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NINDS Deputy Director for Management Gormley Retires After 34 Years at NIH

Dr. Maureen Gormley

Dr. Maureen Gormley

After 34 years of federal service—all with NIH—Dr. Maureen Gormley, deputy director for management, NINDS, is ready for her next adventure. She officially retired on Dec. 31. 

“With my younger daughter starting college this fall, it seemed like a good time for me to focus on my next career chapter,” she said.

Gormley earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing in 1985 from Boston College and a master of public health degree in 1987 from Yale University. In 2010 she earned a master of arts degree and in 2014 a doctor of philosophy degree—both in human and organizational systems from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif. Her dissertation examined workplace stigma toward employees with intellectual disabilities.

She first came to NIH in 1986 as a summer student in the PHS Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (COSTEP). PHS COSTEP allows health-related undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students to train alongside active-duty officers during school breaks and become inactive PHS officers upon completion of the program. 

“When I graduated, I had two job offers—one with a consulting company and the other with NIH,” Gormley shared. “The dean of my graduate program told me that the decision was a no-brainer, adding that ‘there are hundreds of consulting companies, but only one NIH.’”

She joined NIH in 1987 as an administrative fellow in the Clinical Center and rose through the ranks, undertaking increasingly challenging administrative duties and responsibilities in a variety of roles—assistant hospital administrator, director of quality improvement, special assistant to the director and chief of administrative management and planning. 

From 1987 to 1989, she also worked as a clinical nurse for the Meridian Healthcare Corp. at the Layhill Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Silver Spring. 

In 1999, Gormley became chief operating officer of the Clinical Center. She consulted on leadership development, strategic planning and organizational effectiveness, and used her background in nursing and health services administration to make significant and lasting contributions to the hospital—both in terms of efficiency of operations and continuous improvement of patient services.

Gormley left the Clinical Center in 2016 to become NINDS executive officer. She encouraged and nurtured a positive workforce culture with strong employee engagement and accountability, and developed leadership strategy for continual improvement. 

“When I left the Clinical Center, I really missed my daily interactions with patients—many of whom I got to know personally over the years,” she said. “In that environment, it was easy for me to feel that my work was important because I could do something almost every day that made a difference. NINDS has a special culture because everyone is so driven by the mission, but at the same time, down to earth and friendly. My transition was very easy.”

Throughout her career, Gormley has received numerous awards and accolades and has served on countless NIH, trans-NIH and NINDS committees and working groups as well as some outside of NIH. 

Among her most rewarding accomplishments are her efforts to support CC patients and help launch the careers of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

“I was at the Clinical Center for a long time and am most proud of the work I did to support the patients,” she said. Her standout examples included leading the implementation of a hospital-wide continuous quality improvement program, developing the first CC strategic plan, identifying the need for and establishing patient hospitality services, overseeing activation of the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center and the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge, and serving as the first executive secretary of the NIH Advisory Board for Clinical Research. 

She also introduced a school-to-work transition program known as Project SEARCH that has successfully trained and hired youth with intellectual disabilities into the mainstream NIH workforce. 

“I am especially proud of the NIH Project SEARCH program,” she said. “In 2010, I responded to a ‘cold-call’ email from a teacher at the Ivymount School in Rockville asking if I would be willing to consider hosting a school-to-work transition program for youth with intellectual disabilities at NIH. Ten years later, the program is still going strong. With almost every institute involved, we have trained dozens of Project SEARCH interns, many of whom have been hired at NIH into mainstream federal and contract positions.”

Although Gormley has retired from federal service, she will continue to provide counsel to NINDS’s Office of the Director. She said she will miss the people. 

“Having great working relationships with people is not only the way to get things done at NIH, but it is also the way to have fun,” she noted. “I love helping people and find much gratification in establishing healthy teams in support of our mission.” 

She revealed, however, that she will not miss “the litany of activities focused on compliance and regulations, such as continual data calls, rather than direct support of the science.”

In retirement, Gormley plans to continue her coaching and strategic consulting work, take long walks with her husband, run with her two daughters, and travel with family and friends—preferably to places with palm trees.

“I have witnessed much change at NIH—from sleeping overnight at the hospital as Y2K threatened to take down our information systems to watching a perimeter fence change the culture of the campus following 9/11,” she concluded. “What has always remained the same is the tireless commitment of all members of the staff for the mission of NIH. And, over the years, I have come to realize that the best leaders combine hard work and deep knowledge with a sense of humility and humanity.” 

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