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Vol. LVIII, No. 24
December 1, 2006

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Long-Time NIEHS Leader Sassaman Retires

Dr. Anne Sassaman, director of the Division of Extramural Research and Training, NIEHS, retired on Nov. 3 after 32 years of federal service. She left with a long list of accomplishments and awards to her credit, a well-attended retirement ceremony and fond memories of the many friends she made over the years.

Known and admired throughout NIH, Sassaman had an enduring influence on the institute and earned the respect of everyone who worked with her. Moderating a retirement celebration for Sassaman, NIEHS director Dr. David Schwartz said, “All of us will miss her enthusiasm and her ability to oversee a very complex operation…[and] I will personally miss her loyalty and persistence.”

After joining NIEHS in 1986, Sassaman took her group from program status with 26 employees, including only three program administrators, and a small portfolio of individual research grants and centers, to division status with 20 program administrators and a large cadre of other extramural professionals. Today, DERT is responsible for overseeing more than 800 grants, more than 3,000 individual researchers and a network of core environmental health research centers and centers specializing in innovative research into children’s health, breast cancer and the environmental health effects of the oceans.

NIH presented Sassaman with a series of Director’s Awards over the years and the American Association for the Advancement of Science honored her with its fellowship in 2002. She received her first Director’s Award while still at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, where she was an administrator for 10 years before coming to NIEHS; she was instrumental in developing national and international programs in thrombosis and hemostasis.

Of her burgeoning division, which she led under three NIEHS directors, Sassaman said, “We probably have the most diverse portfolio of any institute at NIH, particularly an institute of our size.”

Sassaman helped NIEHS grow beyond its initial role as an agency concerned primarily with toxicology testing and assessment of environmental hazards. She also worked to raise awareness of gender and family issues in the workplace. When the NIEHS Diversity Council inaugurated the Spirit Lecture Series in 2002 to honor outstanding women during Women’s History Month, few were surprised that Sassaman was the first lecturer.

NCI’s Venditti Mourned

Dr. John M. Venditti

Dr. John M. Venditti, 79, who spent 26 years as chief of the Drug Evaluation Branch, National Cancer Institute, during his 39 years at NIH, died on Oct. 21 at home in Bethesda.

Born in Baltimore, he attended St. Dominic Parochial School, Mt. St. Joseph High School, the University of Maryland and received his Ph.D. in pharmacology from George Washington University Medical Center Institute for Biomedical Sciences.

During the early 1950’s, Venditti’s laboratory work was instrumental in the development of a number of anticancer drugs. He was considered one of the world’s leading experts on drug interactions, a subject on which he published extensively.

For many years, he was an active member of NCI’s acute leukemia task force, and from 1966 through 1986, he directed the NCI anticancer drug screening program, a worldwide network of research and development projects for the discovery of improved chemotherapy. In 1983, he established National Cooperative Drug Discovery Groups, consortia of academic, industrial and government organizations, thus mobilizing the nation’s top scientific talent in the fight against cancer. He directed that program until his retirement from government service in 1987.

While at NCI, Venditti was a party to a number of agreements for scientific exchanges with Germany, Japan and Russia. He served as U.S. delegate to the First International Conference on Anticancer Screening Methodology held in Geneva in 1974 and was a U.S. representative on the anticancer screening panel of the World Health Organization.

After his retirement from NCI, Venditti held a number of private-sector positions including vice president and director of research at Microbiotest, Inc., of Sterling, Va.; senior associate at Technical Resources International of Rockville and senior scientist at SAIC-Frederick, a subsidiary of Science Applications International Corp.

Venditti was an author on more than 160 scientific publications and a number of book chapters in the field of cancer research and had been scientific editor of the journal Cancer Chemotherapy Reports. He was a member emeritus of the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. He was also a member of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and Sigma Xi, the national science honor society.

Survivors include his wife Nancy; three children, Nancy V. Gauss of Gunnison, Colo., Rev. J. Michael Venditti of Allentown, Pa., and Mary Ruth Yao of Silver Spring; and three grandchildren.

NHGRI’s Reese Dies

Regina Ann Reese

Regina Ann Reese, 53, a secretary at the Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch (GMBB), part of the intramural research program of the National Human Genome Research Institute, died Oct. 28 following a several-month battle with brain cancer.

She began her NHGRI career as a secretary in September 1997. She previously had been a unit clerk at the Clinical Center.

A resident of Hagerstown, Reese graduated from Robert E. Peary High School in Rockville in 1972 and attended the University of Maryland. She spent 7 years thereafter in Colorado. She came to NIH following in her father’s footsteps— the late John C. Reese was employed at NIH as an accountant until his death in 1976. Her sister-in-law, Cheryl Reese, is a secretary in the Division of AIDS and Health and Behavior Research, National Institute of Mental Health.

At NHGRI, Reese provided administrative support for six principal investigators and became an expert at navigating the increasingly complex NIH travel regulations. “Regina Reese was a valued member of the Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch,” said her supervisor Dr. David Bodine, GMBB chief. “She maintained her good humor throughout her recent devastating illness and is remembered fondly by all her colleagues.”

Reese dedicated time to the NHGRI community, serving on the genomes on your side committee charged with improving the quality of the work environment and as the Combined Federal Campaign coordinator for GMBB. She had an enduring love for the outdoors and a great passion for animals. She will be remembered for her special fondness for Tai Shan, the young panda at the National Zoo.

She is survived by her mother, Marion Reese; two brothers and three sisters; and 12 nieces and nephews, plus many relatives. A memorial service was held Nov. 3 at Rockwood Manor in Potomac. Donations in Reese’s memory may be made to Montgomery Hospice, 1355 Piccard Dr., Suite 100, Rockville, MD 20850.

NIAMS’s Kastner Links to Institute’s Beginnings

Dr. Dan Kastner (l) receives a commemorative plaque from Dr. Arthur Weiss, Ephraim P. Engleman
Dr. Dan Kastner (l) receives a commemorative plaque from Dr. Arthur Weiss, Ephraim P. Engleman distinguished professor and chief of rheumatology at UCSF’s Parnassus campus.

Dr. Ephraim P. Engleman still serves—at age 95—as director of the Rosalind Russell Medical Research Center for Arthritis at the University of California, San Francisco. He has a special link to NIAMS’s beginnings: Engleman—who joined the UCSF faculty in 1947—chaired the 1975-1976 National Commission on Arthritis, whose National Arthritis Research Plan resulted in the creation of what is now NIAMS.

In a recent event that tied the institute—now celebrating its 20th anniversary—to its early roots, NIAMS clinical director Dr. Dan Kastner was honored at UCSF as the 10th annual Jean S. and Ephraim P. Engleman visiting professor of rheumatology at the institution’s medical school.

During the visit, Kastner enjoyed a conversation with Engleman in his office, where the two discussed arthritis research in general and its status at NIH in particular. A special treat was the gala dinner, where Engleman performed classical chamber music pieces on the violin, accompanied by his son (a professor of medicine and pathology at Stanford University) and by the principal cellist of the San Francisco Orchestra.

NINDS Names Koretsky New Scientific Director

Dr. Alan Koretsky

Dr. Alan Koretsky, internationally known for developing imaging techniques that allow for a better understanding of brain structure and nerve system function, was recently appointed scientific director of the NINDS intramural research program. He began on Oct. 1.

“Dr. Koretsky is an outstanding choice to manage our science program’s intellectual and financial resources,” said NINDS director Dr. Story Landis. “We are fortunate to have someone with his intellectual breadth and curiosity serving as our scientific director.”

Koretsky has been chief of the NINDS Laboratory of Functional and Molecular Imaging since June 1999. He also directs the NIH Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Facility/Mouse Imaging Facility. His major research interest is in the area of developing novel MRI techniques to visualize brain structure and function. He has used these techniques to study cellular energy metabolism, monitor the regulation of blood flow and, most recently, map changes in the brain that occur in a variety of normal and pathological conditions.

As scientific director, Koretsky will plan, lead and assess all aspects of the intramural program of basic and clinical research, which focuses on the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of neurological disorders. He will also oversee the institute’s intramural multidisciplinary research efforts, develop new research programs, recruit new investigators and build networks of scientists involved in various fields of neuroscience and neurobiology. In addition, he will serve as the basic neuroscience program director.

Before coming to NIH, Koretsky spent 12 years as a professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, where he held the Eberly chair in structural biology. He received his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his master of science and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.

Koretsky has coauthored more than 130 publications, served on the editorial boards of several journals and served on the advisory boards of a number of organizations. Currently, he is on the editorial board of Contrast Media and Molecular Imaging.—

NIH Alumni Association Honors Two

Dr. Donna Jo McCloskey, training director of NINR’s Division of Intramural Research, poses with Marymount University President James E. Bundschuh at the university’s Nov. 1 awards ceremony honoring her with the Marymount 2006 Alumni Achievement Award. McCloskey has authored many articles in peer-reviewed journals and currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Vascular Access Devices.
Dr. Philip S. Chen, Jr., former senior advisor to the NIH deputy director for intramural research, and Dr. Victoria Harden, former director of the Office of NIH History, were honored by the NIH Alumni Association at its annual meeting Nov. 4. NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni addressed the group and helped honor the two alumni for their service to NIH. He urged NIHAA members to use their extensive institutional memory and their considerable talent to educate the public about NIH. “It is not yet self-evident how important, effective and valuable America’s investment in NIH is,” he said. “We have conducted and supported medical research that has led to major advancements against global killers and cripplers but many more research challenges remain…NIH alumni—many of whom were yesterday’s top leaders—can help today’s NIH leaders work with patient advocates, cooperate with alumni worldwide and encourage young scientists to excel in tomorrow’s highly competitive research environment.”

Bridges Appointed DAIT Branch Chief

Dr. Donna Jo McCloskey, training director of NINR’s Division of Intramural Research, poses with Marymount University President James E. Bundschuh at the university’s Nov. 1 awards ceremony honoring her with the Marymount 2006 Alumni Achievement Award. McCloskey has authored many articles in peer-reviewed journals and currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Vascular Access Devices.
Dr. Nancy D. Bridges has been named Transplantation Immunobiology Branch chief in the NIAID Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation where she previously served as section chief. Before coming to NIAID in 2002, she was a professor of pediatrics and associate division chief at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Bridges is board-certified in pediatrics and pediatric cardiology and is a certified physician for heart and lung transplantation.

NIDCD Welcomes New Council Members

NIDCD director Dr. James Battey (standing second from l) meets with new council members (seated from l) Dr. Margaretha Casselbrant, Dr. Sharon Moss, Dr. Jennifer Horner and (standing from l) Ronald Lanier, Dr. Lorraine Ramig and Dr. Steven Rauch.
NIDCD director Dr. James Battey (standing second from l) meets with new council members (seated from l) Dr. Margaretha Casselbrant, Dr. Sharon Moss, Dr. Jennifer Horner and (standing from l) Ronald Lanier, Dr. Lorraine Ramig and Dr. Steven Rauch.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders recently announced the appointment of six new members to its advisory council.

They are:

  • Dr. Margaretha L. Casselbrant, director, department of pediatric otolaryngology, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
  • Dr. Jennifer Horner, associate professor and chair, department of rehabilitation sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.
  • Ronald L. Lanier, director, department for the deaf and hard of hearing, Commonwealth of Virginia, Richmond.
  • Dr. Sharon E. Moss, director, scientific programs and research development, speech-language-hearing-science and research unit, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Rockville.
  • Dr. Lorraine O. Ramig, professor, department of speech, language and hearing sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder and Wylbur James Gould Voice Center, Boulder. Dr.
  • Steven D. Rauch, associate professor, department of otology and laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston.

Five NIH’ers Named 2006 AAAS Fellows

Five NIH scientists are among 449 newly elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Election as a fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

The new NIH fellows and the AAAS sections to which they belong are: Dr. Kyung J. Kwon-Chung, head, molecular microbiology section, Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases, NIAID (section on biological sciences); Dr. Philip A. Anfinrud, chief, ultrafast biophysical chemistry section, Laboratory of Chemical Physics, NIDDK (section on chemistry); Dr. Ronald N. Schwartz, chief of the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology, NIAID and Dr. Thomas E. Wellems, chief, Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, NIAID (both from the section on medical sciences); and Dr. Edward L. Korn, a mathematical statistician in the Biometric Research Branch, NCI (section on statistics).

The fellows are elected because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. New fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Feb. 17 at the Fellows Forum during the 2007 AAAS annual meeting in San Francisco.

The tradition of AAAS fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the association’s 24 sections, or by any three fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution) or by the AAAS chief executive officer.

The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal, Science. It was founded in 1848 and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals.

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