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NIH Record Retirees

NHLBI's Clarice Reid Retires

By Laina Pack

Dr. Clarice Reid, director of the Division of Blood Diseases and Resources (DBDR), recently retired from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute after 26 years of federal service.

Dr. Clarice Reid

"The institute will greatly miss Dr. Reid. Her outstanding leadership and many scientific and administrative achievements have enriched both the NHLBI and the scientific community," said NHLBI director Dr. Claude Lenfant.

A native of Birmingham, Ala., she received her bachelor of science degree in biology with honors in 1952 from Talladega College in Alabama. She attended Meharry Medical College, School of Medical Technology in Nashville until 1954. In 1959, she was the third African American to graduate with a medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Reid completed postgraduate assignments at the Jewish Hospital and Children's Hospitals Medical Center, both in Cincinnati. She then practiced as a private pediatrician from 1962 to 1968. Later, she became director of pediatric education at the Jewish Hospital and chaired its department of pediatrics.

"One of the highlights of my career was as chairman of the department of pediatrics," she said, "when I shared an office suite with Dr. Henry Heimlich of the Heimlich maneuver."

She began her federal career as a medical consultant at the National Center for Family Planning, Health Services and Mental Health Administration, in 1972. She soon became deputy director of the sickle cell disease program at the Health Services Administration, staying until 1976. Her short stint at HSA gave her an appreciation for hands-on patient care and various aspects of federal policymaking, she said. "You are able to contribute better to policymaking decisions when you have that experience."

Reid joined NHLBI on a detail in 1975, and later became national coordinator of its sickle cell disease program and chief of its Sickle Cell Disease Branch. For more than two decades, she administered a broad-based program of basic and clinical research in sickle cell disease and coordinated the institute's efforts in sickle cell research and services.

"I liked the challenge. It was a whole new cultural environment," she said. "It afforded me the opportunity to move the sickle cell disease program from obscurity to prominence and to attract leading scientists from around the world to work in this area of research."

Reid became DBDR director in 1994, leading efforts in six national program areas: thrombosis and hemostasis, cellular hematology, sickle cell disease, transfusion medicine, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and bone marrow transplantation.

She helped the institute reach new heights in hematology. Some advances include improving the nation's blood supply, exploring potential use of umbilical cord blood for transplantation, and using hydroxyurea to reduce painful episodes in sickle cell disease patients.

"Being able to participate in the advancement of science to improve the quality of life for patients with sickle cell disease and other blood disorders has been a source of personal gratification for me," she said.

A friend and ex-colleague at NHLBI, Dr. Marilyn Gaston, said, "I've learned a great deal professionally and personally from Clarice. Truths that can help you in life. She's been committed to sickle cell disease for all this time...I feel very privileged to know her." She continued, "Clarice has been a gift to the sickle cell and blood community and to the institute and NIH."

Reid earned many accolades including the NIH Director's Award, the NIH Merit Award, two Public Health Service and Special Recognition Awards and the Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award. Other honors include recognition in the "NIH Women Making History" program and one of Black Enterprise magazine's "America's Ten Leading Black Doctors." She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Though she has enjoyed a full career, Reid has managed to balance her personal and professional lives. She said, "Life is a balancing act, and you try to keep all of these things in perspective. Having a busy family life kept me grounded.

"I had the greatest job at NIH with the best and most committed staff and best colleagues that I could ever possibly want," she said. "My most memorable times were working with all the stimulating and exciting individuals in the extramural and intramural divisions and in the scientific community that embraced the hematology program here at NHLBI and in working with Dr. Lenfant. He's been a good friend of the hematology community."

She expressed no regret about retiring, saying, "For me, this is the first time that I'll really be home for a long period in 43 years of marriage." She's looking forward to spending more time with her four children and their families and to enjoying her passion for duplicate bridge that she shares with her husband. The two play in tournaments locally and around the country. And, she said, "It's a good time to retire, hopefully while my ratings are high."

'Miss WordPerfect' Nancy Walther Retires

By Janet Howard

Nancy Crawford Walther is a walking storybook on the history of computerized word processing and on the growth of computer use at NIH. She was the first at NIH to type up council books on the Flexowriter in 1961 when she worked as a grants clerk. "It was new and exciting technology because it allowed you to correct typing errors," she recalls. "But you still had to enter the funding amounts by hand." Walther retired recently from NIAMS as a computer specialist.

Nancy Walther

She began her federal career as a stenographer at a Central Intelligence Agency field office in 1958 in Washington, D.C. After getting married and taking a year off, she came to NIMH on a 90-day appointment as a clerk. Later that year, she began the grants clerk job at NCI. "I worked in one of two temporary buildings located in what is now the Bldg. 31 parking lot," Walther remarked. "Our institute was the first to occupy the new Bldg. 31A in 1962. The Grants Branch of NCI moved to the Westwood building the following year." She left NIH in 1964 to raise her family.

Walther returned to NIH in 1970 as a part-time clerk in the physical sciences laboratory of DCRT (now the Center for Information Technology). She was promoted to computer technician in 1978. "I began working on the technological aspects of manuscript preparation," she said. "It was an early example of computerized typesetting of scientific papers."

Later, Walther worked on computer technology that enabled papers to be sent over telephone lines.

In 1986, she was promoted to computer specialist and joined the newly formed Personal Workstation Office, DCRT. "I wrote manuals for software applications, and designed and taught computer classes to new users." Walther also served as a team leader and member for the evaluation of new hardware and software products for personal computers.

She was known for turning dull procedure like paperwork into a laugh. "When I was filling out forms for a trip to Dallas, I tried to convince the administrative office that I needed funds for a helicopter shuttle ride while I was there." DCRT crowned her "Founder of the National Institute of Infectious Laughter," based on her pranks and sense of humor.

When Walther worked at the telephone help desk for DCRT, she talked many NIH'ers through their frustration and gave them badly needed answers on WordPerfect problems. DCRT gave her a "Golden Ear Award for Most Consults in an Hour." She was labeled "Miss WordPerfect" of NIH for her knowledge of word processing technology.

In 1991, Carolyn McHale, former NIAMS chief of scientific information and data systems, recruited Walther. Recently retired herself, McHale remarked, "It was quite a coup getting 'Miss WordPerfect' to come to NIAMS. She has had quite a varied career and worked her way up from a clerk to a desktop computer and network support expert. It must have been tough for Nancy to work on a project that required concentration because she was constantly being interrupted by someone with an immediate need. She never showed her frustration. She always responded with patience, and the quality of her work was always peerless." NIAMS computer specialist Brenda Vanags added, "Nancy was raised in a large, closely knit family in which the work ethic and helping others was expected. That is why she did so well in trouble-shooting computer problems. I miss her laughter. She was the joy of our office."

Said Walther, "It's hard leaving NIH. But I am looking forward to being active in my retirement." She and her husband, Dan, an NIH fire safety inspector, will enjoy camping, traveling, "and taking up golf again." She also wants to look into teaching at one of the local community colleges, enjoy more family activities, and do more volunteer work for her church.

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