NINDS’s Cordell Retires After 36 Years of Federal Service
After 36 years of federal service—34 with NIH—Janice Cordell, a nurse consultant and clinical research program manager in NINDS’s Division of Clinical Research (DCR), retired on July 30.
“It’s time to pass the baton to the next generation,” she said.
Cordell earned her bachelor of arts degree in biology from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., in 1979, and her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Columbia University School of Nursing in New York in 1981.
Upon graduating from Columbia, she became a staff nurse at Mount Sinai Medical Center working in the acute care medical and intensive care units, where she frequently served as the senior nurse and was responsible for all patients on the ward.
In 1983 Cordell joined New York’s Visiting Nurse Service (VNS) as a public health nurse—planning, coordinating and implementing care for homebound patients. As part of VNS, she worked with community agencies, local health departments and social services organizations to help people obtain Medicare, Medicaid and other government-sponsored assistance.
“I saw nursing as a way to have an impact on people’s health,” she said. “I especially enjoyed working at the Visiting Nurse Service as I saw people in their home environments and felt that I could have a direct effect on their health and wellbeing.”
In 1986, Cordell earned a master of public health degree in epidemiology from Columbia University. She left New York later that year and moved to Maryland to begin her federal career as a nurse epidemiologist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. There she designed, conducted and analyzed epidemiologic research including studies of HIV infection in military women.
Two years later, Cordell joined NIH as a nurse consultant in NIAID’s Division of AIDS.
“I was working at Walter Reed during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and saw a job advertisement for a position in the Epidemiology Branch of what was then the AIDS Program at NIAID,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how I would do in an extramural position, where I would be a step removed from hands-on clinical research. I soon discovered it was a great fit for my skills—especially the multi-tasking that was required—and my nursing and epidemiology backgrounds fit perfectly as well. I am proud of my work on HIV and AIDS. It may not seem like a big deal now, but back in the 1980s we were still trying to figure out how HIV transmission occurred. It is amazing to me that HIV/AIDS is now a chronic illness with multiple treatment options and is no longer always a fatal disease.”
While at NIAID Cordell also worked with the Vaccine and Prevention Research Program and in the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, where she served as the project officer (PO) for the vaccine and treatment evaluation units.
As PO, she managed the clinical, scientific, administrative and budgetary aspects of vaccine trials, which spanned the spectrum of infectious diseases and all clinical trial phases. She also represented NIH on various inter-agency vaccine safety research policy working groups including the national vaccine advisory committee and the vaccine safety and communications subcommittee.
In 2002 Cordell joined NINDS as a nurse consultant and clinical research program manager in DCR. She was responsible for monitoring and evaluating grants and cooperative agreements for clinical research in neurology. She worked on the safety and risk assessment committee and led the Data and Safety Monitoring Boards (DSMB)—determining the level of safety monitoring needed for all NINDS grant applications with human subjects and serving as liaison between study investigative teams, DSMB members and her NINDS colleagues.
In 2011 Cordell helped to establish NeuroNEXT, the Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials created to conduct studies of treatments for neurological diseases through partnerships with academia, private foundations and industry.
“In a relatively short period of time, there have been 11 studies—clinical trials and biomarker studies,” she said.
In retirement, Cordell plans to do more—”read more, walk more and travel more,” that is.
“Throughout my NIH career, I’ve worked with the most dedicated people, who work tirelessly to improve public health,” she concluded. “I’ll miss learning something new nearly every day. However, I feel it is time for the next generation to take over moving the neurological field forward and reducing the burden of disease for all people.”