Phelps To Retire After Almost Three Decades at NIA
After nearly 30 years of federal service—all spent at the National Institute on Aging—Dr. Creighton “Tony” Phelps, deputy director of the Division of Neuroscience, will retire at the end of this year. He leaves the institute at a time when scientific opportunities and hopes for research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias have never been greater—a landscape his leadership helped create.
Phelps has worn several hats during his tenure at NIA, but it is perhaps his role as brain trust and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers (ADC) program that is likely to leave the longest and most effective legacy. The ADC network of research centers at major medical institutions across the country works to translate research advances into improved diagnosis, care and potential treatments for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Under Phelps’s leadership as director for more than two decades, the program has expanded to 31 centers nationwide.
“It’s about more than just how many centers he’s helped launch,” said Dr. Eliezer Masliah, director of the Division of Neuroscience. “He has built a wonderful relationship with each and every center. ADC staff really trust Tony and value his feedback. He’s been an invaluable asset that we, as well as the centers in particular, will truly miss.”
Phelps also served as acting director of the Division of Neuroscience for 8 months in 2015-2016, at a critical time in management. Assuming the role just months after NIH was awarded an additional $350 million for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research, he was instrumental in prioritizing new projects and research that are bringing us closer to finding a cure for these devastating conditions. His leadership ensured operations not only continued seamlessly, but also flourished during a period of major NIA growth.
“Our institute and the entire field of Alzheimer’s research have benefited from Tony’s leadership and scientific expertise,” remarked NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “Building and strengthening some of NIA’s flagship research programs and refining how we define Alzheimer’s disease, he has helped usher in a new era of Alzheimer’s disease research.”
This new era includes an emphasis on data sharing and collaborative research. Phelps was instrumental in developing two centers that do just that—the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center and the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease. Serving as program officer for both centers, Phelps championed sharing data, discoveries and even investigations with negative outcomes that nevertheless provide valuable insights.
Phelps also served as executive secretary to the aging review committee and program director in charge of the neurobiology and neuroplasticity portfolios within the Neuroscience and Neuropsychology of Aging Branch.
Titles may have changed over the years, but one thing has remained the same—a commitment to improving the rigor of Alzheimer’s disease research. Phelps leaves NIA having made a remarkable and vitally important impact on the conduct of research not just in this field, but also in the fields of frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease and other neurogenerative conditions, said colleagues.