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Vol. LX, No. 17
August 22, 2008
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Milestones

NIH’s Ron Geller Mourned

Dr. Ron Geller, who retired from NIH in 2002, lost his struggle with multiple myeloma on July 17. During his 33-year tenure at NIH, he participated in virtually every facet of NIH activities.

Geller first came to NIH in 1969 to conduct postdoctoral research and held a series of positions of increasing responsibility. He was chief of the Hypertension and Kidney Diseases Branch, NHLBI, in the 1970s, associate director for extramural and collaborative programs at NEI in the 1980s, and director of the Division of Extramural Affairs, NHLBI, during the 1990s. His most recent position was director, Office of Extramural Programs (OEP) in the Office of the Director.

As chief of the Hypertension and Kidney Diseases Branch, he managed a staff of more than 100 and had a portfolio that included research grants, program projects, centers, contracts, clinical trials and education research grants. He developed new application and administrative guidelines for the Hypertension Specialized Centers of Research and established collaborative research relationships between centers.

At NEI, he promoted the use of cooperative agreements to support multicenter clinical trials and expanded the institute’s use of Core Center Grants and shared resources. And, while serving as director of the Division of Planning and Evaluation, OD, he conducted numerous unique analyses that had an impact on NIH policies.

Before he retired, Geller directed OEP, where he and his staff performed NIH-wide guidance and oversight for peer review policies, publication of the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, resolution of issues related to human subjects concerns, research misconduct, research training and career development programs, the Small Business Research programs and the Academic Research Enhancement Award program.

Geller’s unique approaches to solving problems as well as anticipating unexpected matters gained him great respect from his colleagues, both within and outside of NIH. He is survived by his wife Lois and his daughters Andrea and Lauren.

NINDS Graduate Student Tesar Honored

Paul Tesar

Paul Tesar, a graduate student working in the NINDS Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), recently received two top honors in the field of biological research—the 2008 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award and the Beddington Medal.

The Weintraub award is sponsored by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and recognizes scientists for the quality, originality and significance of their biological research work. The Beddington Medal, the major award of the British Society for Developmental Biology, is presented each year to a promising young biologist for the best doctoral thesis in developmental biology.

Tesar was honored for his pioneering research on early development and embryonic stem cells. Near the beginning of his graduate work, Tesar was the sole author of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on a new approach to derive stem cells from mouse embryos.

He came to NIH as part of the NIH-Oxford Scholars Program—an accelerated, individualized doctoral training program for outstanding science students committed to biomedical research. The program enables students to collaborate on a project in any area of biomedical research involving two mentors—one at NIH and the other at Oxford University. Tesar worked with Dr. Ron McKay, a senior investigator in the LMB, and Sir Richard Gardner, a professor in the department of zoology at Oxford, on a groundbreaking comparative study of mouse and human stem cells. The study was published in the journal Nature.

Tesar grew up in Eastlake, Ohio, and graduated with honors from Case Western Reserve University in 2003. He recently completed his doctorate degree. This month he will return to Case Western as a research associate in the department of genetics.

Former NINDS Chief Of Neurosurgery Ommaya Is Mourned
Dr. Ayub Khan Ommaya

Dr. Ayub Khan Ommaya, 78, neurosurgeon and inventor, died July 10 in Islamabad, Pakistan. He had Alzheimer’s disease.

Ommaya was born in Pakistan in 1930. He was the national champion swimmer of Pakistan in 1953 and received a Rhodes scholarship in 1956. A trained opera singer, he was known as the “singing neurosurgeon.” He often sang before and after surgery to the delight of his patients, their families and hospital staff. He received his M.D. at King Edward Medical College in Pakistan and his M.A. from Balliol College, Oxford University.

Ommaya served as chief of neurosurgery at NINDS and clinical professor of neurosurgery at George Washington University. He developed courses and lectured on philosophy of mind, theories of consciousness and the connection between emotion, religion and science. He vigorously pursued research to better understand and develop treatments for brain tumors, traumatic brain injury and diabetes.

Prior to Ommaya’s work in the 1960s, there was no effective way to deliver chemotherapy treatments to those with brain tumors. He invented the Ommaya reservoir to treat patients with aggressive brain cancer; the reservoir is a prototype for medical ports now in use. Ommaya also developed the centripetal theory of traumatic brain injury, which allowed for scientific understanding and modeling of the role of forces and their contribution to injury and outcome in the brain.

While serving as chief medical advisor to the Department of Transportation, Ommaya commissioned a report, Injury in America, from the Institute of Medicine in 1985. The report led to creation of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.  

Because two of his children suffer from type I diabetes, Ommaya also developed an artificial organ for diabetes driven by spinal fluid. The device was used successfully in animals, but research progress slowed when Ommaya started to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ommaya published more than 150 scientific articles.

Survivors include his wife Ghazala Ommaya; children David, Alexander, Shana, Aisha, Iman and Sinan; siblings Jan, Jacob and Nadine; and five grandchildren. In lieu of flowers or gifts, contributions may be sent to the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org), 225 N. Michigan Ave. 17th Fl. Chicago, IL 60601. For information about a memorial service, email ayubommaya@gmail.com


NEI’s McLaughlin Retires

Paul Tesar

Dr. Jack McLaughlin, deputy director of the National Eye Institute, has retired after 32 years at NIH. He held several other key positions with NEI including acting director of the institute and director of the Division of Extramural Research. “NEI has prospered under his careful attention these many years,” said NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving. “I want to congratulate Jack on his exemplary service to the NEI and to NIH, as well as to the entire vision research community across the country and the world.”

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