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Pollack, Kuhn Retire from NIAID's
Contract Management Branch

By Greg Pryor

Toni Kuhn (nee Abbaticchio) retired recently after 25 years in the Contract Management Branch of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Shortly thereafter, the chief of the branch, Lew Pollack, retired after 21 years in the institute.

Kuhn began part-time at NIH while she was still in high school. By 1963, she was working full time in the NIH personnel office. In 1965, she went to work for the Administrative Office for Collaborative Research as a secretary. In 1973, Kuhn joined the Contract Management Branch, NIAID, as a procurement assistant. By the time Pollack was selected as branch chief 1977, she was a contract specialist.

Toni Kuhn

Together they saw NIAID grow from one of the smaller institutes to one of the largest. The AIDS epidemic was the main impetus. The R&D contract budget grew from approximately $16 million annually in 1977 to $166 million by 1995. Kuhn's responsibilties grew along with the institute's response to the national health crisis engendered by AIDS. By the time she retired, she had risen to chief of the preclinical AIDS research contract section. She was known as a particularly empathic manager and her experiences at all levels of the NIH hierarchy served her in good stead. Her expertise and sound leadership were acknowledged many times during her long and distinguished career. For example, she received the NIH Director's Award in 1990 and the PHS Special Recognition Award in 1994.

Kuhn and her husband, Dick, built a house 4 years ago in New Market, Md., on a golf course. She now expects to take full advantage of that environment to improve her game.

Pollack began his 38-year federal career following his graduation in 1960 from the University of Rhode Island. With a degree in accounting, he began as an auditor for what is now the Defense Contract Audit Agency. He spent a year with the National Science Foundation before he came to NIH in 1967 and began work in centralized NIH research contracts. When contracts decentralized, Pollack was assigned to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and was ultimately named chief contracting officer for NICHD. He was among the first people certified by the National Contract Management Association as a professional contracts manager.

Lew Pollack

After he took over as chief of the CMB at NIAID, he became known for his superior planning skills, innovative thinking and vision. He, like Kuhn, was recognized many times for his achievements. He is particularly proud of the development of a computerized contract administration system, his role in the introduction of the electronic posting of requests for proposals and his considerable efforts in a "paperless acquisition" pilot project. This project was recognized by the DHHS Office of the Secretary with an Exemplary Service Award in 1996. Pollack also received the NIH Director's Award twice, once in 1980 and again in 1997.

He and Rhoda, his wife of 34 years, plan to focus their attention on ballroom dancing, their cats, their two married children, Jeffrey and Michele, their grandkids and travel. Lew will also try to find time for golfing, surfing the Internet and following his beloved Atlanta Braves.

NHLBI's Sheila Merritt Retires

Sheila Merritt, NHLBI associate director for administrative management, retires this month after 34 years of government service.

"Sheila has been a dedicated and resourceful colleague at the institute," said NHLBI director Dr. Claude Lenfant. "Time and again, she led institute efforts to find new approaches to administrative problems and has been a strong advocate of staff training and career development. And despite all the demands on her time, she has been able to serve as a mentor with young people. She was a guide for them and for the institute itself and we will all miss her."

Originally from Philadelphia, Merritt came to the Washington area to attend Morgan State College in Baltimore. She graduated with a B.S. in chemistry and later earned an M.S. in information technology from American University.

In 1964, she joined the federal government, soon taking a job as a chemist with NHLBI, then called the National Heart Institute. For nearly 10 years, she worked in the Laboratory of Technical Development on such projects as development of an artificial lung and various innovative instruments such as those to measure micro and nano quantities of body fluids, and one to measure oxygen saturation of circulating blood in vitro.

In 1973, she made a career shift into administration, eventually becoming NHLBI deputy executive officer in 1993 and then executive officer in 1996. Early on, she worked on NIH and NHLBI projects that sometimes wound up changing NIH practices. For instance, recommendations from a study she conducted on use of the Privacy Act led to creation of an NIH grant appeals system and the automatic distribution to researchers of peer review summary statements.

"It may sound paradoxical," Merritt said, "but in my years at the NHLBI, the institute has been both stable and a leader of change." For instance, she said, the institute has been at the forefront of advances in peer review and grants management procedures and processes, and in the quality of work life movement. "Most of the advances have come from the energy and ideas of a very stable and dedicated workforce known for their longevity in the NHLBI," she added.

Merritt also has long been involved in equal employment opportunity issues and received a special NHLBI award in 1984. Through the years, her efforts have included serving as a mentor in the DHHS Mentors Program at Eastern High School in Washington, D.C., and coaching and advising interns and trainees.

Her other awards include a 1984 NIH Director's Award and a 1992 Special Act or Service Award.

In retirement, Merritt expects to travel and has already planned a cruise. She and her husband also will continue their involvement in volunteer work with seniors and the disabled.

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