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NIAMS Writer Barbara Weldon Retires

By Janet Howard

Barbara Weldon

If you've called NIH about lupus or arthritis in the past decade or so--whether you are a patient, a reporter, or a congressional aide--chances are good you've spoken to NIAMS writer/editor Barbara Weldon of the Office of Scientific and Health Communications. And chances are very good you remember how helpful she was and the information she sent you. Weldon retired Apr. 3.

Four generations of her family have helped NIH fulfill its mission. Her mother was a social worker here in the 1950's. Her son, Kirby Weldon, a former NIH management intern, works at the Fogarty International Center, and a grandchild is a summer student here.

Weldon began her NIH career in 1977 as a part-time clerk enrolling students for the Upward Mobility College. She later became a secretary at NCI, and was then accepted in 1980 into the NIH Stride Program, working for NIAMDD (now NIDDK) as an editorial assistant. She became a writer/editor there when she completed the Stride Program. In the meantime, Stride and a lot of hard work enabled her to graduate in 1982 from American University with a degree in journalism. In 1986, she joined the newly created NIAMS. She worked in its Office of Scientific and Health Communications (OSHC) as a writer/editor, communicating and working with the public, the press, congressional offices, researchers, physicians, and outside groups about rheumatic diseases.

Dr. John Klippel, NIAMS clinical director, said, "She is a spokesperson for those of us who have no solution to some callers' problems. Barbara cared for each and every one who was suffering. Her contributions will be remembered by those people."

"My job has been exciting and fulfilling," said Weldon. "For many years, I have worked with the public and private sectors, health voluntary organizations, and Congress."

Under NIAMS director emeritus Dr. Lawrence E. Shulman, she helped develop lupus communications programs for many health voluntary organizations. Weldon has written many articles on research about arthritis and rheumatic diseases and how to cope with these chronic problems.

At her retirement luncheon, Weldon stated, "I was privileged to work under two outstanding directors at NIAMS, Lawrence Shulman and Stephen Katz. The institute serves the public well."

Katz remarked, "Barbara has played a very important role in providing health and science information to the public for many years. She has also been a critical link between many patient advocacy groups and the NIH and has fostered many of the partnerships that we enjoy today. We will miss her very much and wish her well in her retirement."

"She was really the face of the institute with her sense of caring," added Shulman. "She exudes warmth and personality, and a sense of family. She has always helped the ones that NIAMS is here to serve." NIAMS deputy director Dr. Steven J. Hausman agreed, "Compassion is the one word that best describes Barbara."

Other tributes to Weldon came from her former and current supervisors. Betsy Singer, NIDDK information officer, who hired her as a Stride intern in 1980, recalled, "Barbara was a star pupil of Stride. She is representative of the success of the program."

"Many people have told me over the years how much they appreciated the help and follow-up that Barbara provided them when they called the NIH," said Connie Raab, OSHC director. "Her dedication to and interest in people are very special qualities that I will really miss--not to mention hearing that melodious Brooklyn accent!"

Weldon says the work she is most proud of is a booklet she wrote, What Black Women Should Know About Lupus. Nearly 180,000 copies have been distributed, thousands reprinted, and countless folks have accessed the Internet version.

In retirement, Weldon plans to volunteer her talents to health care organizations. She would also like to edit a newsletter and learn to play golf. She came to Bethesda from Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1950 with her late husband, John Q. Weldon. They reared two children. In 1997, she married Jefferson Lawrence.

"I would like to continue my writing and hope this will, in some way, make a difference in the quality of life for older Americans," she concluded.

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