Captain (CAPT) Sukhminder K. Sandhu was appointed by the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) to serve as the 12th Chief Scientist for the Service. As the Chief Professional Officer, CAPT Sandhu advises the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention, and career development of scientist professionals in the Commissioned Corps Scientist category.
CAPT Sandhu is the Deputy Director for the Division of Epidemiology at the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology (OSE). In this role, she is responsible for supporting drug application approvals and ensuring the post-marketing safety of medical products across several therapeutic areas in the Office of New Drugs, including neurology, gastroenterology, dermatology, dentistry, and nonprescription drug products. Prior to this role, she served as an Epidemiology Team Leader in OSE, and as an Epidemiologist at FDA’s Center for Biologics and Research (CBER). While at CBER, she was instrumental in improving the methodological capabilities of FDA to conduct near real-time vaccine safety surveillance, for which she was awarded an Outstanding Service Medal. During her time at FDA, CAPT Sandhu has demonstrated exemplary leadership and excellence in pharmacoepidemiology and regulatory science. She has extensive experience working across FDA centers, other federal and international agencies and outside partners, and providing managerial oversight and subject matter expertise in regulatory science to ensure the safety of medical products.
Upon her call to duty in July 2004, CAPT Sandhu was assigned to the District of Columbia Department of Health as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer (EISO). As an EISO, she led outbreak investigations and studies evaluating trends and disparities in infectious and chronic diseases in the District of Columbia.
In addition to her experience across CDC and FDA, CAPT Sandhu has taken on challenging and diverse roles in her RedDOG Tier I team where she served as Chief for the Information Management Branch and the Liaison/Agency Representative Branch. Throughout her career, she has served on a multitude of deployments, including for Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes Irma/Maria, Joint Sessions of Congress, Presidential Inaugurations, and multiple COVID-19 deployments, including serving as the External Engagement Lead for the COVID-19 Response Healthcare Resilience Workgroup, for which she was awarded a Commendation Medal.
CAPT Sandhu started her career as a United States Public Health Service Officer upon completion of her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Epidemiology from the University of California at Berkeley in 2004. In addition to a PhD, she holds a Master of Public Health degree in Infectious Diseases, a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Molecular and Cell Biology.
CAPT Sandhu was born in Punjab, India, and in early childhood immigrated to the United States with her parents, Bachittar S. Sandhu, who had been serving in the Indian Air Force, and Surjeet K. Sandhu, who was a teacher, and elder brother, Dharminder. Although she spent the majority of her youth and early adulthood on the West Coast, CAPT Sandhu moved to the Washington, D.C., area upon completing her doctoral education. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband, Haar, and their sweet twin daughters, Ishha and Nhoor. In her spare time, CAPT Sandhu enjoys spending time with her family and friends, running, and cooking.