Spotlight on FDA Leaders: Melinda “Mel” K. Plaisier


I was part of the FDA family for nearly 25 years, having served in several leadership positions, the last of which was the Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs. The best part of being an FDAer was working with exceptional people with a deep commitment to the agency’s mission and the real sense of community – a regulatory, law enforcement, public health community. That cuts across all disciplines, as it is truly an integral part of the fabric of FDA. 

That is something I deeply miss….the people. On December 31, 2019, I retired from FDA and a total of 35 years in public service. The tragic ongoing global pandemic hit very soon after I retired and those first months were quite difficult, as I had a very strong drive to return to the agency and stand with colleagues as they tackled an unprecedented public health challenge. 

However, my silver lining was focused time at home with my family.  I have spent the last year and a half recharging with my family, reconnecting with old friends virtually, hiking our woods, reading more books, and this spring/summer trying my hand at a garden.  We were able to adopt two rescue pups, Otis and Luna, and a real blessing was having the time to help some of our grandkids with virtual school last school year.   

While at FDA, I worked closely with the Alumni Association.  In International Programs, we launched the first-ever foreign assessment team that included an FDA alumnus, and in the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA), we established a mentorship program, to pair alumni with current ORA staff. And I will always remember during the lapse in appropriation, several FDAAA officials came to the White Oak Campus to thank everyone for their service during another very challenging time.

The purpose and intent of the Alumni Association, and their mission to “serving those who serve”, is very compelling to me.  Whether being a member solely for the network of the FDA family past and present or actively participating in initiatives to support the agency and its critical mission – both are important.  The agency continues to face new challenges every day, pandemic related or otherwise.  FDAAA is a means to show support and encouragement and lend a hand, when needed.  To anyone considering joining, I highly recommend it. FDAAA is an extension of the FDA family and one I am proud to be a part of.