NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

17th NCI Director Named

Rathmell Appointed to Lead Cancer Institute

Rathmell, smiling, in white lab coat
Dr. W. Kimryn Rathmell

President Joe Biden announced on Nov. 17 that he intends to appoint Dr. W. Kimryn Rathmell as the 17th director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). 

An internationally recognized expert in kidney cancer, “Rathmell is an ideal candidate to lead NIH’s efforts to end cancer as we know it,” said NIH Director—and 16th NCI Director—Dr. Monica Bertagnolli in a statement to NIH staff. “She has spent her career driving efforts to boost support and improve outcomes for those facing a cancer diagnosis, living the principles of President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative.” 

Rathmell currently serves as the Hugh Jackson Morgan chair in medicine, chair of the department of medicine and physician-in-chief at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville. 

A medical oncologist and translational scientist, Rathmell takes her work from the laboratory to the patient’s bedside. Her lab focuses on the molecular biology of kidney cancer and is integrated into a clinical research program at VUMC and Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center. This groundbreaking work has yielded better ways to detect and treat cancer using molecular biomarkers. 

“I especially admire Dr. Rathmell’s dedication to mentorship and training the next generation of physician-scientists,” said Bertagnolli. “She has led numerous training and career development programs at Vanderbilt and the University of North Carolina, where she previously served on the faculty.”

In 2022, Rathmell was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, which recognized not only her many research achievements but also her mentorship of physician-scientists.

Rathmell has served on NCI’s Board of Scientific Advisors and as a member of the Cancer Genome Atlas program; she was recognized with the 2021 American Association for Cancer Research Team Science Award. Additionally, she has held leadership positions for the Kidney Cancer Research Foundation and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. She is a member of the Association of American Physicians and a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. 

After receiving her undergraduate degree in chemistry and biology at the University of Northern Iowa, Rathmell earned her Ph.D. in biophysics and M.D. from Stanford University. She participated in an internal medicine internship at the University of Chicago and completed an internal medicine residency and medical oncology fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rathmell succeeds Bertagnolli, who in recent weeks began her tenure as NIH director. Rathmell’s appointment does not require Senate confirmation. She is expected to take the helm at NCI this month. 

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)