NIH Fire Chief Hess Retires
What was supposed to be the highlight of Gary Hess's career as NIH fire chief finally came down to a spur-of-the-moment decision. After many trials and tribulations in securing funding,
working with designers and closely following
construction of the new NIH Fire Station,
Bldg. 51, he couldn't stand it any longer. "I remember it was getting cold, we had the fire trucks sitting outside. Finally, I just said, 'We're moving in.' I just took the fire trucks and parked them in there" even though the station was not quite finished.
This steadfast attitude exemplifies Hess's 20-year career at NIH, 10 years as chief. He began at NIH as a temporary, part-time employee in 1986. After a few months, he joined the Walter Reed Medical Center fire department. In 1987, he returned as a full-time firefighter, rose to the rank of technician in 1988, assistant fire chief in 1990 and finally chief in 1997 with the departure of ex-chief Bill Magers.
Along with completion of Bldg. 51, many other improvements took place under the leadership of Chief Hess. He was instrumental in upgrading
the minimum number of firefighters on the floor at any one time from 6 to 10. Eleven positions
were added under his tenure. Today, the staff includes 31 employees including a new safety training officer.
There were upgrades to all of the fire and rescue resources, too, including a new ladder truck and hazardous material equipment. "A lot of things were starting to be replaced by Chief Magers and Gary just took it to the next level and really got it to a point where they are self-sustaining now," said J.P. McCabe, NIH fire marshal.
Hess said NIH moved to the forefront of hazardous
materials because nobody else knew what to do in the early days when hazardous response procedures were being developed. Compared to when he first started, Hess said it is "a 500 percent improvement as far as the analytical
equipment, training of the people" and the ability to respond to all the situations that come up with a multi-faceted facility like NIH.
"We are a big city here. It's not like we just have office buildings. We have virtually every type of occupancy, a diverse population,
all kinds of hazards, over 5,000 laboratories," McCabe said. The NIH Fire Department
is able to mitigate some situations that would otherwise
shut down a building.
"That group at the NIH is incredible and that was something Gary pushed for all the time. He never let up. If he felt something was right, he pushed and pushed and pushed until he got his point across. It didn't go away.he fought for what is right. He fought for his staff," McCabe added.
With these advances came recognition. "With Chief Hess's leadership, the NIH Fire Department has set the standard that others strive to duplicate," said Jonathan
Mattingly, assistant chief. "They are not only well regarded here in this area, but across the country people are aware of the NIH Fire Department, especially
in the area of hazardous materials response," added McCabe.
The department's relationship with the county and surrounding jurisdictions has also hit a high point. NIH is asked to help in the local area with fire and rescue
calls that require assistance; the favor is returned whenever NIH needs extra help, referred to as mutual aid.
"We are running quite a few mutual aid calls, but its benefit far outweighs its cost," Hess said. "You are working with the same people every day so when something big happens, you're not meeting each other face to face for the first time. Everybody knows each other. Before it was hit or miss and we had a lot of problems; now we are respected among our peers.it is a very good working relationship
with the surrounding jurisdictions."
Hess didn't begin his career as a firefighter. He started out as an apprentice journeyman
plasterer. But he was always active as a volunteer firefighter. Before coming to NIH, he was volunteer fire chief of Charles County and volunteer deputy
and assistant fire chief in Prince George's County.
In retirement, he plans to continue as a volunteer firefighter with the Charles County Fire Department. He will also help the Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department, in southern Charles County, build a new fire house.
He also plans to spend a lot of time with his wife of 35 years, his father, three children, four grandchildren and a 7-year-old niece. He is also an outdoorsman.
Future plans include an abundance of fishing, hunting and camping along with some travel and attention to his "honey do" list.
Last of a Breed
Farm Manager Poole Ends Long NIH Career
He'll tell you he's leaving because the trees on his farm have grown so tall he can no longer
see the fireworks display every July 4 over Leesburg, Va., some 3 miles-as the crow flies-across the Potomac River. But Jim Poole, manager of the NIH Animal Center's ungulate
(hooved animal) section, retired June 1 for another reason that he's just as frank about: "There's nothing left here for me to do. I like to be working, and it's hard to stay busy."
Poole, 58, scion of the family that founded Poolesville
(he can trace his family back nine generations,
to at least 1669; they call anyone who's moved in since 1850 "new people") has lived on the 600-acre NIHAC farm-which used to be owned by his great-grandfather-for the past 30 years. He calls leaving the little 3-bedroom
cinderblock 1930's-era tenant house-located just beneath the farm's signature golf-tee water tower-"the hardest part about retirement."
The oldest of six kids, Poole grew up just down the road, and hunted quail and pheasant on the half-wooded tract as a kid, "but I never shot one." He learned to raise sheep-just as his father and grandfather did-and fondly recalls riding draft horses around the family garden. "I sat on the collar of the horse to keep his head up-at age 3." Poole attended Poolesville public schools from elementary through high school (his dad had done the same thing-but in a single building), then went to the University of Maryland, majoring in agricultural business.
He was drafted into the Army during Vietnam, but opted to serve in the National Guard, where he trained as a medic. "Basically I was a farmer
who handed out aspirin and Band-aids," he chuckles. While still in the Guard, he took a job at NIH as an animal caretaker in 1971, working in Bldg. 3 on the main campus.
"I wanted to be a farmer," he said. "I only took this government job to make enough money to buy a farm.
|Jim Poole, manager of the NIH Animal Center's ungulate (hooved animal) section, retired June 1.
Within 2 months, he became a surgical technician,
joining the pioneers of what would become human heart transplantation in a series of surgical theaters on Bldg. 3's 3rd floor. After 3 years working with dogs, which were the necessary
animal model-"the attic in Bldg. 3 was full of them"-Poole transferred to Bldg. 100, known as The Barn, at NIHAC. He became a technician there in April 1974 and kept the same position until only 4 years ago, when he rose to farm manager in the ORS Division of Veterinary Resources.
"I was the last federal employee left standing," he says. "There's not much call for ungulates anymore-mules, horses, burros-but we still have lots of sheep and pigs. They're too expensive
to maintain, and the science has gone in another direction."
During the farm's heyday-the mid-1960's through the mid-1980's, he says-he took care of 120 burros, 20 horses (many of them retired from the U.S. Army's Ft. Myers) and many hundreds
of pigs and sheep. Now there are fewer than 90 animals and the caretaking staff has been more than halved.
In addition to the animals, Poole was responsible
for Bldg. 100, the dairy barn (T1), the sheep shed (T2), the hay barn (T5) and a variety of "loafing" and machine sheds. He also developed an expertise in removing the pineal glands from sheep brains and collected countless gallons of blood from a variety of animals that underwent plasmapheresis under his hand.
When he wasn't busy working-which could sometimes involve herding escaped burros all night long or fending off the incursions of wild dogs and coyotes-Poole had a full menu of family activities and hobbies to occupy him. He met his wife when he joined her then-husband's
regiment in a Civil War reenactment in the early 1970's.
"I was a surgeon in the Confederate Army," he explains. "They made me one due to my Guard training. My great-great-grandfather had served in the 35th Virginia Cavalry. And a bunch of my distant uncles and cousins just jumped over the river and joined the Confederate Army." Poole said his town sided with the Rebel cause because so many had intermarried with families on the Virginia side of the river.
A wry, genial and soft-spoken man, he makes light of his Rebel and Vietnam-era past: "I
Jim Poole, manager of the NIH Animal Center's ungulate (hooved animal) section, retired June 1.
belonged to two different armies-and lost both wars!"
As he sits in his narrow office on a coolish morning in May, he fingers the buttons on a Union army wool vest he sewed. "I always put at least one button from a real uniform on there-this one's about 145 years old," he says. The silk-and-metal "keep" at the back of the vest is also genuine.
A relic hunter all his life, Poole has a small museum's worth of bullets, belt buckles, coins, cannonballs, muskets and ration cans. On his computer is a 600-page draft of a book about local Civil War action, focusing on the Medley District, an old voting precinct near Beallsville. It has taken him a decade to write and he's still paring it down.
He gave up reenactments about 10 years ago (the highlight was his appearance, in closeup, in the 1993 film Gettysburg) and survived a bout of colon cancer 3 years ago, yet plans an active retirement. Since 1985, he has been restoring
an old freed-slave cabin in a rural enclave on South Mountain dubbed Bagtown. When his mother-in-law died, he inherited a house in Frederick that he threatens to convert partially into a putt-putt golf course.
"I tease my wife that I'll be the pro. She's still working, and is pretty ticked that I'm retiring."
On quiet evenings on the NIH farm, Poole learned to build dollhouses, a hobby that he will continue.
He considers himself lucky to have lived his dream, on ancestral property. "I just fell into it," he said. "If you find a job you like, you stay with it." While some are surprised he remained in the same job so long, he notes, "My DNA is in the soil-because I bled on it a lot!"
After 37 years of federal service, Poole has saved enough to buy land, if not the farm of his dreams; he owns two rural acres in West Virginia
and 3 more in Washington County, Md. It's not enough to farm, but he's not complaining.
Like many retirees, he jokes that he "knows where all the bodies are buried," but in this case he's not kidding. "There's an old slave graveyard in the woods on the south side of the farm [on a preserve that will never be developed]."
Though volumes of institutional memory retire with him, Poole says not to worry. With so much family in the area, he will always return.
NIMH's Radke-Yarrow Mourned, Studied
Resilience, Altruism, Depression in Children
Dr. Marian Radke-Yarrow, chief of NIMH's Laboratory
of Developmental Psychology from 1974 to 1995 died May 19 of cancer at age 89. During those years, many area families paid visits to Wilson House (Bldg. 15K), a warm, wooded refuge amid NIH's biomedical environs, to participate in her pioneering research on depression, resilience and altruism in children.
In a naturalistic study over two decades, Radke-Yarrow showed how depression in a parent can affect a child's mental health. Researchers unobtrusively videotaped
family interactions through 2-way mirrors in a second-floor observational laboratory that looked like a homey apartment. They then systematically analyzed
the tapes, pinpointing behaviors that transmitted risk for later development
of mood disorders in the children.
For example, compared with healthy mothers, depressed mothers tended to be less communicative, more negative and less able to make compromises or be supportive of their children's strivings toward independence. Fathers' interactions
were also factored in, as were reciprocal child-parent effects. Radke-Yarrow published her results in Children of Depressed Mothers: From Early Childhood to Maturity in 1998.
Even though the subjects knew they were being videotaped, they eventually
responded in their characteristic ways to structured situations designed to elicit the behaviors, recalled Paul Jordan, who worked as a videographer in the lab. The longitudinal data is still being used by intramural genetics researchers. Since blood samples were also collected, they can also re-analyze them for new insights made possible by modern gene-typing technologies.
"Marian captured the dynamic interplay of nature and nurture prospectively in an unfolding developmental context," said Dr. Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, who joined the lab in the 1970s and studied how children develop empathy. Their studies showed that even 1-year-old children could demonstrate concern for others in distress, refuting previous assumptions that such altruistic ability did not develop
prior to age 6. Radke-Yarrow's studies also revealed that children as young as 5 can suffer from depression.
Radke-Yarrow was among the first delegation of U.S. social scientists to visit
China in 1973, publishing a book on her studies of communist child-rearing, Childhood in China, in 1975. She also studied the connection between nutrition and behavioral functioning in Mexico, Kenya and Egypt.
Prior to joining NIMH in 1953, she taught psychology at MIT, Queens College and the University of Denver and studied anti-Semitism and racial prejudice. They Learn What They Live: Prejudice in Young Children (1952), a book she co-authored, was cited as evidence in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision on school desegregation.
The Wisconsin native received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, where she later endowed a fellowship in child development.
Among many honors she received were a 10-year MacArthur Foundation grant to head a research group studying early development, and the G. Stanley Hall Award, the American Psychological Association's highest honor. She also served as president of the APA's division of developmental psychology.
She was married to the late Dr. Leon Yarrow, a psychologist at NIMH from 1949 until his death in 1982.
NHGRI's Gahl Wins Public Health Leadership Award
|NHGRI's Dr. William Gahl (c) accepts the Public Health Leadership Award from Estelle Benson of the NORD board of directors. Also on hand is Dr. Stephen Groft, director of the NIH Office of Rare Diseases.
Dr. William A. Gahl, clinical director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, received the 2007 Public Health Leadership Award from the National
Organization for Rare Disorders on May 21 at the group's Tribute Banquet in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1983, NORD serves rare-disease patients and their families with programs that include advocacy, research and education about the more than 6,000 rare disorders that together affect approximately 25 million Americans.
A senior investigator in NHGRI's Medical Genetics Branch, Gahl also serves as director of the Intramural Research Program of the NIH Office of Rare Diseases.
An internationally known expert on cystinosis, Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome,
alkaptonuria and disorders of sialic acid metabolism, he was honored for his unwavering support of the rare-disease community. In addition to his NIH work, Gahl serves on the medical advisory boards of the Cystinosis Foundation,
the Cystinosis Research Network and the HPS (Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome) Network.
Gahl also spoke June 13 at an international conference organized by the Alkaptonuria
(AKU) Society at University College London Hospital. In association with that meeting, he delivered a statement about AKU at the House of Lords in the U.K. Parliament.
AKU is a progressive, inherited condition that affects 1 in a million people, causing
a malfunction in a single enzyme involved in the breakdown of tyrosine, an amino acid building block of protein. The malfunction causes dangerous accumulation
of the pigment homogentisic acid throughout the body. This causes serious
complications for patients, including arthritis of the spine and large joints and heart problems.
Gahl presented data from clinical trials of a potential AKU treatment, called nitisinone.
"Over a century after AKU was discovered, we're getting close to being able to help those people affected," he said. "But crucial hurdles still remain in understanding the disease before we have a certain treatment."