substantive reply to one of my letters that I have ever received from an Assistant Secretary for Health.
Dear Ms. Spotila,
Thank you for your letter regarding the current vacancy in the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee (CFSAC) membership and the proposed addition of non-voting liaison representatives. I appreciate your interest in this important work.
Due to the recent resignation of a member of the CFSAC, my office is working to identify a new appointee. As stated in your letter, nominees from 2011 are still eligible for selection and are being considered to fill the current vacancy. Of note, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must approve all member appointments to CFSAC.
I also appreciate your attention to the balance of expertise on the committee. In considering nominees, HHS will ensure that the appropriate balance is maintained in accordance with the charter. Also, you mentioned in your letter someone with biomedical research experience is now required to meet the specifications of the charter. However, there are current members with multiple areas of expertise which provides some flexibility regarding requirements for the incoming member.
Your final comments addressed the proposed addition of non-voting members to the committee. While successful precedents for this model exist, I am grateful for your suggestions and will take them into consideration.
Thank you for your attention to these issues as we work toward the mutual goal of addressing chronic fatigue syndrome. Please share this response with your co-signers.
Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H.
Assistant Secretary for Health