NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Spotlight on Service, Sacrifices

First Responders Garner Well-Earned Appreciation

Large group of people, some in uniform
Division of Police staff are congratulated by NIH Chief Security Officer Bill Cullen (3rd from l), ORS Director Colleen McGowan (c) and NIH Deputy Director for Management Dr. Alfred Johnson (2nd from r).

Photo:  Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

NIH rose to the worthy occasion of celebrating Oct. 28 as National First Responders Day. In his proclamation, President Joe Biden called upon the people of the United States “to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities to honor our brave first responders and to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”

Throughout October, NIH honored its first responders in the Office of Research Services (ORS) Division of Police (DP) and Division of Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS)—two groups who provide heroic and continuous 24-7 service 365 days a year in support of the NIH mission.

During the pandemic and at great risk to themselves and their families, they served without any breaks in service, on the Bethesda campus and at remote locations in Frederick, Md., and in Montana. 

graphic shows female police officer, gender neutral EMT, and gender neutral firefighter
First Responders poster

Everyone can remember the beginning of Covid-19, when the nation and world implemented social distancing. Recalling those early days of spring 2020, ORS Director Colleen McGowan said, “It is time to spotlight the countless sacrifices our police and fire personnel have made and their unyielding commitment to safety and security at NIH.” 

Dr. Lawrence Tabak, performing the duties of NIH director, had promoted the celebration via an NIH-wide email message and provided the community an opportunity to reach out directly to DP and DFRS staff.

“We see you and appreciate you,” Tabak wrote, opening the way for others to express their well-wishes similarly. 

The result was an influx of emails sent to the first responders, conveying heartfelt and detailed anecdotal thanks. In response to the outpouring, Acting NIH Police Chief Leslie Campbell said, “More than a duty, it is an honor to serve this diverse and vibrant community. Your kind words mean a great deal and we truly appreciate your thoughtfulness. Our mission is simple: to keep the NIH community safe and secure.” 

Large group of people stand behind a poster with a graphic representing a firefighter, EMT, and police
NIH first responders were celebrated all month, acknowledging the dedicated selfless service they provide every day, all day.

Photo:  Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

Acting DFRS Director Mat Chibbaro added, “The NIH Fire Department is very proud of its nearly 70 years of service to NIH, its mission, staff, patients, visitors and the surrounding communities. We do what we do and expect no accolades, but they are always greatly appreciated, especially those with specific success stories of our outstanding fire and rescue services both on the NIH campus and in Montgomery County.”

McGowan shared weekly ORS first responder profiles with ORS staff in a well-received awareness campaign. NIH’s Medical Arts team designed colorful banners now installed across the Bethesda campus. 

On Oct. 28, the official day of recognition, NIH Deputy Director for Management Dr. Alfred Johnson joined McGowan and Bill Cullen, ORS associate director of security and emergency response, to host a reception in Bldg. 31 for first responders and staff, including members of NIH leadership. 

The festive event culminated the month of honoring the selfless service of NIH’s first responders. 

Learn more about them and their work via the NIH Gratitude for Our First Responders website:

Also, it is never too late to send them emails of gratitude and appreciation: 

Fire Department—


 Fauci with NIH Police
NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci (6th from l) stands with NIH Police in Bldg. 31.

Photo:  joseph brou

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)