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Paul Oestreicher has the bona fides to back what he's selling as the new U.S. director of the health and pharmaceutical practice at WPP Group's Hill & Knowlton.

With a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences from Rutgers University and years in the lab working on research and development, Oestreicher, 47, "brings perspectives not only from the client side of preclinical and clinical science, but also as a topflight counselor to countless healthcare companies on positioning their companies and products," said MaryLee Sachs, U.S. chairman at H&K, to whom he reports.

Oestreicher joined H&K last month after a stint as managing director of the healthcare practice at Interpublic Group's DeVries Public Relations in New York. A native of New York City who received his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Rochester, he moved to public relations about 12 years ago.

At the time, Oestreicher was a project coordinator at Hoffmann-La Roche's clinical research and development department. In six years, his role had evolved from R&D to public policy and marketing communications. "That is where my interest evolved into the business of science," he said.

After leaving Hoffman-La Roche, he joined Publicis Groupe's Medicus PR in New York as an svp in healthcare, then spent five years at independent Edelman in Chicago as general manager of healthcare. He then briefly returned to the client side with stints in communications at Genaissance Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi-Synthelabo as vp of strategic marketing and communications and vp of communications, respectively.

"Because I have a diverse background, it gives me a terrific perspective from which to counsel clients," Oestreicher said.

He lives in Connecticut with his wife and four daughters and enjoys the beach, museums and cooking.