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Vol. LX, No. 3
February 8, 2008

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Dr. Paige McDonald

McDonald Named NCI Branch Chief

Dr. Paige McDonald has been named chief of the Basic and Biobehavioral Research Branch of the Behavioral Research Program in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS), NCI.

“Dr. McDonald’s unique ability to bridge cancer biology with stress biology and other psychosocial processes will enable her to play a major leadership role in this domain,” said Dr. Robert Croyle, DCCPS director.

McDonald had been acting branch chief since 2006 and a program director since 2001 in the branch, where she has cultivated the growth of a research portfolio focused on elucidating biological mechanisms of psychosocial effects on health and disease.

Prior to joining NCI, she was a research psychologist at Howard University Cancer Center (HUCC) and a faculty member in the department of medicine at Howard University College of Medicine. Her research interests included stress and immunity within a cancer-risk context, the influence of behavioral factors on breast cancer risk and survival and the perceptions and knowledge of breast cancer and early detection behaviors among women residing in public housing.

McDonald received her undergraduate degree in psychology and her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Miami. Her doctoral training included an emphasis on behavioral medicine and psychophysiology within the context of cardiovascular disease. She completed her clinical psychology internship, with specialization in health psychology, at the Brown University Clinical Psychology Internship Consortium and postdoctoral fellowships at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and HUCC. In 2005, she received a master of public health degree from Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

Glorice Mason draws blood from hemochromatosis patient and donor Richard Ahlberg.
Glorice Mason draws blood from hemochromatosis patient and donor Richard Ahlberg.

Blood Bank’s Mason Retires After 34 Years

Glorice Mason, medical technologist and team leader of the blood donor room, retired on Jan. 3 after 34 years of service to the donors and staff of the Clinical Center’s department of transfusion medicine.

She came to the CC as a summer aide in 1970 and then worked part-time through the Stay-in-School program while she completed her bachelor’s degree in social welfare and rehabilitation at the University of the District of Columbia in 1975. Mason started college majoring in nursing and although she did not complete that course of study, her academic background allowed her to be promoted to medical technician and medical technologist.

When DTM began its protocol for patients with hemochromatosis—a condition where iron builds up in the blood and must be reduced through donation—in 2001, Mason became designated technologist for the protocol team. She enjoyed getting to know the patients—now more than 300—who come in to donate every few weeks.

“I love my donors and patients,” she said. “They’re the best part of my job. The hemochromatosis patients especially are like family to me because I see them so often.” NCI’s Dr. Dan Fowler, one of Mason’s hemochromatosis patients, said he “will miss her warm personality that gives staff confidence and puts anxious patients and volunteers at ease. She was very professional but also made it fun to donate.”

Mason is proud to hold two records: the best attendance record in the blood bank—for the 4 years between 2001 and 2005 she took no sick days—and only missing three Super Bowls in 22 years. She is also proud of being named phlebotomist of the month, as voted by the blood bank’s donors, that she won 8 of the 12 months in fiscal year 1988-1989.

In retirement, Mason will spend time in New Jersey with her niece Tiffany, who is about to give birth to a daughter, as well as her other two nieces Ameika and Cristal. An avid Washington Redskins fan, Mason also plans to travel with friends to more of the team’s away games, in addition to enjoying home games.

Dr. Harvey Klein, chief of DTM, noted that Mason taught him—as well as many clinical fellows, nurses and technologists—blood component preparation techniques, including freezing blood. “Generations of staff members who have taken positions around the country after training at the CC ask about Glorice or stop in to see her when they return to Bethesda. She is one of the last members of the old ‘blood bank era,’ and she will be sorely missed,” Klein said.

Dr. Muriel Isolde Kaiser-Kupfer

NEI’s Kaiser-Kupfer Mourned

Dr. Muriel Isolde Kaiser-Kupfer, a researcher in genetic eye diseases and chief of the Ophthalmic Genetics and Visual Function Branch, NEI, until her retirement in 2004, died Jan. 9 after a lengthy illness.

“Kim, as she was known to many of her friends and colleagues, was an accomplished scientist,” said NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving. “She had remarkable success in reducing visual loss associated with the metabolic disorders gyrate atrophy and nephropathic cystinosis. Her stellar career emphasized her devotion to the care of patients with these rare diseases. She will be remembered for her focus on patients and her commitment to linking laboratory findings to clinical treatments that improved people’s eyesight.”

Originally from New York, Kaiser-Kupfer spent part of her childhood in Florida, where at age 14 she was a champion diver. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1957 and earned her M.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1961. She was one of only four women in the class. She then completed a pediatric internship, residency and fellowship and served as assistant director and instructor at Johns Hopkins University Hospital until 1968.

From 1968 to 1970, she completed a residency in ophthalmology and served as a consultant in the congenital defects clinic at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. She was one of the few women physicians of her era who were board-certified in both pediatrics and ophthalmology.

Kaiser-Kupfer joined NEI in 1972 and from 1974 through 2004 served in a number of leadership roles: founding member of the NIH Medical Genetics Training Program, medical officer in NEI’s Ophthalmology and Pediatrics Clinical Branch, section chief and branch chief of Ophthalmic Genetics and Visual Function, NEI representative to the NIH interinstitute genetics group and deputy clinical director.

In addition to researching gyrate atrophy and cystinosis, Kaiser-Kupfer pioneered new ways to diagnose and treat other hereditary diseases such as neurofibromatosis II, congenital cataracts and anomalies of the anterior segment. She was the author or co-author of more than 100 scientific papers and she mentored and inspired many medical students, residents and fellows. In addition, she volunteered with the Maryland School for the Blind and gave hope to many young people there who were then seen and treated at NEI. Because she spoke Spanish, she saw many Hispanic patients with congenital and hereditary diseases.

For much of her 30-year career, Kaiser-Kupfer focused on gyrate atrophy, which causes retinal degeneration and resulting visual disability by the age of 50 or 60. She and her colleague, Dr. David Valle of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, conducted an 18-year study of the disease in patients from many parts of the world and discovered that it was caused by an enzyme deficiency. They then proved that a diet restricted in arginine, an amino acid, slows progression of the disease.

Another disease to which Kaiser-Kupfer devoted much of her research and clinical work was nephropathic cystinosis, a rare disease that eventually causes kidney failure at about 10 years of age. In this disorder, crystals of cystine begin to build up in the cornea by age 1. Cystine is a component of protein found in hair, skin and other tissues. As the number of crystals increases in the cornea, patients experience severe pain and have difficulty keeping their eyes open. Occasionally the crystals break through the corneal surface, causing the cornea to become hazy and resulting in vision loss.

Seeking treatment for children with this disorder, Kaiser-Kupfer worked with long-term collaborator and cystinosis expert Dr. William Gahl of NHGRI. The two tested use of topical cysteamine, a byproduct of the amino acid cysteine, on animal corneas. They then conducted a human clinical trial that demonstrated the disappearance of the crystals and resulting relief of pain and improvement of vision. In 1987, Kaiser-Kupfer published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that described the successful removal of crystals from the cornea by use of cysteamine.

“Kim developed eye drops to deliver cysteamine directly to the cornea,” explained Gahl. “After a few months of treatment, the crystals actually dissolved and for hundreds of patients the pain was gone. It was a miracle. Kim herself was a miracle. In her professional interactions, she displayed the grace and form of the competitive diver that she was. She provided care at every visit, but discoveries for all time. She was an excellent pediatrician, a great ophthalmologist, a fine person and a wonderful friend.”

In 1990, Kaiser-Kupfer received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cystinosis Foundation for her role in developing the cystinosis treatment.

She is survived by her husband, Dr. Carl Kupfer, founding NEI director, their children Charles and Sarah and four grandchildren.

Ralph L. Isenburg, a medical photographer in NCI’s Laboratory of Pathology until his retirement in 2005, was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Ralph L. Isenburg, a medical photographer in NCI’s Laboratory of Pathology until his retirement in 2005, was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Longtime NCI Medical Photographer Isenburg Dies at 84

Ralph L. Isenburg, a medical photographer in NCI’s Laboratory of Pathology until his retirement in 2005, died of cancer on Dec. 5, 2007, at age 84. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Isenburg was born in Manchester, N.H., on Nov. 23, 1923. When the United States entered World War II shortly after he began college, he left school to enter the Army Infantry Corps. He took part in three invasions: North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He was severely wounded in Italy and was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his service.

A few years after returning to civilian life, Isenburg entered a 3-year program in medical photography at Rochester General Hospital School of Medical Photography. His coursework included training in photography and microscopy, as well as study in medical specialties including anatomy and histology. After completing this degree, he worked for a few years at Johns Hopkins University followed by several years in the medical photography section of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

He left AFIP in 1969 to join the NCI Laboratory of Pathology, where he worked as chief medical and scientific photographer until his retirement. He also served as the lab’s general photographer, often taking candid shots of life in the lab as well as more formal photographs for publications and presentations.

At the 50th anniversary of the Department of Health and Human Services in 2003, Isenburg was honored as the “longest serving” active employee at NIH. By the time of his retirement in October 2005, he had 61 years of government service. He had taken more than 50,000 photographs during his employment at NCI alone.

When Isenburg first came to NIH, part of his job included running a sophisticated dark room, including black-and-white as well as color development. He saw tremendous technological change in his field during his tenure. Over the last 10 years of his service, he gradually began to digitize his photographic lab. By the time he retired, he was enthusiastic about digital photography and had become adept with Adobe Photoshop and page-layout programs. His enthusiasm about staying at the forefront of his field was characteristic of his years in medical photography.

Isenburg is survived by Eleanore, his wife of 54 years, six sons, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His outgoing personality and helpful disposition made him a well-known figure around NIH. He was an avid bowler, played drums with many dance bands for over 60 years and had a wide and diverse circle of friends. He will be missed by all who knew him.—

Dr. Simon Black

Retired Biochemist Black Mourned

Dr. Simon Black, 90, a biochemist for over 40 years at NIH, died of heart failure at Springhouse Manor Care on Jan. 5. He had retired in 1993, having been chief of the section on biochemistry of amino acids in the Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology, NIAMD (now NIDDK) for 25 years. He kept an active interest in his chosen fields as a scientist emeritus and was well-known and admired throughout the campus.

Black was born in Deerfield, Wisc., near Madison, on Aug. 9, 1917. He spent his early years on a farm in Deerfield. He loved telling stories about milk strikes, hired hands and runaway horses. He had intended to study agriculture when he entered the University of Wisconsin with financial help from a New Deal program. But he ended up working in the forefront of vitamin research and earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1940 from UW.

He conducted weapons research for the Army during World War II, in Chicago. He began his studies on enzymes at the University of Chicago department of medicine, working with Dr. E.S.G. Barron, from 1946 to 1951. During this period, Black isolated yeast aldehyde dehydrogenase and found its requirement for potassium ions. This work led to a fellowship with Fritz Lipmann at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. With Lipmann and Dr. Mary Ellen Jones, he published important papers on the reaction mechanism of the ATP-acetyl-coenzyme A reaction, demonstrating the release of pyrophosphate upon ATP hydrolysis.

Black began his NIH career in September 1952, after a year at Mass General. In short order, he elucidated the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of threonine and the reduction of methionine sulfoxide (which turned out to include a key component of the nucleotide reductase system) and the role of FAD and thiol groups in glutathione reductase, among others. In later years he devoted his energies to big questions: how protein synthesis is regulated and how the genetic code could have arisen from direct nucleic acid-peptide interaction.

In the 1970s, he traveled to Europe, South America and Asia as a member of the committee on space research (COSPAR), an international organization of scientists in space-related disciplines. In 2000, Vantage Press published his book, A Theory on the Origin of Life Plus a Brief History of Biochemistry.

In 1944, he married Dorothy Gottlieb, a secretary for the Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bomb. In 63 years of marriage, the couple had three sons: Bert, Roy and Frank; and one grandson, Ian.

Black, a devoted fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Redskins, is remembered by friends, colleagues and former postdocs for his dedication to his work and his coworkers, as an outstanding mentor and an insightful reviewer, all with a touch of humor. He is survived by his wife, sons, grandson and three daughters-in-law.

Dr. Juliana Blome

Blome Named NIGMS Evaluation Chief

Dr. Juliana Blome brings her extensive experience in evaluation to NIGMS, which recently named her chief of its Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation.

“I’m delighted that Juliana will be applying her broad expertise, vision and energy to the critical functions of program planning, evaluation and analysis at NIGMS,” said institute director Dr. Jeremy Berg. “These areas are taking on even greater importance as we move from developing a new strategic plan to implementing it, and also as we assess the results of several large-scale initiatives we began during the NIH budget-doubling period.”

Blome, who has a background in social science research, will also manage two grant programs: institutional training at the interface of the biomedical and behavioral sciences and research on the efficacy of interventions to promote research careers.

Prior to joining NIGMS, Blome was acting chief of the Evaluation Branch of the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives, OD. She oversaw administration of the NIH evaluation set-aside program and provided technical guidance and support for evaluation activities across all ICs as well as for initiatives funded under the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.

Earlier in her career, Blome worked in Columbia University’s department of epidemiology, where she studied risky health behaviors in adolescents and HIV/AIDS among Latino males. She also conducted research on youth violence prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder in children exposed to violence and child abuse and neglect. While at Columbia, Blome received an M.P.H. in sociomedical sciences, an M.S. in social work and a Ph.D. in sociology.

Her other experience includes managing junior legislative staff and following health care and Social Security issues for Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.

Among Blome’s honors is a 2005 NIH Director’s Award for her contributions to the evaluation of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.

Dr. Richard Farishian

Farishian Appointed Director of NIDDK Office

Dr. Richard Farishian was recently appointed director of the NIDDK Office of Scientific Program and Policy Analysis (OSPPA). He will serve as a member of the institute’s senior leadership team and will advise the NIDDK director on policy, planning and legislative issues. Farishian had served as deputy director of OSPPA since 1988.

“We are extremely fortunate to have the benefit of Dr. Farishian’s talent and experience,” said NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers. “I look forward to working with him to provide leadership and guidance in promoting the NIDDK mission.”

OSPPA is the institute’s focal point for preparing a variety of program and analytic reports, including those associated with the annual appropriations process and GPRA; coordination of trans-institute planning; and production of NIDDK’s annual compendium of science advances.

Farishian’s first position at NIH was with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Prior to joining NIH, he worked for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in New York and Bethesda Research Laboratories in Gaithersburg.

Farishian received his B.A. from Oakland University, his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from New University.

NIAID Postdoctoral Fellow Sun Dies in Accident

Dr. Tao Sun, a postdoctoral fellow in NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunogenetics (LIG), died on Dec. 3, 2007, in a pedestrian-Metrobus accident at the intersection of Twinbrook Parkway and Parklawn Drive in Rockville. He was 38 years old.

Sun came to the United States from the People’s Republic of China to study biophysics. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in 2005. His desire to study infectious disease through structural biology led him to NIH in September 2006. During his time at NIH, Sun served as a postdoctoral fellow in the group of Dr. David Garboczi, head of the structural biology section, LIG. “Tao will be remembered for his cheerful personality, for his hard-working and energetic approach to his experiments and his dedication to his family and church,” said Garboczi.

The Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences has established an emergency fund to assist Sun’s wife and 4-year-old daughter. Donations in the form of checks payable to FAES can be sent to the following address: FAES, Bldg. 60, Suite 230, 1 Cloister Drive, Bethesda, MD, 20814. Write “Dr. Sun emergency fund” on the memo line of the check.

Dr. Richard Farishian

Fogarty Names Johnson as New Deputy Director

The Fogarty International Center has named HIV/AIDS expert Dr. Michael P. Johnson as its new deputy director. He comes to FIC from the Office of Global Health Affairs at HHS, where he was liaison to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In that position his responsibilities included policy, technical and budgetary aspects of HHS involvement in PEPFAR, which currently exceeds $1 billion.

“I’m excited to have someone of Dr. Johnson’s caliber join Fogarty in this key role,” said FIC director Dr. Roger Glass. “He’ll be instrumental in helping me maintain and build new collaborations with our many partners across NIH, in addition to supporting me in my role as associate director for international research.”

Prior to joining PEPFAR, Johnson was chief of party for the Center for Disease Control’s Caribbean regional office, co-located with the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre in Port of Spain, Trinidad. During his 2-year assignment there, he played a leading role in the establishment of CDC offices for PEPFAR in Haiti and Guyana and established partnerships with a number of Caribbean regional organizations.

Johnson has worked on domestic HIV/AIDS as chief medical officer and director of the Division of Training and Technical Assistance for the Ryan White CARE Act in the HIV/AIDS Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration. This work included oversight of the national AIDS Education and Training Centers, initiation of the first clinical quality improvement initiative in a national, publicly funded clinical care program and development of a variety of technical assistance interventions. He also provided agency representation and leadership in a White House initiative: the Congressional Black Caucus Initiative on AIDS.

As a faculty member in the department of international health at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, his work focused on Haiti as in-country director for studies on short-course tuberculosis and chemoprophylaxis among HIV-infected persons. While at Hopkins, he received a Fogarty training grant. He applied many aspects of his work in Haiti to domestic programs in the resource-limited, minority neighborhoods of Baltimore.

Johnson is a graduate of Clark University (A.B. 1979), Tufts University School of Medicine (M.D. 1983) and Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health (M.P.H. 1991). He is also board-certified in internal medicine and infectious disease.

Dr. Judith Vaitukaitis

Former NCRR Director Vaitukaitis Honored

Dr. Judith Vaitukaitis, former director of the National Center for Research Resources, recently won the E.H. Ahrens Award from the Association for Patient Oriented Research. The award recognizes her lifetime of accomplishments in reproductive endocrinology and her support of patient-oriented research during her years at NCRR.

Vaitukaitis first came to NIH in 1970 as a postdoctoral fellow after her medical residency at University Hospital in Boston. She worked with the Reproductive Research Branch, first at NCI and then at NICHD, and became one of the first female senior investigators at NICHD.

Any woman who has taken a home pregnancy test has Vaitukaitis’ methodology of identifying and measuring human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to thank.

In the 1970s, it was known that the human body secretes hCG only during pregnancy or with certain kinds of cancers. Her work teased out the pregnancy distinction, made the home test possible and resulted in her induction into the NIH Hall of Honor. In 1974, Vaitukaitis returned to Boston to spend a decade as professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and as head of the section on endocrinology and metabolism at Boston City Hospital. She returned to NIH in 1986 to hold positions as director of the NCRR General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) program and then as deputy director.

Vaitukaitis increased the visibility of the clinical research enterprise during her tenure as director from 1993 to 2005. Under her leadership, NCRR established the Institutional Development Award Program, which broadened the geographic distribution of NIH funding for biomedical and behavioral research. In addition, NCRR tripled funding for construction of research facilities; helped create three national gene vector laboratories; expanded the range of services and technologies provided by the GCRCs; expanded support of innovative and high-risk, high-yield technologies; and enhanced the Shared Instrumentation Grant Program.—

Mike Davis and his wife Candy plan a Hawaiian vacation/cruise to celebrate their retirements.
Mike Davis and his wife Candy plan a Hawaiian vacation/cruise to celebrate their retirements.

NEI’s Davis Bids Farewell to Long Federal Career

After more than 30 years of federal service, 23 at NEI, Mike Davis is retiring. He has served the institute in many capacities since being hired as a program analyst in 1984. He became chief of the Policy, Legislation, Planning and Evaluation Branch in 1988. Later he was appointed associate director for science policy and legislation and was responsible for NEI’s strategic planning, science policy and legislative activities for the last 14 years.

After earning a bachelor of science degree in zoology in 1969, Davis attended infantry officer training at Ft. Benning, Ga. He was selected to attend German language training at the Department of Defense Language Institute in Washington, D.C., from 1970-1971. Davis spent the next 2 years in Germany then returned to the U.S. and graduate school. He earned a master of science degree in biology from Northern Arizona University in 1977.

After graduation, Davis began work on a University of Texas contract with the then National Institute of Arthritis, Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to study diabetes in the Pima Indians. He headed the radioimmunoassay laboratory and was involved in clinical studies of lipid metabolism and cell culture studies of glucose metabolism in the Pima population. Davis also performed administrative duties related to the contract portion of the study. In 1981, he was transferred to federal employment as a microbiologist and later became an administrative officer for the Phoenix clinical research section at what is now NIDDK. He continued to serve in the Army reserve and was commander of two units of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps prior to his retirement in 1997.

Davis’s community activities have included service to his church and over 25 years of work with the Boy Scouts of America. All three of his sons are Eagle Scouts and his only daughter married an Eagle Scout. In addition to several civilian and military service and performance awards, Davis received the HHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service, the NIH Director’s Award and an NEI Director’s Award.

A family man first, Davis relishes spending more time with his family. He plans to travel, keep learning, fly more (he is an avid pilot) and “volunteer my time to something worthwhile—in short, enjoy the next phase of my life as much as I have enjoyed the previous phases,” he said.  

Davis and his wife Candy, who worked for 17 years at NIH and retired from federal service last August, plan a Hawaiian vacation/cruise. They will celebrate their retirements, graduation of the last of the kids from college, having three of four kids married and the last engaged to be married and four grandchildren.

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