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Vol. LVII, No. 21
October 21, 2005
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Familiar NIH Messenger Russell Retires

 
  Jan Russell (l) is congratulated at her retirement party by Hilda Dixon of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management.
If the corridors of NIH administration seem to have a little less character these days, that's because long-time Office of the Director messenger Jan Russell has left the building. Russell, a familiar face in the hallways of Bldgs. 1, 2 and 31, retired July 30, after more than 24 years with the Office of Administrative Services and Resources in the Executive Office, OD.

For more than two decades, beginning on May 14, 1981, Russell delivered interoffice correspondence among such OD components as exec sec, budget and personnel. Although her service was valuable — even in an age of ever-growing electronic communication — it is likely to be her personality that will be missed most.

"I have worked with Jan for 20 years," said Cris Stone of the NIH Office of Financial Management. "In the course of 20 years, Jan came to see me every day, although I'm not sure it was me she wanted to see. I have a very large mirror in my office and Jan always came by to give herself a big smile in my mirror."

Russell's supervisor, OASR Chief Anita Brooks, said, "Jan has been such an important part of the daily lives of so many in the NIH community — there isn't anybody she doesn't know and who doesn't know her. She is one of the most dedicated and hardest workers I've ever had and her colorful spirit — and costumes! — will be missed."

"Jan and I go a long way back at NIH, both of us working in the Office of the Director for over 15 years," said Sue Heidel, who now works as a contractor with the Office of Human Resources. "At one point from the summer of 1987 through the summer of 1988, Jan and I worked in Bldg. 1 together. I think that it would be very hard to find a person at NIH who took their job as seriously and with such a sense of responsibility as Jan. She was always concerned about getting the mail delivered to the right person and about getting all the mail delivered by the end of the day. Jan is also a very sensitive and supportive person; she will give you a hug when you are experiencing a difficult personal time — something that goes a long way toward making things seem better. Jan was an important part of the Office of the Director, and she will be missed by many people." Stone, who also formed a friendship with Russell, said, "Jan and I share a love for collecting dolls. Whenever she can't find a certain doll, she has me find it on the Internet and print a picture so her mother will buy it for her. When Jan was in the hospital, we sent her a Madam Alexander Angel."

 
Russell speaks to well wishers at her send-off.  

Jennifer Martin, who has known Russell for about 7 years, recalled how Jan had become somewhat of an institution in other parts of NIH as well. "When Jan was out after her accident in December, not only did I hear from many folks in the OD, but I also received inquiries from folks in other ICs who were concerned about her," Martin said. "It shows me how many lives Jan touched in her time here at NIH. Jan was a hard worker, a conscientious worker and a good friend."

Russell is also known to be an avid Redskins fan. The small cart that she wheeled could always be counted on to sport the burgundy and gold at some point during football season. It was often decorated with Russell's latest coloring book page, pet photo or seasonal holiday greeting card. Russell was also known to dress up for Halloween.

"Jan is very social," remembers Ana Kennedy, who retired in 2002 from the OD EEO office. "She loved to pop in whenever there was a party."

At a retirement celebration held in Russell's honor, Bill Ketterer of the Office of General Counsel shared a true story. In OGC, just for fun, he would post a "Question of the Week" on the office bulletin board. Whoever got the correct answer received a gold star. "Competition was keen to win that gold star," he recalled. "Jan noticed these questions, but never responded."

One time the question was, "When is a duck not a duck?" "The answer I was looking for," Ketterer explained, "was 'when it's afloat.' But when Jan read the question, without hesitation, she said, 'When it's a doctor! Quack. Get it?' Since everyone felt that her answer was far superior to the official one, we decided to award Jan the Gold Duck Award — the only one ever — which was specially designed by my spouse, Ann, for the occasion, and presented to Jan the next day with much pomp. Jan was delighted with her award and proudly displayed it on the front of her mail cart for several weeks after that."

In an impromptu conversation about her upcoming days of leisure, Russell admitted that she wasn't exactly sure what she will do with her newly acquired free time. "I might go to college," she said, after thinking a moment. "I might study music, but my parents say I won't have time. I just don't know what I'll do."

Schwan Named RML Lab Chief

 

Dr. Tom Schwan has been chosen chief of the newly created Laboratory of Zoonotic Pathogens (LZP) at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, MT, part of NIAID. He received his Ph.D. in 1983 in parasitology from the University of California at Berkeley, studying the ecology of fleas and plague in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya. From 1983 to 1986, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale Arbovirus Research Unit, Yale University School of Medicine, studying tick-borne viruses. He joined RML in 1986. He served on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Microbiologyfor 9 years and is on the editorial board of both Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases and Emerging Infectious Diseases. LZP scientists study diseases that are communicable from animals to humans.


NIDDK's Hamilton Honored

 
Dr. Frank Hamilton, chief of the digestive diseases program in the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, NIDDK, was presented the Distinguished Service and Achievement Award of the American Motility Society at its annual meeting Sept. 24 in Santa Monica, Calif. The society recognized him for his tireless support and encouragement to members of the society and for fostering the growth of funding for the field of gastrointestinal motility. Hamilton, a board certified gastroenterologist, has been director of the GI Motility Program at NIDDK since 1987.


NINDS Mourns Former Council Member Langfitt

Dr. Thomas Langfitt, a former member of the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NANDS) Council, died Aug. 14 of tuberculosis. He was 78 years old.

"Tom was an extraordinary person," said Dr. Michael D. Walker, retired director of the NINDS Division of Stroke, Trauma and Neurodegenerative Disorders.
 
"He was, for his day, one of the youngest chairmen of neurosurgery. He was decisive and compulsive about patient care and led one of the early head injury research programs asking the important questions. He was never too busy to help with a project, asking the penetrating questions and driving you back to the drawing board."

Langfitt earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1949 and his medical degree from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1953. He then began a 2-year tour of duty in the Army as a doctor. After that, and upon completing his residency in neurosurgery at Hopkins, he moved to Philadelphia to become head of the neurosurgery department at Pennsylvania Hospital.

In 1968, Langfitt became the Charles Harrison Frazier professor of neurosurgery and chairman of the division of neurological surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. Later he served as president and chief executive officer of the Glenmeade Trust Co., an investment bank, and Pew Charitable Trusts, a philanthropic foundation.

Internationally recognized for his pioneering work in treating traumatic brain injuries, Langfitt served on the NANDS council from January 1980 to October 1983.

In 2002, he became president of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, a 200-year-old nonprofit cultural and educational society. He served there until 2004.

Langfitt is survived by his wife, 3 sons, a brother, a sister and 8 grandchildren.

OIT Director Wiszneauckas Ends Long Career

David Wiszneauckas, chief information officer for the Office of the Director and director of the Office of Information Technology, retired Sept. 3 after more than 35 years of federal service.

He began his career as a meteorologist for the Commerce Department, eventually working on Executive Blvd. in Rockville for NOAA. Ironically, his OIT post was located on the same street, giving his career a full circle. That circuit began in Silver Spring, where Wiszneauckas grew up the son of an NIH'er; his mother worked for several NIH components while he was in high school (Wheaton High, class of 1965) and college (Florida State University, B.S. in meteorology).

 
During his undergraduate years and immediately after, Wiszneauckas, who was "always interested in weather, and the clouds in the sky," worked as a meteorological intern with the Weather Bureau. While a senior at FSU, he realized he wanted to be in management, so he enrolled in the M.B.A. program at the University of Kansas. "They had a program geared to science and engineering graduates," he recalls. "I thought that a background in administration and management would give me an easier career path."

His first exposure to computers was in college, when he learned FORTRAN as part of his weather studies. Later, during a summer internship at NOAA, his research group developed computer programs to analyze upper-atmosphere weather, a job that had previously been done by hand.

His familiarity with computers increased in grad school, which emphasized operations research. His thesis was a computer-based simulation of workload and staffing requirements.

Once he earned his M.B.A., Wiszneauckas joined NOAA full time in a management consulting role. He led several studies, the last of which concerned how to accommodate females aboard NOAA research ships. He spent about 3 years with NOAA, then was recruited to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), which had begun a Manpower Management Program. Part of his job involved creating staffing models for the Indian Health Service. During his OASH career, the personal computer era dawned. Wiszneauckas helped OASH evaluate the first generation of word-processing computers and led OASH into the world of PCs, LANs and email.

The OASH position was abolished early in the Clinton administration, and its employees scattered to various outposts within HHS. Wiszneauckas was recruited in January 1995, to NIH's Office of Information Resource Management, under Drs. Frank Hartel and Leamon Lee. He was selected in July 1996 to lead the OD LAN (local area network) group, which provided IT services to the Office of the Director.

Nine years ago, there were about 1,200 computer users in OD, spread out in a dozen buildings. Today there are 2,100 users in 23 buildings. Wiszneauckas has successfully shepherded this large cohort, which includes the NIH director's office and staff, through a decade of dramatic change in computer use and complexity.

In typically understated fashion, Wiszneauckas says his office "enhanced support of our OD clients as we went through many migrations of software and email systems...There were very few web sites when I began; now we host more than 150. We dealt with the challenges of Y2K and the many consolidations in recent years in IT. We've been through A-76 studies. Now it's time to enjoy another part of my life."

Wiszneauckas "never envisioned working at NIH," but in retrospect sees the logic in his term here. "The research theme is consistent as I look back. I did meteorological research when I was with the Weather Bureau, and now I'm in the premiere biomedical research organization. I've enjoyed working in OD and making the use of technology easier for employees here."

Asked to forecast what lies ahead in the IT atmosphere, Wiszneauckas anticipates that use of wireless devices will continue to surge. The Blackberry-type devices will become even more sophisticated, incorporating phones and desktop computer capability, he predicted. "People will carry their PDA [personal digital assistant] around with them, and there will be a dock on their desk for when they need to sit down and look at a screen. Eventually we'll see more voice recognition programs [to enable computers] and after that, thought recognition."

Wiszneauckas intends to "remain wired to NIH" wherever he goes; he and Sandra, his wife, are presently contemplating a move either to southern Pennsylvania or to Reno, Nevada, which appeals to them because of its wide open spaces. He is still deeply interested in the weather, tracking storm systems via his computer, and intends to indulge a growing interest in digital photography. He also wants to mentor youngsters diagnosed with diabetes; he has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than 53 years, having been diagnosed at age 5.

As for his unusual last name, he confirms that it is Lithuanian, a heritage he embraces. "Anyone with the name Wiszneauckas is some relation to me," he says, including daughters Elyse and Joy, both of whom work at the National Cancer Institute. He is also a "direct descendant, on my mother's side, of Francis Cook, who came over on the Mayflower and was a signer of the Mayflower Compact."

As to his own legacy, Wiszneauckas leaves NIH with the highest esteem of the IT community here. Says Dennis Rodrigues, a colleague who now manages the NIH web presence on the Internet, "Dave Wiszneauckas was an exceptionally gifted leader who was equally adept at handling technical problems and thorny policy issues. He was always respected and appreciated for his sound judgment, calm demeanor and dry sense of humor."

Adds Dona Lenkin, deputy chief information officer, CIT, "I've had the opportunity to work with Dave since he came to the NIH. He was someone you could always count on to participate in trans-NIH activities. He contributed to shaping and designing important policies on many cross-cutting issues, including IT consolidation under administrative restructuring, capital planning and investment control, and information security. Dave's tireless efforts have supported not only the Office of the Director, but also the general research enterprise at the NIH."

Asghar Retires After 32 Years with Government

After almost 32 years of federal service, Dr. Khursheed Asghar retired from his position as chief of the Basic Sciences Review Branch in the Office of Extramural Affairs, NIDA.

 
For the last 24 years, he served in NIDA as a pharmacologist, scientific review administrator and as a branch chief.

During his career he received many awards from NIH, the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration and NIDA for his outstanding service, including an ADAMHA Administrator's Award and an NIH Director's Award.

Asghar graduated with a pharmacy degree from the University of Panjab in Pakistan and pursued his graduate studies at the University of California, San Francisco, during 1961-1966. After graduating in 1966, he served several years in post-doctoral fellowship positions at UCSF, at the University of Chicago and at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute intramural program.

In 1973, he first started his federal service as a pharmacologist in the division of neuropharmacological drug products of the Bureau of Drugs, FDA. Within his first year there, he was selected for a 2-year career development program in FDA. After completion of this training in 1976, he was selected as a health scientist administrator in the NINDS Office of Planning and Evaluation. In January 1981, he moved to NIDA as an assistant executive secretary, the position now referred to as SRA. He continued to serve in NIDA as a program officer as well as a review official until his retirement.

He expresses his appreciation to his colleagues and staff in NIDA for their advice and support in making the review branch and OEA a great place to work. He enjoyed serving as an HSA and SRA, particularly meeting the review committee members and other researchers at professional meetings.

In retirement, Asghar plans to pursue consulting and business interests. He recently founded a peer review support services division within a small consulting company, Caspian Sea, LLC. Currently, he has returned to NIDA as a part- time contractor in OEA, the office from which he retired.

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