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Merchant Is New NIDDK Executive Officer

By Jane DeMouy

Barbara Merchant has been appointed new NIDDK executive officer.

A veteran administrator, she has had a distinguished 23-year career at NIH. She was administrative officer at NLM in the Division of Extramural Programs and the Library Operations Division from 1984 to 1987, providing administrative support in budget, personnel, contracts, procurement and space management.

Barbara Merchant

She became principal administrative officer of the Basic Research Division in NIMH's intramural program, with responsibility for 350 employees and a $21 million budget. Highlights of her accomplishments there were automating the budget process, creating a system to aid laboratory and branch chiefs in managing monthly expenditures, and balancing the area budget. In addition, she provided leadership and administrative management to the NIMH-NICHD Poolesville Shared Animal Facility.

The quality of her work earned her 10 performance awards in less than 10 years, and accolades from those who benefitted from her ability and efficiency. She earned the NIH Director's Award in 1993 for "providing innovative research support to mental health scientists, which is distinguished by its extraordinary high quality, its creativity and its timeliness." In a letter of commendation Merchant received in 1995, then NINDS director Dr. Zach Hall wrote, "I think I have witnessed a miracle. I have just toured my renovated lab space which has come in 1 month ahead of schedule."

In 1995, Merchant was selected as chief, Administrative Management Branch for the Division of Intramural Research, NIDDK, with responsibility for over 960 research investigators, fellows and administrative and support staff covering 20-plus labs and branches. She re-engineered the branch, forming an information technology unit, and establishing an innovative budget reporting and projection system. "Barbara created a highly responsive, service-oriented administration for NIDDK that really enhanced scientific productivity," says Dr. Ira Levin, NIDDK's acting scientific director.

Merchant also spearheaded numerous renovations during her tenure and received a commendation from then NIDDK scientific director Dr. Allen Spiegel for her "extraordinary management of a complex, interlocking series of lab renovations and moves that...[have] gone well beyond the consummate professionalism to be expected from any outstanding administrative officer."

She received the NIH Director's Award again in 1998 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the NIH intramural programs; and the NIH Clinical Center Director's Award in 1999 for her leadership in opening the NIDDK Transplant and Autoimmunity Branch's clinical area on 11 East and laboratories at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

A well-known leader in the NIH community, Merchant has served on numerous committees and has mentored many individuals who have become leaders at NIH themselves. She was cochair of the NIH intramural administrative officers group from 1993 to 1997, and chair from 1997 to 1999. In these roles, Merchant championed the concept of information sharing among the IC principal AOs to avoid duplication of effort.

As NIDDK executive officer, her goal is to provide responsive management and innovative leadership.


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