Lilburn man promoted to assistant surgeon general

Nothing like a call from the surgeon general to give you a bit of a jolt -- especially if you work for the U.S. Public Health Service.

It was such a call from Surgeon General (and Vice Admiral) Regina Benjamin that gave long-time Lilburn resident Dr. David Ashley his latest big-time promotion.

"I was at home, I was actually teleworking, and I got a call from the surgeon general," Ashley said this week during a phone interview. "I had no idea she was going to call. I actually still have no idea how she got my home phone number."

During that call, Ashley -- who spent nearly three decades with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before moving over to the Food and Drug Administration -- was given the news he would be given a title only 29 others in the country have.

Ashley is now a rear admiral, lower half, or assistant surgeon general.

"It was really nice, it was quite a surprise," Ashley said. "I got to a point where I just didn't think it was going to go through and I was just going to retire (as a captain)."

Ashley's work is in the realm of tobacco. With roughly 100 scientists reporting to him, his Office of Science in the Center for Tobacco Products does the research, experiments and testing that ultimately guide the FDA's regulatory efforts on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

A three-degree graduate of Emory University (with a bachelor's, master's and Ph.D.), Ashley has published more than 140 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters related to biophysics, environmental chemicals, biomarkers of exposure and the constituents of tobacco and tobacco smoke.

He recently was a contributing author to the surgeon general's report on how tobacco causes disease.