Retiree Mishoe Honored with Namesake Fellowship
“The next generation will be the ones to change the world, and I am so excited to be a part of it,” said Dr. Helena Mishoe, describing her feelings about the newly unveiled Radm. Helena O. Mishoe Fellowship for Underrepresented Scientists at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Mishoe, who spent most of her NIH career at NHLBI, retired recently. Known for her dedication to improving health equity among underserved populations, her contributions have improved the lives of people across the globe.
The Mishoe fellowship—which offers opportunities for postbacs from nationally underrepresented backgrounds to receive training in basic, translational and clinical research—is a tribute to everything that Mishoe accomplished at NIH.
For a young Mishoe, the path to NIH was not clear-cut.
She grew up in rural Delaware, where she attended segregated schools until her junior year in high school. Despite the circumstances, her parents instilled in her and her siblings the importance of education and hard work. This foundation drove Mishoe to earn several academic degrees while fueling her commitment to help others pursue an education as well.
Mishoe came to NIH in 1981 as an intramural staff fellow after receiving her Ph.D. in microbiology from the Georgetown University School of Medicine. She rose through the research ranks early in her career, conducting independent work on molecular biology and gene expression, while mentoring and training junior and senior research staff.
In 1988, she joined the extramural program at NHLBI. There, she began as a program director, providing direction for research programs meant to improve the lives of patients with blood diseases and disorders.
Shortly after arriving at NHLBI, she met and shadowed Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, who reiterated the importance of being a champion for others.
“Her passion and commitment to public service, NIH, her staff and those marginalized due to gender, socio-economic status and race and ethnicity inequities forever changed my life,” said Mishoe. “She took me under her wing and became my role model, mentor, confidant and friend.”
In 1990, Mishoe joined the Commissioned Corps.Her duties as an officer gave her a depth of knowledge of other scientific disciplines and a broad network of individuals she could call on to help solve public health problems over the years.
Mishoe was eventually appointed by the NIH director to serve as NIH representative to the surgeon general’s policy advisory council for a decade.
She returned to school for her master’s in public health in 2001. Upon graduation, she was appointed associate director overseeing a new office with a dual mission to facilitate and coordinate the NHLBI minority health research and research training activities, as well as overall training and career development.
She spent the rest of her career at NHLBI serving as a senior science executive.
“All the wonderful things that were accomplished during my tenure for established researchers, fellows, and trainees simply would not have been possible without my committed and amazing staff who worked with me tirelessly over the years,” she said.
Mishoe received numerous awards, including the Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service Medal and the NIH Ruth Kirschstein Mentoring Award. She says the renaming in her honor of the Biomedical Research Training Program for Underrepresented Groups—which she served as program director and career mentor—is her most meaningful recognition.
“All of the work that I’ve done and want to continue to do is about valuing people and making sure that they not only have opportunities, but are also prepared for those opportunities,” she concluded.