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Get to Know Michael Carome

This article appeared in the May/June 2013 edition of Public Citizen News. 

Dr. Michael Carome, who on June 3 will become director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, developed an interest in medicine when he was at a Jesuit high school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

He wanted to serve people, and he saw medicine as the way to do that. In college, he toyed with psychology, but a professor advised him against it and told him to become a doctor.

“He was right,” Carome said recently. “I love medicine. It’s so challenging.”

Carome earned his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland – by coincidence, the same school from which Dr. Sidney Wolfe, who is stepping down from being the health research group’s director, earned his medical degree.

To pay for school, Carome got a scholarship from the U.S. Army. As part of the deal, he had to remain on active duty in the Army for at least four years following his residency and fellowship training. He is likely the only person currently on Public Citizen’s staff who was trained to shoot an M-16.

Carome was an internal medicine resident and nephrology fellow at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a renowned military hospital, having developed an interest in the kidneys during medical school (it’s complex, challenging and fascinating, he says). He liked Walter Reed so much that he stayed, practicing as a staff nephrologist from 1992 to 2010.

In 1997, having completed his military service obligation, he transferred into the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), the only nonmilitary uniformed service in the U.S. He stayed in the PHS until he completed a total of 24 years uniformed service.

While at Walter Reed, Carome developed an interest in the ethics of human research. He was offended when ethical guidelines were breached; his Jesuit education taught that people should be treated with respect and dignity.

So while continuing his duties as a staff doctor at Walter Reed, he began working for the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, eventually becoming director of the Division of Compliance Oversight, and then OHRP’s associate director for regulatory affairs. With Carome at the helm of OHRP’s compliance program, the department suspended research at many institutions that weren’t following the rules for conducting human research.

In 2010, he began searching for a new challenge. He heard that Public Citizen’s Health Research Group was looking for a deputy director. He knew and respected the organization, so he applied and was hired.

Carome lives in Annandale, Va., with his wife. He has five children, ages 14 to 25.

Carome plans to continue the scope and range of issues that Wolfe started working on 42 years ago, including drug and device safety, ethics of research, medical board oversight of doctors, health care delivery and more.

“Here, I have the freedom to do the right thing,” he said. “I love the work. I think we make a difference.”