Late last month, Ellen Cooper, MD, the former director of the federal Food and Drug Administration's antiviral drug division and the nation's top regulator for AIDS drugs, talked to this reporter about why she quit this important assignment.
On December 21, 1990, citing battle fatigue and burnout, Dr Cooper, 40, resigned her post and requested a transfer within the agency. On the day of this January interview, she was still "in limbo," on an extended leave of absence.
Dr Cooper, who was trained as a pediatrician, explained that she had been "vacationing" in her Washington, DC—area home with her husband, attorney John Michael Cooper, and her four children, including 10-year-old triplets and a 7-year-old.
The amount of leave she had accumulated offers one clue to the stress of her job. She joined the FDA on a research fellowship in virology in 1982 and first became involved with reviewing antiviral drugs