NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NCATS Mourns Communicator Spencer

Geoffrey Spencer
NIH communicator Geoffrey Spencer will be remembered for his wit, humor and candor.
Geoffrey Spencer, 46, an accomplished and colorful NIH communications professional, died Oct. 27 due to complications from adrenomyeloneuropathy, a rare, incurable, genetic neuro-degenerative disorder. 

Spencer joined the NCATS Communications Branch as a public affairs specialist in February 2012. His primary responsibilities included but were not limited to helping lead and organize the annual Rare Disease Day at NIH, as well as the production of NCATS’ rare disease patient videos and serving as the day-to-day point of contact for the center’s intramural, rare disease, tissue chip and other programs. In this role, he also produced content for news releases, social media and the NCATS website.

Spencer began his NIH career in 1999 as a public affairs assistant at NHGRI, where he was the primary media relations contact for the institute and its director at the time, Dr. Francis Collins. 

Eventually becoming the associate director of communications for the Division of Extramural Research, he was responsible for promoting more than 20 projects that followed the completion of the Human Genome Project, including The Cancer Genome Atlas, the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, the 1000 Genomes Project, the NHGRI Large-Scale Genome Sequencing Program and the Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology Program. 

NCATS director Dr. Christopher Austin said, “I first had the opportunity to work with Geoff while at NHGRI. There, as at NCATS, he was simultaneously as smart and caring as he was brash and hilarious, a combination of traits that endeared him to me and to so very many others.”

Spencer earned a bachelor’s degree in communication arts in 1999 from Salisbury University. He also served in the U.S. Army from 1991 to 1995, achieving the rank of specialist.

Born in Newport News, Va., he lived in Silver Spring with his wife Amy and a plethora of rescue dogs and cats. Spencer also enjoyed long-distance cycling and was a connoisseur of alternative, new wave and punk rock music. He will be remembered as an outspoken and passionate professional by all whose lives he touched. No one will ever forget his acerbic wit and somewhat risqué vocabulary, which was as spicy as the hot sauces of which he was so fond. 

He is survived by his wife, Amy; mother, Patricia; and two sisters, Jennifer and Nicole. 

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