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Vol. LXI, No. 23
November 13, 2009

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NIH Celebrates ARRA Milestone

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It’s hard to imagine that earlier in the year, no one had heard of the term ARRA because it hadn’t been coined yet.

Now there are NIH’ers who could probably discuss the specifics of the funding legislation in their sleep. Staffers postponed or canceled summer vacations, answered their Blackberries at all hours and worked in high gear in order to push out the first $5 billion of the $10.4 billion funding package before the end of this year’s fiscal calendar on Sept. 30.


  NIH’ers breathe a sigh of relief at the ARRA appreciation event on Oct. 15.  
  NIH’ers breathe a sigh of relief at the ARRA appreciation event on Oct. 15.  

“When I was informed that we had been appropriated $10.4 billion from ARRA, I couldn’t really process what that meant,” said NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington, who led NIH efforts to allocate the money in the few short months that existed to get it out the door. He spoke at the ARRA appreciation event for NIH staff on Oct. 15 in Wilson Hall.

True to form, he said, NIH’ers pulled together to make it happen. “All of you are very good at your jobs,” he said.

Kington said he would have been hard-pressed to make the deadline had it not been for the efforts of Dr. Lawrence Tabak, NIDCR director and, until recently, also the acting deputy director of NIH.

“I cannot tell you how many times he gave that kind of blank stare to me and in his mind he must have been saying, ‘You must be kidding,’ but he always responded with great humor and figured out ways to get things done,” Kington said. Then, addressing Tabak, “You really made this a much more enjoyable experience than it ever would have been, and we’re not just saying that because you’re a dentist.”

When he took the podium, Tabak said he had his own thanks to dole out.

The Directors’ Band leads a sing-along of “The Saga of ARRA,” sung to the Beatles’ Eight Days a Week.
The Directors’ Band leads a sing-along of “The Saga of ARRA,” sung to the Beatles’ Eight Days a Week.

“You know, I was tasked with what we supposed would be a very difficult thing to do, but really, thanking everybody who needs thanks is actually harder,” he said. He unfurled a lengthy paper list that tumbled out well beyond the podium, a smile growing ever larger on his face. “So I put together a little list.”

Tabak didn’t wind up reading everyone’s name aloud, but he did manage to credit several dozen, adding, “At the really severe risk of missing many people, I’m sorry.”

He then introduced the live entertainment for the event—The Directors’ Band, which included singer John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison; Dr. Bill Sharrock of NIAMS on electric guitar; Larry Self, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management, on bass; NIAMS director Dr. Steve Katz on guitar; and vocalist Robyn Strachan of NIAMS. The band led a sing-along of “The Saga of ARRA,” to the tune of the Beatles’ Eight Days a Week.

After the music, staffers wandered around Wilson Hall eating pie and candy apples and drinking hot cider, while others in the cafeteria (the party stretched the length of Bldg. 1’s third floor) painted mini pumpkins and took guesses at the number of candy corn stuffed in a jar.

Dr. Lawrence Tabak has a long list of people to thank.
Dr. Lawrence Tabak has a long list of people to thank.

“We need to recognize when institutes do extraordinary things and this was extraordinary and very well done,” Kington said as he headed back toward his office. “But even this is not sufficient to show how grateful we are for the work that’s been done.”

Still inside Wilson Hall, Dr. Patricia Grady, director of NINR, talked about what working on ARRA meant to those in her institute.

“It enhanced teamwork and it also gave people an opportunity to try new things and take on responsibilities that they had not had a chance to do before,” she said. She also felt it gave NINR staffers and staff from all ICs an opportunity to work across institutes at NIH.

“As a smaller institute, it was exciting to participate in something as big as this.”

Burklow noted, “It demonstrates NIH’s capacity to take on enormous challenges and see them through. It also shows the staff’s commitment to the mission and ability to rise to a challenge.”

As band members packed their gear, Katz emphasized that the words of their song should be taken literally. “People worked eight days a week just constantly,” he said. “They worked not just to get it done, but to get it done right.” NIHRecord Icon

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