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Former NIH Director Fredrickson Mourned

Dr. Donald S. Fredrickson, 77, an authority on lipid metabolism and its disorders who was NIH director for 6 years (July 1, 1975, to June 30, 1981), died on June 7 at his home in Bethesda. Only 6 days earlier, he had accepted the NIH Alumni Association's 2002 Public Service Award in a ceremony at Bethesda United Methodist Church. And he had given a public lecture at NIH last December on a topic for which he became famous: legitimizing recombinant DNA research at a time when public fears threatened to proscribe that avenue of investigation.

Dr. Donald Fredrickson at June 1 NIHAA event

He said on Dec. 11, 2001, "We' the midst of a revolution — and we have been for the past 30 years — and it's the most important one in the history of medicine and biology. I was in the first phase of it, and it was the most enjoyable period of my life, I think." His remarks capsulized a book he had recently published, The Recombinant DNA Controversy: A Memoir. The book's jacket reads, "In this fascinating memoir, Donald Fredrickson tells the story of the controversy over recombinant DNA and its revolutionary impact on modern science...Relying on vast archives of hearing records, correspondence, and extensive personal records and diaries, Dr. Fredrickson recalls the numerous personalities from microbiology, molecular biology, and other scientific disciplines, as well as the leaders among Congress, the administration, and government agencies, environmentalists, and many others, who had a role during this challenging period."

Said former NIH deputy director Dr. Thomas Malone, "I was privileged to have served as Don's deputy from 1977 through 1981. This appointment was one of the most fulfilling during my 20 years at NIH. Following a superb and productive period of bench research, he made the transition to the administrative sector with ease and grace. He tackled head-on the questions generated by the new technologies. For example, he was at the center of the recombinant DNA controversy and its solution. He was equally at home with science as he was with the great writers and philosophers, past and present. He was a superb writer and speaker. I shall always remember his genius and wit and will be forever appreciative that he passed my way."

Fredrickson was born Aug. 8, 1924, in Canon City, Colo. He received both his B.S. (1946) and M.D. (1949) from the University of Michigan, and was certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in 1957. He did postgraduate work at Peter Bent Brigham and Massachusetts General hospitals and Harvard Medical School prior to coming to NIH in 1953.

In that year, he joined the scientific staff of the then National Heart Institute as a clinical associate. He was among the first cadre of house staff for the then new Clinical Center.

Fredrickson held numerous positions at NIH, several in the heart institute simultaneously. From 1955 to 1961 he was a member of the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Metabolism. He then served as clinical director (1961-1966), while continuing his research as head of the section of molecular diseases, Laboratory of Metabolism (1962-1966). He was appointed institute director in 1966, serving in that capacity until 1968. He combined this responsibility with research as chief of the Molecular Diseases Branch (1966-1974), and as director of intramural research (1969-1974).

His earliest research interests centered on the metabolism of sterols. Later he focused on the structure of the plasma lipoproteins, their importance in the transport of fats, and the genetic factors regulating their metabolism and concentration in blood. It was during this period that he discovered two new genetic disorders: Tangier disease (absence of high density lipoproteins) and cholesteryl ester storage disease, a lysosomal enzyme deficiency.

In 1965, he and his coworkers introduced a system for identifying and classifying blood-lipid abnormalities on the basis of plasma lipoprotein patterns. From this work came recognition of new causes of hyperlipidemia. The system was adopted by laboratories around the world.

Fredrickson and his colleagues also discovered several previously unknown apolipoproteins, and uncovered new knowledge including descriptions concerning the structure and function of various apoproteins.

Before becoming NIH director, he served for 1 year (1974-1975) as president of the Institute of Medicine, NAS. He was a member of numerous professional societies in addition to NAS and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was honored with 10 honorary doctorates, and authored more than 270 publications. He left the NIH directorship to return to NAS as a visiting scholar.

In 1983, he joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as vice president, rising to president and CEO in 1984; he left HHMI in 1987, and became a scholar at the National Library of Medicine. His CV notes whimsically that, for 25 years, he was physician to King Hassan II of Morocco.

Burial took place in The Netherlands. He is survived by his wife Henriette, and two sons, Eric of Columbus, Ohio, and Rurik, an NIAID employee, of Bethesda. A memorial service at NIH is planned for the future.

NIMH's Hazel Rea Dies at 91

By Sophia Glezos Voit

Hazel Rea — the deeply loved "mother of the (NIMH) intramural program," the self-taught, undaunted secretary who rose to the second highest position in NIMH intramural leadership — passed away in her home on May 18, 3 months after her 91st birthday and only 7 years after she retired.

According to many, including Dr. Julius Axelrod, scientist emeritus and Nobel laureate, who also recently turned 91, Rea was more than a deputy. "She was the one who really ran the administration," Axelrod said. "She made important decisions and was a very powerful person."

Hazel Rea

And she "knew her power," he added, which may have accounted for part of the reason she was able to advance so far with comparatively little formal scientific training. "A degree doesn't mean very much," said Axelrod. "I published 25 papers before I got my Ph.D. What was important to the people who worked with Hazel Rea was that she was very knowledgeable, both about the institute and about how to run things. She knew the intricacies of NIMH."

Born the second youngest of nine children, Rea left her home state of Arkansas for adventure and a job in the nation's capital. At the age of 24, back in 1935, she began her federal career at the Department of the Treasury. Fourteen years and several agencies later, she took a stenographer position at NIMH, when the institute's staff totaled 60 employees, in a 2-story building where, reportedly, only the primates had the benefit of air conditioning.

Over the years, Rea's administrative and analytical abilities earned her increasing levels of responsibility, to the point of her ultimately becoming deputy director of the Intramural Research Program. By age 80, she started working part-time, and finally retired 4 years later, in 1995.

Pat Middleton, chief of the IRP Personnel Management Branch, who interviewed Rea in 1994 for an article she was writing, said Hazel treated people with respect and knew how to appeal to their good side.

"Hazel's direct advice to employees was that they 'should take their work seriously and believe in what they are doing,' and that managers should 'deal honestly' with their staff. 'Always level with employees,' Hazel had said, 'and let them know when they are doing well or when they are not performing,'" Middleton said.

In addition to a respectful regard of others, savvy, and robust self-confidence, Rea also rose on the wings of hard work, native intelligence, perseverance and long hours.

Dr. Robert Desimone, scientific director, who had worked with her for many years, told staff in an email informing them about her death that "no one was more devoted to NIMH" than Hazel. "She will be greatly missed by everyone who knew her."

Adding to her assets was a keen working knowledge of the science, said NIMH science writer Jules Asher, who worked in the IRP during the 1980s. "Hazel was undaunted by her lack of formal training," he said. "She attended all the scientific reviews and got into the nitty gritty of the research."

According to son-in-law Henry Hilken, "Hazel loved NIMH. She was intellectually challenged by the research they were doing and believed in it. Though I think she felt that during certain parts of her career she was held back because she was a woman, she never whined about it. She probably figured she had to overcome it by being smarter than everybody else and working harder, and she was."

Middleton said Rea developed procedures for attracting and recruiting women to NIMH that predated the equal employment opportunity program.

Though Rea often worked many hours past closing, she also carved out time to work on behalf of all NIH staff by taking the lead role in bringing the R&W to NIH, as one of its founding members.

Randy Schools, president and CEO of the Recreation & Welfare Association, said Rea "took the concept and brought it to the NIH community." Although other R&Ws existed, Rea was responsible in large part for NIH being among the early ones. "She helped plant the seed for all the programming that's now here in the NIH community," said Schools.

Granddaughter Whitney Perregino said her grandmother's departure from NIMH was a difficult break for her to make. "Retiring wasn't something that came easy to her," Perregino said. But she kept in touch with colleagues and NIMH friends, "and they kept in touch with her. If she wasn't going to the theater with them, she was visiting with them or having parties."

She kept in touch with the science, too, particularly as it related to her own health. "She certainly had a belief in the antioxidants," Perregino said, adding that in the last week of her life, her grandmother was saying she was "just too healthy. And I said, 'Well, with the stuff you took all your life, what d'ya want?' On the day she died, she took a very low dose of low blood pressure medication and everything else was vitamins. She was very proud of that. She was going to be 92 in February."

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