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Vol. LXI, No. 22
October 30, 2009

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Three NIH’ers Elected to IOM

Three NIH scientists, including two institute directors, are among the 65 new members and five foreign associates newly elected to the Institute of Medicine. Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

Elected were Dr. Story Landis (top, r), director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Dr. Griffin Rodgers (bottom, r), director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and Dr. Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz (middle, r), senior investigator and chief, section on organelle biology, Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“It is a great pleasure to welcome these distinguished and accomplished individuals to the Institute of Medicine,” said IOM president Dr. Harvey Fineberg. “Each of these new members stands out as a professional whose research, knowledge, and skills have significantly advanced health and medicine and who has served as a model for others.”

Established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, IOM has become recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on health issues. With their election, members make a commitment to volunteer their service on IOM committees, boards and other activities.



NCMHD’s Ruffin Receives NHCOA Honor

Dr. Pamela Collin

Dr. John Ruffin, director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, received the Health and Wellness Award on Oct. 6 from the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) at its annual conference in Washington, D.C. The award recognized Ruffin for his commitment to advancing the well-being and quality of life for Hispanic older adults, their families and their communities. Shown above are (from l) Virginia Smith, senior manager, Wal-Mart corporate affairs-constituent relations; Angel Luis Irene, executive director, Vida Senior Centers; Barbara Dieker, director of elder rights, Administration on Aging; Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA president and CEO; Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA); Ruffin; Sulieka Cabrera, president and CEO, Institute for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly, Inc. In presenting the award, NHCOA described Ruffin as a well-respected leader and visionary in the field of health disparities who has devoted his career to improving the health status of underserved people. Ruffin has been involved in building a national biomedical research program for minority health and health disparities research at NIH for almost 20 years. NHCOA is dedicated to understanding the needs and securing the well-being of Hispanic older adults and their caregivers.

Nieman Honored by Endocrine Society

Dr. Lynnette Nieman, head of NICHD’s section on reproductive endocrinology, recently received the 2009 Distinguished Physician Award from the Endocrine Society. She was recognized for her research on diagnosing Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder in which the adrenal glands produce excess amounts of cortisol, a hormone involved in the body’s response to stress. Persons with Cushing’s syndrome experience high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, a tendency to bruise easily, sterility and other symptoms. Nieman’s research has focused on methods for diagnosing the disorder, which can have many different causes, as well as on treatments. She has also extensively studied progesterone antagonists—compounds that block the reproductive hormone progestin. In this research, she has studied progesterone antagonists as a potential contraceptive and as a treatment for fibroids. The award citation commended Nieman’s advocacy of translating basic science discoveries into new clinical treatments.

NICHD’s Alexander Departs for Fogarty, Shurin Named Acting Director
Dr. Duane Alexander (l) recently stepped down after 23 years as director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to join the Fogarty International Center; Dr. Susan Shurin, deputy director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, became acting director of NICHD.

Dr. Duane Alexander recently stepped down after 23 years as director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to join the Fogarty International Center as senior scientific adviser for global maternal and child health research. He will advise FIC director Dr. Roger Glass on NIH’s role in a White House effort to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity in the developing world.

“The opportunity to work at this level to translate research advances, many of them from NICHD and NIH, to people in challenging settings, is too good to pass up,” Alexander said.

“Duane Alexander has devoted decades to providing leadership to the pediatric community to improve the health of women and children through research,” said Glass. “Given the administration’s keen interest in this topic, Duane will be instrumental in our efforts to engage with the State Department and other agencies to further the administration’s $63 billion Global Health Initiative.”

Dr. Susan Shurin, deputy director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, became acting director of NICHD.

“My primary inspiration comes from the patients I have seen,” Shurin said. “I was a very active clinician and learned more from my patients than from anyone else, despite outstanding teachers. I intend to bring that inspiration with me as I begin my work at the NICHD.”

At NHLBI, Shurin oversees the clinical research portfolio, including sharing of data and biospecimens and supports its global health activities. Previously, she was a professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and was director of the division of pediatric hematology-oncology at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital of University Hospitals of Cleveland, where she was also associate director for pediatrics of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

She also served as vice president and secretary of the Corporation at Case Western Reserve University. In addition to her laboratory work, Shurin has been active in multiple clinical research endeavors including developing the now-standard therapy for transfusional iron overload in thalassemia major, studies of acute leukemia and brain tumors in what is now the children’s oncology group (formerly the children’s cancer group [CCG]), and studies of hydroxyurea and transfusion in sickle cell disease. She also served on the executive committee of the CCG and founded and chaired its bioethics committee.

In announcing the leadership change, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins noted that NICHD’s accomplishments under Alexander included affirmation of the safety of amniocentesis; the virtual elimination in the developed world of mental retardation from Haemophilus influenzae type b meningitis; a treatment to reduce the risk of preterm birth among women who had previously delivered a preterm infant; the dramatic reduction in sudden infant death syndrome; and, in collaboration with NIAID, the reduction of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Russo To Direct NINR Extramural Activities
Dr. Denise Russ

Dr. Denise Russo recently joined NINR as director of the Division of Extramural Activities, overseeing the Office of Extramural Programs, the Office of Grants Management and the Office of Review. She will be involved in development of research initiatives and the solicitation, management and review of grant applications, as well as interactions with other components of NINR, NIH and HHS. She previously served in the Office of the NIH Director as extramural policy coordination officer and director of the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, providing oversight and policy clarification for the Guide user community. She was also instrumental in developing and launching an agency-wide web-based electronic publication system in use since May 2007. Russo holds a Ph.D. in pathology from the SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and an M.S. in biology/engineering. Her research activities prior to NIH involved basic, clinical and translational research.

Kaufmann Named Director of NINDS Clinical Research
By Gregory Roa
Dr. Petra Kaufmann
Dr. Petra Kaufmann

Dr. Petra Kaufmann was recently named director of the Office of Clinical Research at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In her new role, she will lead efforts to increase the effectiveness of NINDS clinical studies.

An expert in clinical trials for neuromuscular disorders, she is renowned for her work on spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), mitochondrial diseases and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Prior to joining NINDS, she co-directed the SMA Clinical Research Center at Columbia University, where she was also an associate professor of neurology.

“Dr. Kaufmann has experience in all phases of clinical research, from conducting laboratory investigation and studies on disease mechanism to serving in key leadership positions on several major multicenter trials,” said NINDS director Dr. Story Landis. “Dr. Kaufmann’s outstanding skills and expertise will allow us to make the most of the scientific opportunities ahead and to have a significant impact on clinical neuroscience.”

Kaufmann said, “I look forward to supporting excellence in clinical research at NINDS so that the advances in neuroscience can be translated into better treatments for patients.”

Her contributions to clinical research have had considerable impact. She implemented novel tools and techniques in clinical trials, including the development of web-based data management systems, telephone-administered neurological scales and imaging tests in ALS. Findings from her work on SMA influenced NINDS policy in reshaping aspects of its clinical trials for a number of diseases. As principal investigator on a trial to treat ALS with coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant, Kaufmann developed an innovative design strategy that led to the project’s efficient conclusion when the study results did not support a beneficial effect of the therapy. Her 2009 study on mitochondrial encephalopathy with lactic acidosis and stroke helped advance understanding of the effects of a genetic mutation associated with this disease, pointing the way toward better screening and diagnosis of patients with the mutation.

Born in Hersel, Germany, Kaufmann earned her medical degree from the University of Bonn and trained in neuromuscular disease research at leading academic centers in London and Paris. In 1993, she joined Columbia for a postdoctoral fellowship studying the genetics of mitochondrial diseases. She completed an internship in medicine at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center and a neurology residency at Columbia, where she also earned a master’s in science degree in biostatistics.

Kaufmann is a member of numerous professional societies including the American Neurological Association, American Academy of Neurology, American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics and the World Federation of Neurology. She has published more than 45 peer-reviewed articles and has written or edited dozens of review articles and book chapters.

IC Directors ‘Make a Difference,’ Lead HHS in Key Recruitment Effort

At a time when the federal government has increased the number of hires, the number of new employees with disabilities has decreased. In response, Lawrence Self, director of NIH’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management, challenged NIH leaders to break down hiring barriers by using various non-traditional recruitment tools when they have the opportunity. The challenge was met by 10 NIH institute/center directors who demonstrated their commitment by hiring 12 interns, which led HHS in 2008 Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) for College Students with Disabilities hires.

WRP is a nationwide recruitment and referral program connecting federal agencies with highly motivated postsecondary students with disabilities who are eager to contribute their talents to the workplace.

Since 2007, OEODM has presented the Making a Difference Award to individuals who have gone the extra mile in furthering equal opportunity and diversity awareness at NIH.

The 2008 recipients are NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington, OD; Dr. Patricia Grady, NINR; Dr. Richard Hodes, NIA; Dr. Thomas Insel, NIMH; Dr. Stephen Katz, NIAMS; Dr. Paul Sieving, NEI; Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, NHLBI; Dr. Roderic Pettigrew, NIBIB; Dr. Antonio Scarpa, CSR; and Dr. Griffin Rodgers, NIDDK.

In addition, while NIH broadened its recruitment approaches, students broadened their work experiences resulting in one NIH WRP student receiving a government-wide Outstanding Student Program Award and others being recruited to permanent positions.

NIH will recognize in 2010 the ICs commitment of 18 WRP student hires in 2009. “We are still counting!” said OEODM.

Inn Volunteer Dornette Mourned
William Dornette,
William Dornette

William Dornette, an 87-year-old Kensington resident who was a beloved volunteer since 2003 at the Children’s Inn at NIH, died in his sleep on Sept. 25. He displayed an insatiable zest for life—filled with intellectual curiosity and passion—whether he was practicing medicine, working on model trains, wielding a camera or devoting his talents to the inn.

Born and reared in Cincinnati, Dornette received both his medical and law degrees from the University of Cincinnati in 1946 and 1969, respectively. During his career, he served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, taught and practiced anesthesiology at various medical schools across the country and worked for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda. He retired in 1989 after leaving a high position with the Veterans Administration.

An educator and author of 12 books on medicine, as well as medical malpractice law, Dornette was active in the day-to-day operations of the inn, a residence for NIH pediatric patients. He was frequently seen taking digital pictures and developing Powerpoint programs, including, most recently, a virtual tour of the inn that appears on the NCI Pediatric Oncology Branch web site.

In addition, Dornette frequently obtained funds for projects that benefited the inn’s residents.

Brilliant, sweet, caring, talented yet humble—these were characteristics expressed by family and friends who described him. “I am glad I got to be his daughter-in-law and friend for 28 years,” Martha Mehl Dornette noted.

He was predeceased by his first wife of 36 years, Frances Roberta Hester Dornette, and his son-in-law, Thomas Schafer. He leaves behind his wife of 25 years, Betty Kern Dornette, daughter Frances Way Schafer, son William Stuart Dornette, daughter-in-law Martha Mehl Dornette, stepson Raymond Kern, stepdaughter Kathleen Marrone and 10 grandchildren.

Memorials can be made to the Children’s Inn at NIH, 7 West Drive, Bethesda, MD 20814-1509.—Jan Ehrman

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