Due in 2021
NIAMS Prepares to Welcome New Director Criswell
After more than a year and a half without an appointed director, NIAMS staff learned recently that Dr. Lindsey Criswell had been tapped to fill the position. She is currently at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She serves as the university’s vice chancellor of research as well as professor of rheumatology and a professor of orofacial sciences. She plans to start her NIAMS duties in early 2021.
In announcing his decision, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins said: “Dr. Criswell has rich experience as a clinician, researcher and administrator. Her ability to oversee the research program of one of the country’s top research-intensive medical schools and her expertise in autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, make her well-positioned to direct NIAMS. I look forward to having her join the NIH leadership team early next year.
“I also want to thank Dr. Robert H. Carter for his exemplary work as the acting director of NIAMS since December 2018,” Collins continued.
Shortly after the announcement, Carter gathered NIAMS staff for a virtual Town Hall. “The goal of this meeting,” he said, “is to inform you all about working through the transition, the start of a new era for us.”
Few, if any, at the institute have ever experienced a directorship change at NIAMS. The institute was established in 1986, and has only had two directors. The last director—the beloved Dr. Stephen Katz, who passed away suddenly in December 2018—served for 23 years.
“Lindsey passes the ‘Katz’ test,” Carter said, channeling the former director’s description of an ideal scientific leader. “She’s a good scientist, a good administrator and someone you’d like to have over for dinner. I’m terrifically excited to have her named as director and I’m completely committed to supporting her and making the transition as smooth as possible.
“I believe Lindsey will bring new energy, new vision, a new sense of purpose to NIAMS,” added Carter. “Having her at the helm will be a real blessing.”
Once Criswell is on board, Carter will return to his role as deputy director. “The staff who work here are what make this a pleasure,” he said. “I’m sure Lindsey will enjoy working with you all. Keep up the great work.”
Criswell has been a principal investigator on multiple NIH grants since 1994 and has published more than 200 peer-reviewed journal papers. Her research focuses on the genetics and epidemiology of human autoimmune disease, particularly rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Using genome-wide association and other genetic studies, her research team contributed to the identification of more than 30 genes linked to these disorders.
Criswell’s many honors include the Kenneth H. Fye, M.D., endowed chair in rheumatology and the Jean S. Engleman distinguished professorship in rheumatology at UCSF, and the Henry Kunkel Young Investigator Award from the American College of Rheumatology. She also was named UCSF’s 2014 Resident Clinical and Translational Research Mentor of the Year. During her career, she has mentored some four dozen students (high school through medical/graduate school), medical residents, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in genetics and a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley. She went overseas for a D.Sc. in genetic epidemiology from the Netherlands Institute for Health Sciences, Rotterdam, then returned to the U.S. to earn an M.D. from UCSF. In addition to completing a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in rheumatology, she is certified as a first responder in wilderness medicine.