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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Optimize NIH IT Security Team Receives AFFIRM Award

Group photo of Optimize NIH IT security staff in front of royal blue backdrop

Several members of the Optimize NIH IT Security team are (from l) Amber Simco (OCIO), Rayneisha Watson (Deloitte Consulting), Patrick Shirdon (NIA) and Stacie Alboum (CIT)

NIH had an impressive showing at the Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) awards celebration, which took place on December 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. 

The Optimize NIH IT Security team received the Leadership in Health Information Technology Award for their work over the last 3 years. The team is part of the overall Optimize NIH initiative and the broader ReImagine HHS efforts. 

Optimize NIH IT Security included working groups with over 100 NIH staff representing 25 of NIH’s 27 institutes and centers and bringing together diverse team members to deliver integrated solutions.

The AFFIRM Leadership Awards recognize accomplishments by teams or individuals in providing direction, inspired vision and outstanding contributions within or beyond an agency or organization. (Find a list of all 2021 AFFIRM honorees at:

Representing the Optimize NIH IT Security team at the ceremony, Stacie Alboum, CIT deputy director; Patrick Shirdon, chief business officer and director of management at NIA; Amber Simco, OD deputy chief information security officer; and Rayneisha Watson, principal, Deloitte Consulting, were on hand to receive the leadership award. Other team leaders include Sandra Scarbrough and Sherry Quinn from OSPMO.

In her acceptance speech on behalf of the team, Alboum said, “Cybersecurity is a team sport, and I couldn’t be more honored to work with this amazing team. It’s more important than ever right now…with the worldwide health crisis that we’re experiencing, to protect our data and assets.”

The team’s work is a great example of collaboration across NIH. Their effort, which ran from August 2018 to February 2021, challenged the agency to develop innovative ways to improve NIH’s cybersecurity posture. 

Given the increased incidence of cyberattacks against government agencies, including NIH, these efforts were crucial in supporting and protecting NIH’s mission.

NIH AFFIRM award recipients oversaw goals and reporting and provided project management and strategic guidance. They also supported change management and drove project milestones, deliverables and successful program outcomes. 

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