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Vol. LX, No. 18
September 5, 2008

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Scientist Emeritus Robbins Dies

World-renowned thyroid disease expert Dr. Jacob “Jack” Robbins, NIH scientist emeritus, served as chief of the NIDDK Clinical Endocrinology Branch for nearly 30 years.
World-renowned thyroid disease expert Dr. Jacob “Jack” Robbins, NIH scientist emeritus, served as chief of the NIDDK Clinical Endocrinology Branch for nearly 30 years.
Dr. Jacob “Jack” Robbins, world-renowned expert on thyroid disease, scientist emeritus and chief of the NIDDK Clinical Endocrinology Branch for nearly 30 years, died of heart failure on May 12 at the Clinical Center, surrounded by the work he treasured. He was 85.

Robbins collaborated with Dr. Joseph “Ed” Rall and others on groundbreaking research characterizing thyroxine-binding proteins and on treating thyroid cancer with potassium iodide to block the absorption of radioactive iodine. A leading authority on the effects of radioactive fallout, Robbins directed long-term studies of thyroid cancer in the inhabitants of the Marshall Islands, Nagasaki and Hiroshima. His research on preventing and treating radiation-related problems helped save lives and prevent illness during the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island and the Chernobyl disaster. He continued his research on thyroid cancer in children following his retirement.

“Jack’s work was extremely important for understanding how to give thyroid hormone as medication and how the thyroid functions in the body,” said Dr. Phillip Gorden, former NIDDK director. Robbins published more than 260 papers over the course of his career, was a member of numerous professional groups, was president of the American Thyroid Association and editor-in-chief of Endocrinology.

Widely admired for recruiting, encouraging and nurturing a cadre of brilliant young investigators and clinical associates, Robbins and Rall created one of the most extraordinary endocrinology research groups in the world. “Robbins and Rall were a part of everyone’s scientific infancy,” said Gorden. “They were like parental figures, challenging us and helping us to launch our careers.”

At the time of his death, Robbins was collaborating with Gorden to plan a memorial symposium to honor Rall, who passed away on Feb. 28, 2008. Gorden swiftly shifted gears and recruited Dr. Ira Pastan, chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, NCI, to co-chair the event. Now both Rall and Robbins will be remembered at the scientific symposium slated for Feb. 13, 2009, in Lister Hill Auditorium, Bldg. 38A.

Gorden is no stranger to honoring the lives of his mentors. He and Dr. Gaetano Salvatore, then president of Italy’s Stazione Zoologica, co-chaired “Celebrating the Mentors: The Global Village of J.E. Rall and Jacob Robbins.” That event, held in June 1995, convened scientists from around the world to pay tribute to Robbins and Rall as they each assumed NIH scientist emeritus status. The 2009 “Celebrating the Life and Science of J.E. Rall and Jacob Robbins” will include both a thyroid-specific and general scientific program.

Robbins is survived by his wife Jean, of Bethesda; a son, Mark, of Seattle; two daughters, Alice of Amherst, Mass., and Susan of Shelburne Falls, Mass.; a brother, Lionel, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; a sister, Evelyn Savitzky, of Pittsboro, N.C.; and four grandchildren.

Dr. Allen Wilcox

Wilcox Honored By University of Bergen

NIEHS senior investigator Dr. Allen Wilcox won an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Bergen in Norway on Aug. 29. He was commended for “major contributions in making epidemiology one of the central disciplines in modern medicine.” Wilcox has worked in the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch since 1979, serving as chief from 1991 to 2001. His research has focused mainly on fertility and pregnancy and he has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and more than 50 book chapters, commentaries, editorials and popular-science articles. His book, Fertility and Pregnancy – An Epidemiologic Perspective, is scheduled to be published by Oxford University Press in 2009. His most recent research has focused on birth defects, including the environmental and genetic causes of cleft lip and palate. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of Epidemiology, one of the highest-ranked journals in the field of public health.

Long-time Administrative Officer Fouche Mourned

Judy Fouche accepts her 40-year award as a federal employee in November 2007 from John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison.
Judy Fouche accepts her 40-year award as a federal employee in November 2007 from John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison.

Judy Fouche, an administrative officer for the Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL), OD, for the past 23 years, died July 16 in Frederick after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She was 59.

“Judy was beloved by everyone,” said John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison. “You couldn’t find a more wonderful human being. As I said at her 40th work anniversary last year, ‘I thank God every day for Judy.’ She was an extraordinarily talented employee who did a tremendous amount of outstanding work every day, and did it with a smile, a kind heart and a razor-sharp mind.”

Born in Olney, Fouche graduated from Wheaton High School in 1967 and came to work at NIH on Oct. 1 of that year. She started in the Office of Human Resources and worked in the Training Office, the Systems and Actions Branch and the Office of Policy and Communications.

In 1984, she moved to the OD Office of Budget, working for Colleen Barros, and a year later transferred to OCPL, where she was legendary for managing the budget and day-to-day crises. She received a host of awards during her tenure and retired, after 40 years at NIH, earlier this year.

“Judy was a calm voice and steady hand for years in the Office of the Director and helped many succeed and prosper,” said Barros, who is now NIH deputy director for management. “She will be sorely missed as a colleague and friend.”

“We relied on her for so much,” said Burklow. “From landing the office budget every year—right down to the penny—to handling massive office relocations, complicated contracts, you name it. Judy made sure it happened and it happened right. She was the soul of the office.”

“I feel blessed to have known and worked with Judy for 15 years,” said Connie A. Caldwell, senior FOIA specialist in the Freedom of Information Office, OCPL. “I never heard her say anything negative about anyone or any group of people. I never witnessed her being angry. She was a strong and focused lady who had a positive attitude and who resolved work-related problems quietly and efficiently.”

Added LaVerne Stringfield, OD executive officer, “OD is a better place because of Judy’s tireless contributions. It was a privilege to have known Judy. Her beautiful smile that highlighted her gentle spirit will forever remain in our hearts.”

Fouche was a member of Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church where she taught Sunday school. She loved her job and enjoyed working with the children at church.

She is survived by her husband of 35 years, Thomas Fouche, their daughter Michelle, of Frederick, her parents Edgar and Josephine Bible Burriss of Silver Spring, her mother-in-law Frances Fouche of Frederick, and by numerous aunts and uncles.

Contributions may be made, in her memory, to the Building Fund at Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church, 9411 Baltimore Rd., Frederick, MD 21704.

Dr. Ronald Germain

Germain Receives Landsteiner Medal

Dr. Ronald Germain, deputy chief of NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunology and chief of its lymphocyte biology section, has won the Karl Landsteiner Medal of the Austrian Society of Allergology and Immunology, which honors “scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the field of immunology and have ties to Austrian immunology.” The society represents Austrian scientists and practitioners interested in the physiology and pathophysiology of the immune response as well as the phenotypic expression, diagnosis and therapy of all diseases involving the immune system. The society promotes basic and applied research advances and their translation into clinical practice. Germain, who is also director of NIAID’s Program in Systems Immunology and Infectious Disease Modeling, accepted the award on Sept. 3 during the opening session of the Joint Congress of the Austrian and German Societies.

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