NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NIMHD Executive Officer Brooks Retires

Donna Brooks sits in her office
NIMHD Executive Officer Donna Brooks retired recently after four decades of service.

Photo:  Edgar B. Dews III

Donna A. Brooks, executive officer at NIMHD, retired recently after four decades of service. 

“I have had an incredible journey at the National Institutes of Health with many great people for almost 43 years and now I’m embracing the opportunity to start a new phase of my life,” she said. 

Brooks started at NIH in 1973 as a summer aide for the Personnel Staffing Branch, Office of the Director (later the Recruitment and Employee Benefits Branch). She continued with the branch as a clerk-typist in the Stay-In-School Program and joined NHLBI as a personnel assistant in 1977. 

After 1 year at the National Library of Medicine as a personnel assistant, she returned to NHLBI in 1980 to serve as a personnel management specialist until 1989. Brooks went on to serve as a supervisory personnel management specialist at NIDCD for 9 years before joining the predecessor of NIMHD, the Office of Research on Minority Health, as a program coordinator in 1998.

As ORMH continued to grow, becoming the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities in 2001 and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities in 2010, Brooks played a key role as part of the leadership team providing administrative management. 

She served as acting executive officer (2007-2010), deputy ethics counselor (2007-2009) and executive officer (2010-2016). 

“Donna Brooks was totally dedicated to the mission of NIMHD and she nurtured its development from office to institute at NIH alongside the leadership of Dr. John Ruffin,” said NIMHD director Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable. “We are all proud of Donna’s accomplishments and commitment and wish her nothing but the best in this new phase of her life.”

During her career, Brooks received the Outstanding Summer Employee Award, the NHLBI EEO Achievement Award, the NIH Director’s Award, NIH Merit awards and NIMHD Merit awards. 

As one of its longest-tenured employees, Brooks served as a passionate, loyal and dedicated ambassador of NIMHD and advocate of its mission. With each transition, she provided strong and steady leadership and vision. 

Each year, Brooks rallied institute employees to give generously during the Combined Federal Campaign and helped make NIMHD a consistent leader in donations among NIH ICs. She was instrumental in planning NIH’s first Science of Eliminating Health Disparities Summit, hosted by NCMHD in 2008, which attracted 4,000 attendees. She also led coordination of Take Your Child to Work Day at the institute, helping to ensure a fun and educational experience for all involved. With her trademark smile, congeniality and infectious enthusiasm, Brooks brought joy and dedication to her work at the institute and NIH. 

She credited many people at NIH who were her role models and provided encouragement and wisdom in pursuit of her career goals. In return, Brooks served as a catalyst in helping others advance in their careers as a mentor and a frequent speaker on career enhancement, diversity and employment opportunities at NIH-wide events.

A native of Washington, D.C., Brooks attended Woodrow Wilson High School then went to Hampton Institute and Howard University. During her retirement, she plans to remain active in her church, where she teaches Sunday school and works with the music ministry, spend more time with her family and do some traveling and reading, among other pursuits. Brooks was known for wearing colorful butterfly pins on her shoulder. She said it represented the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, which symbolizes beauty, hope and change—a fitting symbol as she takes flight for new adventures in life.   


The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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