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Zerhouni Meets with Public Council

By Keri-Lyn Coleman

The NIH director's Council of Public Representatives (COPR) held its first meeting with Dr. Elias Zerhouni on Oct. 21-22. During a 1 ½-day orientation and administrative planning session, COPR members and its chair, Zerhouni, identified priority issues. These include the development of COPR testimony that will provide a public perspective on the issues the Institute of Medicine committee should consider in its review of the organizational structure of NIH.

A public meeting where COPR reported on newly established priorities followed the planning session. Zerhouni and council members said their work plan consists of three action items. First, the council created a work group to focus on IOM's review of how NIH is organized. COPR examined background materials on the topic and has developed and submitted recommendations from the public perspective to the director, requesting that he consider forwarding them directly to IOM.

COPR also established an agenda and executive issues work group that will review topics that have been identified as top priorities in the next 1-2 years. The group will evaluate whether COPR has a role in any of these areas that would justify a focused effort. The areas identified for review include health disparities, best practices for public input into the research priority-setting process, prevention and enhancing public trust and confidence in the research enterprise.

Eight founding members of COPR attended their last meeting before rotating off the council in early 2003. Shown above with NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni (c) are (from l) Isaac Montoya, Rosemary Quigley, Debra Lappin, Vicki Kalabokes, Luz Claudio and Doug Yee. (Not shown: Bob Roehr, Barbara Lackritz)

Finally, COPR formed a work group that will examine how NIH might enhance communication between members serving on advisory councils across NIH. As initial steps, three members conducted a presentation on COPR at the Dec. 5 meeting of the advisory committee to the director and two members will talk to the NCI director's consumer liaison group at its January meeting.

COPR members also recognized NIH deputy director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein for her dedication to the council. During her tenure as acting director, she chaired COPR for more than 2 years and was instrumental in shaping the council's direction. Members presented her with a plaque and thanked her for the "unparalleled support, leadership and direction she has given to the COPR since its inception."

The meeting marked the last gathering of the council's eight remaining founding members. They were among the first 20 individuals appointed by former NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus when COPR was initially created in 1999. Zerhouni recognized them for their commitment to COPR's mission.

The council is currently made up of 21 people from across the country. They are patients, family members of patients, health care professionals, scientists, health and science communicators and educators. COPR meets two times a year in Bethesda. Members also participate in numerous NIH initiatives, work groups and review panels as well as take part in public outreach activities around the country. For more information visit

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