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A lawyer with the Hygeia touch

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 06 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1096
  1. Rory Watson
  1. Brussels

    Health professionals were initially disappointed when the top public health job in Europe went to a lawyer. But David Byrne's commitment has won them over. Rory Watsonreports

    When David Byrne was appointed the European Union's first public health commissioner in 1999, the policy area was considered aCinderella among the EU's activities. An influential backroom politician who had been Ireland's attorney general, he had no direct experience of health issues.

    Nor did health professionals hide their disappointment that the post had not gone to someone with a medical background. But Byrne and the professionals soon developed genuine mutual respect—and as complex health issues arose, both agreed there were advantages in having a lawyer in the post.

    “I feel he has done very well in the circumstances,” concluded one health official. “He is a lawyer with an eye for detail and is very tenacious. He has been the right guy in the right place at the right time.”

    For his part Byrne has nothing but praise for the quality and commitment of the health professionals he has come across during his time in Brussels and for the …

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