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Kalberer Ends 31-Year Career at NIH

By Bill Hall

Dr. John T. Kalberer, Jr., recently retired from federal service, ending a public health career that began at NIH 31 years ago.

A New York City native, he received his Ph.D. from New York University in 1966 and came to NIH that same year, accepting a grants associate position with the Division of Research Grants. A year later, he moved to the National Cancer Institute as assistant program director for epidemiology in the extramural activities division. Kalberer spent 12 years with NCI, moving on to become associate director for program planning for NCI's Division of Research Resources and Centers and serving as executive secretary to the two subcommittees of the National Cancer Advisory Board.

Dr. John T. Kalberer, Jr.

In the late 1970's, NIH was becoming involved with the relatively new field of technology assessment and had established the Office of Medical Applications of Research (OMAR) to carry out activities in this area. Kalberer left NCI and joined OMAR in 1979 as its deputy director and was instrumental in guiding the NIH Consensus Development Program in its early years. The consensus program today has established itself as the premier technology assessment program in American medicine.

As the importance of disease prevention and health promotion became ever more apparent in the early 1980's, Kalberer was tapped to help NIH sharpen its research focus in this field of public health. In 1983, he was named NIH coordinator for disease prevention and health promotion and in that role served as chairman of the prevention research coordinating committee until his retirement. In this position, he was responsible for helping to formulate the objectives for Healthy People 1990, which were the first standardized national health goals. These were followed by the development of the Healthy People 2000 and the Healthy People 2010 objectives. Kalberer and Dr. Robert S. Gordon, then special assistant to the NIH director, established the NIH definition for disease prevention, which was later adopted by DHHS. In 1987, at the request of the NIH director, Kalberer took the lead in implementing the NIH-wide ban on smoking. This "no smoking" policy became a model for other government and private sector organizations.

Kalberer's research interests during his years at NYU focused primarily on barophysiology, decompression sickness, and vasoactive substances. Additionally, he has written more than 50 publications on these and other public health-related topics.

An avid hiker and photographer, Kalberer has hiked the Grand Canyon from the north to the south rim and has taken exotic photo adventures to Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, and Nepal, to name a few trips, as well as captured on film some of the more beautiful scenery in the American Southwest, New England and Alaska. While he certainly has become a world traveler in recent years, Kalberer always makes time for another of his passions -- tennis. He is a member of the tennis committee at Bethesda Country Club, and has won several member-guest tournaments there. However, he says, "I think my proudest achievement is twice winning the NIH doubles championship 20 and 22 years after the first time I won it."

In his post-NIH life, Kalberer plans to continue his active lifestyle but will be moving his base of operations to Williamsburg, Va., where he is building a home surrounded by two rivers, a marina, a golf course, and, of course, tennis courts. "My vocation will be to commune with nature while my avocation will be an occasional consultancy and teaching continuing education at the College of William and Mary."

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