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Runge named Homeland medical chief

July 15, 2005 at 2:04 PM

DETROIT, July 15 (UPI) -- Dr. Jeffrey Runge, head of the federal auto-safety agency, is stepping down to become chief medical officer for the U.S. Homeland Security Department.

Runge, 49, former emergency room physician from Charlotte, N.C., will leave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in late August after four years running the agency, the Detroit Free Press said Friday.

As chief medical officer he will oversee bioterrorism policy and coordinate responses to any biological attacks under new reforms at Homeland Security.

In his current position, Runge has focused on seat belts, drunken driving, preventing SUV rollovers and reducing damage to small vehicles when struck by larger ones. His agency just released its first child-seat rating system.

Under Runge's tenure, the agency recorded the lowest highway fatality rate and highest safety-belt usage since it began tracking such things.

He angered automakers two years ago when he questioned the safety of many light trucks at Detroit's North American International Auto Show.

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