Hankey Retires from NCI After 38 Years
Ben Hankey, chief of the Division of Cancer Control and Population
Sciences' Cancer Statistics Branch since 1989, retired June 30
after 38 years at the National Cancer Institute as a mathematical
"Ben's leadership in the collection and analysis of high-quality
cancer incidence data has been essential to the cancer research
enterprise," said Dr. Robert Croyle, DCCPS director.
Hankey first came to NCI in 1968 while still a graduate student
at the University of Pittsburgh. He was invited to work on his
thesis by William Haenszel, one of a group of well-known NCI epidemiologists
and biostatisticians who was teaching part-time at Pitt.
When he first came to NCI, Hankey shared an office with Nathan
Mantel, another member of that group. "He thought that would give
me an opportunity to learn something from him," Hankey said.
His thesis was on the association between stomach cancer and the
consumption of various foods in Japanese migrants living in Hawaii.
The objective was to identify foods associated with stomach risk,
which might also explain changes in risk observed in the migrants
as they became more westernized.
He subsequently worked under other well-known NCI biostatisticians,
Sid Cutler and Max Myers, in what was then called the end results
section. Hankey worked on the development of methods for analyzing
survival data and began his involvement with the Surveillance Epidemiology
and End Results Program.
He became chief of the Cancer Statistics Branch in 1988, which
included responsibility for managing the SEER program. Under his
tenure, the branch's accomplishments included wider distribution
and use of the SEER public use file for research purposes and a
greater emphasis on quality control.
"Under Ben's leadership, the SEER program was expanded substantially
to cover a quarter of the U.S. population, enhancing this extraordinary
national research resource," said Dr. Brenda Edwards, associate
director of the Surveillance Research Program in DCCPS.
Hankey is also interested in the creation of tools for integrating
cancer surveillance data into the cancer control planning process.
The first attempt at this was the creation of State Cancer Profiles,
a web-based database that now resides on NCI's Cancer Control PLANET
site. The State database offers rapid identification of areas at
the county level where there are opportunities for cancer control.
In retirement, Hankey continues working on a project with Dr.
Rocky Feuer and others that involves the development of a tool
that provides more meaningful information on patient prognosis
to both clinicians and patients using the SEER database.
"Ben Hankey's career at NCI has been noteworthy in its integration
of statistical methodology and epidemiology," says Edwards, "culminating
in the dissemination of cancer statistics that have informed both
scientists and the general public about the nation's progress in
Pioneered Social Science In Dentistry
NIDCR's Cohen Retires
The way Dr. Lois Cohen tells it, it was happenstance
that she got her first postdoc position at the PHS Division of
Dental Health (DDH). Some colleagues suggested her for a job
there and she was quickly recruited. "I figured, why be in Washington
if you can't have access to national problems, national data,
and really have a chance to do something significant?"
So the newly minted Ph.D. began her career as a social
science analyst in DDH. Over the years, she became a driving force
for incorporating social science research into dentistry and expanding
interdisciplinary oral health research around the globe. Cohen,
who most recently served as director of NIDCR's Office of International
Health, retired June 2 after 42 years of government service — 30
of those spent at NIDCR.
has been instrumental over the years in advancing our institute's
mission domestically and internationally," said NIDCR director
Dr. Lawrence Tabak. "She's a dedicated and forward-thinking researcher
and science administrator whose contributions to the institute
and the field of oral health research are numerous and wide-ranging.
Lois has been a leader in integrating the application of the social
and behavioral sciences into research for the study of oral health,
which has ultimately helped improve public health both in the U.S.
and around the world."
Cohen's early work concentrated on the social, behavioral,
cultural and economic factors that influence oral disease development
and oral health care delivery. DDH was vibrant and active, she
said, but there were challenges. "It was definitely a challenge
being a woman in a then male-dominated working environment," she
said. "And also being a non-dentist in a dental world; there were
always certain avenues that were blocked. But the very fact that
the division leadership sought out social and behavioral scientists
to address their issues was an over-riding incentive for me."
While at DDH, she and her colleagues devised strategies
to help overcome the public's reluctance to adopt water fluoridation
as well as to encourage use of topical fluorides and dental sealants
in private practices. Her initial studies focused on incentives
and barriers facing dentists who wanted to adopt techniques for
the early detection of oral cancer. Cohen also launched two international
studies in collaboration with the World Health Organization that
looked at which national delivery models of care resulted in better
oral health status.
In 1976, NIDR director Dr. David Scott recruited
her to advise on the relationship between dental health and the
social and behavioral sciences. As an advisor, and subsequently
as director of the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Communications
from 1983 to 1989, Cohen incorporated social and behavioral research
into the strategic plans for NIDCR and pioneered major evaluations
of the institute's portfolios in caries research, craniofacial
anomalies, biomaterials and centers.
In 1989, she was selected to head the institute's
extramural research program, which faced restricted funds and a
budget that was stagnant. "It was not unlike today," she said. "We
needed to figure out ways to keep our enterprise strong and to
move the science forward during that time." To circumvent the budget
issues, she worked with the extramural program management community
to facilitate public-private partnerships that would help leverage
the agency's resources. Those models for collaborative funding
continue to guide other agencies as well.
As head of the Office of International Health, Cohen
ensured that global health issues were addressed by global oral
health research. "Take Noma, or oral gangrene," she said, discussing
a condition prevalent in Africa. "Why do we study it since we have
hardly any cases here? Because you have to understand what it is
to be able to prevent it. And, as we all know, diseases can cross
borders — they don't respect geopolitical boundaries." OIH
also served as a WHO Collaborating Center for Dental and Craniofacial
Research, functioning as a liaison with agencies involved in global
oral health research and training both here and abroad.
Cohen has received numerous honors and awards and
her alma mater, Purdue University, conferred its first honorary
doctorate to a sociologist in 1989 for her work related to dental
health research globally. In retirement she says she may return
to ceramics as well as explore other crafts, and is looking forward
to more time for reading and extra time with friends and family.
In general, she says, she hopes to lead a "more balanced existence."
Although officially retired, Cohen has been asked
to stay and consult for NIDCR part-time. "I'm very committed to
what we do here," she says. "What we're about is so important and
I love being a part of it."
Noel Accepts Another Role
Pierre Noel, chief of hematology in the Clinical
Center, has accepted a detail to be acting associate director
for security and emergency response (SER) in the Office of
Research Services. SER responsibilities include police, fire,
continuity of operations planning, homeland security issues
and other security operations. Noel has been an Air Force
Special Operations Command flight surgeon and an advisor
on weapons of mass destruction, disaster planning and biodefense.
Last year, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he flew with
an NIH team to Mississippi to set up an acute care facility
as a part of the relief effort. He most recently has been
appointed to lead NIH's team for the pandemic flu continuity
of operations plan (see NIH Record, Mar. 10, 2006).
Noel will serve in the SER role until Nov. 1 and will also
help lead the effort to recruit a new, permanent SER associate
director, said Colleen Barros, NIH deputy director for management.
NCI's Kakefuda Mourned
Dr. Tsuyoshi Kakefuda, 77, a cancer researcher
for more than 40 years, died June 16 at his home in Potomac,
He was born in Kyushu, Japan, to a family of doctors.
His father was the local physician in his town and his mother was
an ophthalmologist as well as one of the first few women doctors
in modern Japan. His inspiration for public service and health
care came from his parents because they would often exchange medical
services for food for his family.
Kakefuda received his M.D. and Ph.D. at Tokyo University
in the 1950's. As a young scientist and pathologist he was drawn
to the emerging technologies in the United States. He decided to
move his young family to Los Angeles where he began his research
in cancer. His early work involved looking at how carcinogens in
cigarette smoke damaged DNA. He developed techniques to image DNA
by electron microscopy. After he moved to the National Cancer Institute
in 1967, he captured one of the first images of DNA in the process
of replicating itself.
For 34 years he worked at NCI, initially in the department
of molecular carcinogenesis where he became section chief and later
in the Office of International Affairs. He dedicated much of his
life to promoting a productive relationship between the U.S. and
Japan, becoming executive secretary of the U.S.-Japan Cooperative
Cancer Research Program. He was able to enhance a mutually beneficial
exchange of science as well as opportunities for Japanese scientists
to train in U.S. laboratories. His Japanese colleagues have called
him "the ambassador of cancer research."
Kakefuda was thankful for the opportunities provided
to him and felt a strong obligation to help young scientists. He
became an important liaison between the U.S. and Japanese scientists
and often met with Japan's royal family, in particular with Japan's
Prince Masahito Hitachi (a fellow cancer researcher in Japan) when
he visited Washington.
He published two books in the last years of his life, Life
Science Strategies of NIH and Tracking Down the Oncogene,
and was occasionally invited to write a column for the Asahi
Kakefuda was also an avid golfer and initiated the
NIH Japanese Golf Club in the D.C. area nearly 30 years ago. The
club has since become a social venue for many Japanese expatriates
and remains active.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Fujiko; a
sister, Kumiko Urushiyama of Tokyo; two children, son Genichi Kakefuda
of Chapel Hill, N.C., and daughter Mika Derynck of San Mateo, Calif.;
and three grandchildren.
A memorial reception will be held at the end of July
in the home of Fujiko Kakefuda; details of the arrangement can
be obtained at Simple Tribute, (301) 545-0960.
NIAMS's Kempner Retires After Long Career
Dubbed "Kempner Fest" by the many friends in attendance, a symposium
marking the retirement of Dr. Ellis S. Kempner, head of the NIAMS
macromolecular biophysics section, was held Apr. 21 in the Bldg.
50 auditorium. Dr. John O'Shea, NIAMS scientific director, summed
up a remarkable career in his opening remarks: "You don't have
to publish with Kempner to win a Nobel prize, but it sure does
help." The symposium, attended by many long-time NIH'ers, honored
Kempner's many accomplishments and celebrated an outstanding 47-year
|Friends and colleagues who gathered to honor
Dr. Ellis Kempner (third from r) included (from l) Dr. Marshall
Nirenberg, Dr. Werner Schlegel, Dr. Sidney Fleischer, Dr. A.
Catherine Ross, Dr. Shelagh Ferguson-Miller, Dr. Donald Caspar
and Dr. Henry Metzger.
Kempner earned his Ph.D. in biophysics from Yale in 1958, and
shortly thereafter joined the Public Health Service Commissioned
Corps. During his first 10 years in research at NIH, he studied "strange
bugs": bacteria that grow in unusual environments such as high
temperature, high salinity or high acidity. The next decade was
devoted to the study of Euglena gracilis, a photosynthetic
protozoan. Kempner showed that in these living cells, all macromolecules
were bound to larger structures; there were no freely floating
macromolecules. Since then, he has spent nearly 30 years in his
area of expertise: "radiation inactivation," wherein the function-structure
relationship of proteins and other biological macromolecules is
determined by radiation target analysis.
Kempner has collaborated over the years with three Nobel prize
winners: Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, Dr. Martin Rodbell and Dr. Stanley
Beyond the realm of office and laboratory, Kempner was active
in the Biophysical Society for 50 years and was a member of the
Civil Service Board of Examiners in Physics for 5 years. He served
on two NIH Equal Employment Opportunity committees, was awarded
an NIH Director's Award in 1997 and has published over 150 articles.
Kempner, who plans to continue projects after taking a cruise
vacation, says he could write 100 pages of "incredible moments" in
his career. "It has been both wonderful and unusual." He has been
constantly surrounded, he said, "by wonderful and brilliant researchers,
many of whom went on to achieve greatness in science and have become
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