NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Flagg-Newton Retires from NIH

Dr. Jean L. Flagg-Newton
Dr. Jean L. Flagg-Newton

Dr. Jean L. Flagg-Newton, a longtime NIH administrator who was instrumental in helping to establish the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, retired at the end of September.

Flagg-Newton spent most of her 28-year career at NIH, most recently as acting director of the Office of Health Equity at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She also served as a scientific review officer at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences; program officer for the Research Collaborative Awards Program and the Minority International Research Training Program of the Fogarty International Center; coordinator of the Minority Health Initiative and deputy director of the Office of Research on Minority Health; and deputy director and chief of the Office of Research in the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the precursor to NIMHD. While at NCMHD, Flagg-Newton implemented its first Centers of Excellence Program and Research Endowment Program.

“Building it from the ground up and launching the first programs was very rewarding,” she said. 

Dr. Catherine Spong, NICHD acting director, thanked Flagg-Newton for her unfailing commitment and dedication to NIH at a Sept. 21 NICHD advisory council meeting.

“You have been a tremendous asset to our institute and all of NIH,” said Spong. “We thank you for your many contributions. We will miss you greatly.” 

Behind all the titles is a soft-spoken, determined woman who didn’t distinguish her day job from her life’s mission. “On most days throughout my career, coming to work has not been like coming to work,” she said with a quick smile. “There has been an excitement about it, a passion.”

That passion will continue in her ancestral home. She plans to move to South Carolina to help develop the infrastructure of Daufuskie Island, a small sea island not much bigger than the NIH campus, located between Savannah, Ga., and Hilton Head Island, S.C. It is the home of her grandmother and great-grandparents, members of the native Gullah community. 

The late author Pat Conroy fictionalized the island in his novel The Water is Wide. Flagg-Newton intends to use her leadership skills to help build a park and bring an island-owned boat and other basic amenities to the local Gullah community.—Meredith Daly

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