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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

NIBIB Founding Director Pettigrew Honored at Farewell

Glass, Rodgers, Baker, Pettigrew, and Collins pose for a group photo.

On hand for the celebration were (from l) Dr. Roger Glass, FIC director; Dr. Griffin Rodgers, NIDDK director; Diane Baker, wife of the NIH director; honoree Dr. Roderic Pettigrew; and Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director.

Photo: Ray Macdougall

Dr. Roderic Pettigrew, who retired as director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering last fall, was honored at a farewell ceremony Mar. 1 at Stone House.

He returned to campus from his new post as chief executive officer of EnHealth, which will integrate engineering into all the Texas A&M colleges within the university’s system that are part of the health care enterprise. He is also executive dean of a new engineering medicine track within the initiative called EnMed that will train medical students to invent solutions to challenging medical problems.

Prior to coming to NIH, Pettigrew was professor of radiology and medicine at Emory University and professor of engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He came to NIH in 2002 to take on the challenge of establishing a new organization—NIBIB—and left with a legacy as founder of the “institute of cool stuff.”

At the farewell, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins offered tribute in the form of a song to the tune of Paul Simon’s Kodachrome. While some in the audience may never have heard of this pre-digital film for taking pictures, it was a fitting tune to honor the radiologist who boosted imaging and bioengineering research through the introduction of a Quantum Grant program to pursue high-risk, high-impact projects designed to solve major health care problems.

Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of NIDDK, recalled first meeting Pettigrew in 1983, when they were both competing for a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation fellowship. Both received the award and the friendship and collegiality has lasted ever since. Rodgers lauded Pettigrew’s “passion and competitive spirit,” which helped him then, throughout his tenure at NIH and will contribute to his success in his new endeavors.

Dr. Lawrence Tabak, NIH principal deputy director, wished “happy trails to the consummate trailblazer.” Pettigrew had started NIBIB’s Trailblazer grant for early-stage investigators in exploratory, high-impact research.

Pettigrew is recognized for his focus on early-career and young investigators and increasing the diversity of the biomedical workforce. Among his accomplishments are establishing a partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to create interdisciplinary graduate training programs and serving as NIH’s acting chief officer for scientific workforce diversity.

Pettigrew has received numerous awards for advancing bioengineering and biomedical imaging research, including being one of the few people inducted into both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine).

After trying several times to talk Pettigrew out of leaving NIH, Collins lamented that he realized that Pettigrew was “created on this planet for this position” at Texas A&M and is the person who can make the vision a reality.

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