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NIH Record

Obituaries

Earleen Elkins Dies, Former Review Chief

Dr. Earleen Elkins, who retired from NIH in 1996 after having served both NIDCD and NINCDS in extramural program leadership roles, died Jan. 26 in Ft. Myers, Fla.

"Earleen Elkins was a person of great energy who delighted in outstanding science and, especially, in encouraging young investigators," said Dr. James Battey, Jr., director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, as news of her death reached scientists meeting at the Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) in St. Petersburg, Fla., and her former colleagues at NIH.

Dr. Earleen Elkins

Elkins had served as deputy director of the Division of Extramural Affairs and chief of the Scientific Review Branch at NIDCD after years on the staff of the then NINCDS. She had joined DHHS in 1976 after serving at the Department of the Army and at the Veterans Administration.

She was on the faculty of the department of hearing and speech sciences at the University of Maryland, where she taught audiology and statistical methods.

Barbara Sonies, chief of the oral motor function section and director of the oral pharyngeal function-ultrasound imaging lab at the Clinical Center, said of her former colleague, "She served as dissertation advisor and mentor to many appreciative graduate students and professionals."

Elkins had been honored by ARO several years ago with an Award of Merit. Among her many honors were the Hearing Research Award from the National Organization for Hearing Research and the E. Elkins Research Grant established by the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery in her honor.

Elkins served as mentor to many program and review professionals at NIH. She also took great pride in her husband, her children and their families, as well as in her three sisters who survive her.

She also took pride in her golf game. She was past president and member of the Golf Association at Highland Woods Country Club in Bonita Springs, Fla.

Elkins' family has asked that expressions of sympathy take the form of contributions to the Children's Inn at NIH. As one friend said, "I pictured her laughing and enjoying the course for at least another 20 years...it was just too soon and too sudden."

NCI Mourns Loss of Susan Sieber

By Margaret Vaughn

Dr. Susan Sieber, a 30-year veteran of the National Cancer Institute, died on Jan. 22 in Rockville of breast cancer. She was 59.

The sad news left her many friends and colleagues across the NIH campus remembering her extraordinary contributions to the institute over the past three decades.

"She was a graceful and extraordinarily gracious person," said Dr. John Weinstein, one of Sieber's research colleagues at NCI. "Key to her success was a wonderfully receptive nature and a generosity of spirit. It stood her well in her activities as a researcher and in administration."

Sieber joined NCI as a staff fellow in 1971 after completing her pharmacology Ph.D. at George Washington University. In 1980, she was appointed acting chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology.

Over the next two decades, however, her interest in developmental toxicology, biochemical epidemiology and cancer in women and special populations propelled her to leading roles in a wide variety of NCI offices including the Division of Cancer Control and Populations Science and the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.

Sieber is remembered for her ability to build bridges between scientists with differing specialties and outlooks, said Dr. Aaron Blair, Occupational Epidemiology Branch chief of the Division of Epidemiology and Genetics.

"Susan was very good at pulling people together from disparate backgrounds and getting them to think about a common topic," he said. "She could reach out and make them feel integrated into the project."

Sieber chaired and served on numerous scientific boards and working groups including the U.S. Army Breast Cancer Research Program integration panel, the board of directors of the Reproduction Toxicology Center and the NIH interagency working group on breast and gynecologic cancer. She also taught in the NIH graduate program and wrote or coauthored 76 scientific papers.

But it was her personal commitment to fighting breast cancer through outreach to its many victims that is remembered in places as remote as Triana, Alabama.

Sieber was instrumental in establishing a study there in the mid-1990s that examined the connection between environmental contaminants such as DDT and unusually high incidences of breast cancer, said Dr. Jane Cash, professor of nursing at Jacksonville State University.

"Triana was poor, rural and underserved," Cash said. "Susan would fly down for meetings and obviously enjoyed meeting and helping the people. She took a personal, as well as professional, interest. She really wanted to make a difference."

Sieber's influence on the women in Triana continues even today, Cash noted. "The women in that community were empowered and continue to support each other — Susan was pivotal in that."

After serving as associate director of special projects in the late 1990s, Sieber's skills in cancer communications led to an appointment as director of NCI's Office of Communications in 2000. She retired from that position late in 2001.

Survivors include her parents and two brothers. Her husband of 17 years, Dr. Sergio Fabro, died in 1988.


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