NHLBI Deputy Director Frommer
By Louise Williams
Dr. Peter L. Frommer, NHLBI deputy director, recently retired after a distinguished 36-year federal career. He served as NHLBI deputy director for nearly 20 years and was a Public Health Service assistant surgeon general, or rear admiral.
Dr. Peter L. Frommer
NHLBI director Dr. Claude Lenfant praised Frommer's leadership, saying it helped shape both the institute and the direction of heart research. "For as long as I have known Dr. Frommer," Lenfant said, "he has always kept the institute's and the Public Health Service's interests at the forefront in everything he has done. His selflessness and commitment will continue to serve as an example to us all."
Frommer's long association with one institute was not foretold by his peripatetic early life. Born in Budapest, he and his family left Hungary in 1939, moving first to Australia, then to Chicago, and finally to Cincinnati.
He continued to move about, earning a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering in 1954 and, 4 years later, an M.D. from Harvard University Medical School.
In 1959, he joined NHLBI's intramural Laboratory of Technical Development and worked with Dr. Robert Bowman, then laboratory chief, on such topics as indicator dilution and cardiac catheterization techniques.
In 1961, he returned to the University of Cincinnati, this time for a residency in internal medicine at the university's medical center. But, a few years later, he rejoined NHLBI as a senior investigator and attending physician in the intramural Cardiology Branch. Biomedical engineering was a new field and just beginning to be used for research in cardiology. Frommer, Dr. Eugene Braunwald, then branch chief, and other branch scientists helped change that. For instance, they applied electrical pacing techniques to control heart rate and increase contraction.
In 1966, Frommer moved to the extramural side of the institute and in 1967 became chief of the Myocardial Infarction Branch. He helped to forge research programs on the prevention of sudden death and on other topics, but his main mission was to establish an extramural program on myocardial infarction. "It's hard to imagine now," he said, "but there was literally no research being done back then on myocardial infarction."
The program he helped establish, myocardial infarction research units, became the model for the institute's highly successful specialized centers of research. The centers support both basic and clinical research that focus on clinical problems. Specialized centers now exist for 14 areas of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood research.
In 1973, the institute reorganized along divisional lines and Frommer became associate director for cardiology in the new Division of Heart and Vascular Diseases (DHVD). At various times, he also served concurrently as acting chief of DHVD's Devices and Technology Branch and acting chief of its Cardiac Diseases Branch.
One of his major tasks during this time was laying the groundwork for the Coronary Artery Surgery Study (CASS), which compared the long-term results of coronary bypass surgery to those of just medical treatment. CASS became a template for detailed registry studies in whole populations from which randomized patients are drawn. The CASS randomized and registry studies complemented each other, and the combination has since been replicated to varying degrees elsewhere.
Frommer also helped to foster joint U.S./U.S.S.R. research activities. Additionally, in the biomedical engineering area, he reoriented the U.S. artificial heart program from radioisotope-powered cardiac replacement devices to a focus on electrically energized cardiac assist devices.
In 1978, he became NHLBI deputy director. His responsibilities ranged broadly and included advising researchers on various facets of clinical trials, forging collaborative research with private industry, helping to formulate professional treatment guidelines, and guaranteeing accuracy and quality in institute educational materials.
During the 1980's, as the health care system was undergoing great changes, Frommer also was involved in devising reimbursement guidelines for use by the Health Care Financing Administration. These included guidelines for pacemaker implantation and the criteria for heart transplant centers.
For several months before his retirement, Frommer also served as acting chief of staff for the Office of the Surgeon General.
Through the years, Frommer produced about 85 articles, abstracts, and other communications. He also has memberships in many professional organizations in the fields of medicine, biomedical engineering, and electrical engineering.
Retirement isn't returning him to the itinerant style of his early life. Instead, he's staying put, both professionally and privately. He expects to remain active at NHLBI, as deputy director emeritus, continuing some of his previous responsibilities, as well as in his professional affiliations. A fellow of the American College of Cardiology, he plans to increase his activities with the group, which 4 years ago gave him its Distinguished Service Award.
Frommer and his wife will stay in the Bethesda area, where most of their children and grandchildren live. He said retirement also offers some further attractions, such as being able to spend more time aboard his sailboat.
NIDDK's Hawker Bids Farewell After More Than 30 Years
By Jane DeMouy
Warm words flew thick and fast at a recent luncheon for Margaret Hawker, who retired from NIDDK Aug. 8. The event was crowded with present and former NIDDK intramural scientists and administrators from office directors to rank and file staff, all colleagues Hawker said she has "grown up with at NIH" during her 30-plus years with the intramural division.
She came to NIDDK in 1961 as a secretary and stenographer who was newly wed and reared two daughters while supporting the scientific efforts of many of NIDDK's leading lights. During her NIH tenure, she worked with scientist emeritus Robert Scow, Gerald Aurbach, Richard Podolsky, and Nobelist Martin Rodbell, as well as scientific directors Ed Rall, Jesse Roth, and Allen Spiegel. Spiegel notes that Hawker made important and tangible contributions to the scientific successes of the labs and the scientific excellence of the institute through her own "commitment to excellence and hard work."
New NIDDK retiree Margaret Hawker and her husband, Edgar, enjoy warm sentiments expressed by her coworkers.
NIDDK director Dr. Phillip Gorden agreed, telling Hawker, "You are one of the people who has made NIDDK special. What you have done makes us all what we are." Gorden, who was part of the intramural staff at the time, remembered with amusement that when Hawker was interviewed they wondered if she might be "too shy for the job," a comment that brought a round of laughs from the people who know her best. Hawker's well-wishers made it clear that she not only performed her intramural duties efficiently and well, but with strong-mindedness and great good humor. "When I first met her," said longtime friend Patsy Frye of NHGRI, "the friendship was so immediate. She's a lot of fun." Frye and Hawker lunched together every day for 27 years.
Ed Steers, who recently retired as deputy director of the intramural division, recalls the day Hawker called him away from his lab to meet with then scientific director Jesse Roth on very short notice. Steers, who barely knew Hawker, seated himself nervously in a visitor's chair beside Hawker's desk while he waited to be summoned into the boss's office. "You," Hawker told him, fixing him with a steady gaze and without cracking a smile, "are in a lot of trouble." Steers found out just how much when Roth told him he wanted Steers to become deputy director of the intramural program.
Dr. Allen Spiegel
"Margaret looked out for me, and I certainly needed looking out for. She was my saving grace," Steers added. Like others, he credits her help in his own success. "She's a very witty person with a very sharp mind. I relied on her tremendously for her opinions, her sixth sense. She was one of the brightest people in the institute," said Steers. "In addition to her other skills," Spiegel joked, "Margaret is the only person who can read my handwriting!" Scow added simply, "Maggie kept us in pretty good tow."
Now her attention turns from NIDDK scientists to her flower garden and her grandsons. "NIDDK has been a major part of my life for 36 years," Hawker told her assembled friends and family, "and I'm not going to say goodbye. I'll be back." The people she leaves behind fully expect to keep in touch: Hawker's retirement gift from her successor, Kay Place, was a pager.
NCI's Mead Closes 40-Year Career
By Mary K. Wolpert and George S. Johnson
Dr. John Anthony Radford "Tony" Mead recently retired almost 40 years to the day after he first arrived at the Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology in the former National Heart Institute.
Dr. John Anthony Radford "Tony" Mead
Born in Bushey and reared in Derby, England, he received his B.Sc. in biochemistry with honors from Liverpool University and then headed for graduate school at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, London University, where he received a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1956. In the course of his thesis work he developed the first fluorescent enzyme assay and identified 7-hydroxycoumarin as the major metabolite of coumarin. He successfully used 7-hydroxycoumarin formation as a means of identifying a key p450 drug metabolizing enzyme.
His career interests in drug metabolism led him to NIH where he became a visiting scientist first in the National Heart Institute and later, in 1959, in the Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology of the National Cancer Institute. At NCI he examined folate metabolism, work that led to a patent and Inventor's Award in 1980 for the discovery of 5-methyltetrahydrohomofolate, an agent later developed in clinical trials for the treatment of metho-trexate-resistant leukemia.
Mead became deputy associate director for the Developmental Therapeutics Program in 1980 in the former Division of Cancer Treatment. He witnessed many changes in the drug development program, as animal tumor models were phased out as the primary screening systems, and panels of cultured human tumor lines were introduced followed by animal testing of selected agents. He had major responsibility for guiding the contract program and for adapting the master agreement mechanism for drug development activities. In 1984 he received the DHHS Special Achievement Award for his contributions to the Developmental Therapeutics Program. He also served as editor-in-chief of the former Cancer Chemotherapy Reports from 1972 to 1975 and the first editor in 1976 of the renamed version, Cancer Treatment Reports.
During his final years, he became the first chief of the newly created Grants and Contracts Operations Branch. In this capacity he monitored a large portfolio of grants in biochemistry and pharmacology, managed the National Cooperative Drug Discovery Group Program, and coordinated the staff technical merit reviews of all DTP contracts. In addition, he served as chief of program directors for the former Division of Cancer Treatment.
His fellow workers helped him celebrate his retirement with a party earlier this year. He was also feted at a surprise dinner party hosted by former colleagues during a recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego.
Mead will be missed by many not only for the loss of "corporate memory" but also for his friendly, open and approachable management style. His humor and quick wit brought many a chuckle. An avid bird watcher and nature photographer, he will now have time for travel and many hobbies cultivated over the years.
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