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Vol. LXIII, No. 11
May 27, 2011

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NINDSís DeVroom Retires with 30 Years of NIH Service
By Shannon E. Garnett

Hetty DeVroom

Hetty DeVroom

After 30 years of caring for patients at NIH, Hetty DeVroom, a research nurse specialist in the NINDS Surgical Neurology Branch, retired on Apr. 1.

“Hetty has been an integral and invaluable member of the SNB,” said Dr. Russell Lonser, branch chief. “She has made indelible contributions to the research and care of our patients over the last three decades. The Clinical Center and its patients have been enriched by having her as part of the NIH.”

DeVroom’s first NIH experience occurred when she was a nursing student at Marymount University. As part of the school’s leadership day, she visited the campus, toured the Clinical Center and attended meetings in the nursing department.

Upon graduation from Marymount, DeVroom joined the staff at Sibley Memorial Hospital as a registered nurse in the surgical intensive care unit. There she found her calling to take care of neurosurgery patients.

DeVroom left Sibley in 1981 to join the CC nursing department as a staff nurse on 5 West, where she frequently looked after the patients of Dr. Edward Oldfield. At the time, Oldfield served as chief of SNB’s clinical neurosurgery section. He later became SNB chief.

“I chose 5W because that unit took care of neurosurgical patients,” said DeVroom.

After several years of tending to patients on 5W, DeVroom was invited by Oldfield to join his research team and, soon after, to work in the SNB as a research nurse. In fact, she was one of the first staff nurses to become an associate investigator on complex research protocols.

“My colleagues and I were so very lucky to have Hetty in our branch, and we never forgot what good fortune that was,” said Oldfield, who is now the Crutchfield chair in neurosurgery at the University of Virginia. “Her intelligence, professionalism, dedication to perfection—and all with a great sense of humor and a positive, can-do attitude—and the many contributions that she produced, made her truly invaluable to the success of our branch. We all knew we had a treasure from the moment she arrived, and nothing changed our minds. She has been a great representative of the SNB, NINDS and NIH, putting an extra sparkle on the luster of each.”

Topping the list of things DeVroom will miss after retiring are the day-to-day learning opportunities she received in SNB and the camaraderie with her coworkers. She claims she will not, however, miss the daily commute on 270, the security check-in or the parking garage.

Although DeVroom officially has retired, she will soon return to campus as residency coordinator for the newly accredited NIH-University of Virginia neurosurgery residency program. The program trains neurosurgeon clinician- investigators.

“My professional advancement and career have been the result of the commitment, trust and support I received from the dedicated members of the SNB under the leadership of Drs. Oldfield and Lonser,” DeVroom concluded.

Herman Powell

Herman Powell

Longtime OLAO Employee Powell Is Mourned

Herman Powell, a longtime employee in the Property Management Branch who retired Feb. 28 after 27 years at NIH, died suddenly Apr. 7 following a massive heart attack at his home in Baltimore. He was 70.

Herman began his career at NIH in March 1984 as a property supply tech in the property accountability section. Shortly thereafter, he became an inventory management specialist and was a part of the Office of Logistics and Acquisition Operations for 27 years.

Powell’s PMB friend and coworker David A. Hubbard, II, recalled, “I was fortunate, along with other coworkers, to celebrate Herman’s retirement with him less than a month ago. He was his usual upbeat, appreciative self…About a week later, I called him and asked, “Herman, you busy?” He joked, ‘Yeah, I’m busy lying in bed!’ It was 11:30 a.m. Herman had looked forward to retirement for just that reason. He’d often commented on his long commute from Baltimore to Bethesda, and then later to Rockville, but he never complained.”

Jerry “JD” Davis is the colleague who worked with Powell the longest, noted Hubbard. “They shared a good friendship, inside and outside of the office. JD is one of the few who would remind Herman—who talked loud—to ‘bring it down, I’m standing right here.’”

Richard Fields, Powell’s supervisor for 9 years, also shared a camaraderie with him, based on their Army careers. They often exchanged stories and global travel experiences.

“Herman retired this past February never receiving his first retirement check,” Hubbard noted. “We look forward to so many things in life, but life has a way of not always rewarding our optimism. This is one of those times.”

Former NIGMS Genetics Chief Bergmann Dies at 83
Dr. Fred H. Bergmann

Dr. Fred H. Bergmann

Dr. Fred H. Bergmann, a microbiologist who directed the NIGMS Genetics Program from its inception in 1972 until his retirement in 1988, died on May 2 in Washington, D.C. He was 83.

“During the time that Dr. Bergmann was director of the Genetics Program, the field underwent a transformation to the modern molecular era. He fostered the science and nurtured the early careers of many of today’s leading geneticists,” said NIGMS Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology director Dr. Judith Greenberg, who was Bergmann’s deputy and successor.

In addition to supporting groundbreaking research, the Genetics Program established two key scientific resources under Bergmann’s leadership: the Human Genetic Cell Repository and the GenBank genetic sequence database, which became the depository for the data generated by the Human Genome Project.

Bergmann began working at NIH in 1961 as a biochemist in what is now NIDCR, where he studied the mechanisms of protein synthesis. In 1963, he transferred to what is now NHLBI to work in the laboratory of Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, who won a Nobel Prize 5 years later for deciphering the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis. Bergmann joined NIGMS in 1966 to pursue an interest in “administration and broad aspects of biomedical science,” he said when he retired. Initially, he managed programs in molecular biology and bioenergetics.

Born in Feuchtwangen, Germany, into the family of a cattle dealer, Bergmann came to the United States in 1939. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from MIT and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He then did postdoctoral fellowships at Washington University in St. Louis, where he worked in the laboratory of another future Nobel laureate, Dr. Paul Berg, and at Brandeis University.

After leaving NIH, Bergmann pursued an interest in social work by earning an M.S.W. from Catholic University and volunteering at the Whitman-Walker Clinic and as a court-appointed special advocate.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Barbara Bergmann; two children, Sarah and David; and two grandchildren.

Former Heart Institute Scientist Harmison Mourned
Dr. Lowell T. Harmison

Dr. Lowell T. Harmison

Dr. Lowell T. Harmison, 74, died Mar. 30 at a hospital in Fredericksburg, Va. He spent more than 45 years at the forefront of medical research and public health.

In 1967, Harmison came to NIH as chief of the engineering section of the National Heart Institute’s Artificial Heart-Myocardial Infarction Program. He developed the first completely implantable artificial assist heart to augment function of the diseased heart and the first totally implantable artificial heart in the world. He held the first U.S. and foreign patent for the completely implantable artificial heart.

After leaving NIH, Harmison spent a decade as the PHS science advisor and principal deputy assistant secretary for health under President Reagan.

A native of West Virginia, Harmison was a graduate of Berkeley Springs High School, earning B.S. and master’s degrees at West Virginia University and a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland and completing postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan.

Harmison had nearly five decades of experience and leadership in biomedicine as a researcher, inventor, author and senior executive in government, foundation and corporate organizations.

He authored more than 100 publications, edited 2 books and most recently wrote a new book on heart disease and co-authored the book Zeroing in on the Cancer Cell: Cancer Vaccines.

Survivors include Harmison’s wife, Sally; three sons, Christopher, Brian and Craig; seven grandchildren; and a brother, Philip.

Sakalian, Seetharam Sign On with NIGMS
Dr. Michael Sakalian Dr. Saraswathy Seetharam

Dr. Michael Sakalian

Dr. Saraswathy Seetharam

NIGMS recently welcomed two new additions to its scientific staff. Dr. Michael Sakalian (l), a program director in the Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics, manages research grants in the cell and structural biology of the viral life-cycle as well as in structure-based drug design related to AIDS. Prior to joining NIGMS, he served as associate director, molecular virology for Panacos Pharmaceuticals in Gaithersburg. He earned a B.S. in biochemistry from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from Cornell University. Dr. Saraswathy Seetharam, a scientific review officer in the Office of Scientific Review, coordinates review of applications in molecular and cell biology and biochemistry. She initially came to NIGMS as a contractor after having served in similar positions at CSR and NIMHD. Seetharam earned a B.S. in biochemistry and nutrition from the University of Madras and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Mysore, both in India, and did postdoctoral research at NCI.

NIGMS Grantees Win Presidential Mentoring Awards

The NIGMS Bridges to the Baccalaureate program at the State University of New York, Purchase College, was recently honored with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The award recognizes institutions and individuals who have led efforts encouraging minorities, women and people with disabilities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Purchase College’s Bridges program seeks to increase the number of community college students who earn associate’s degrees and go on to earn bachelor’s degrees in science and math.

Also recognized with awards were two individuals who direct NIGMS conference grants. They are Dr. Marigold L. Linton of the University of Kansas and Dr. Jo Handelsman of Yale University. Linton, a former coordinator of NIGMS’s Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award at the university, now manages a grant supporting the annual meeting of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. Handelsman’s grant funds a genomic workshop for minority students at Yale.

A total of 11 individuals and 4 institutions received the awards during a recent ceremony at the White House. The awards, established by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and administered through the National Science Foundation, consist of a Presidential certificate and a $10,000 grant to continue the recipient’s mentoring activities.

Since the awards program began in 1996, 20 individuals and 5 organizations supported by NIGMS’s Division of Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) have been recognized with the honor.

For a full list of MORE winners of the Presidential mentoring award, see

Three NIH’ers Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Drs. Gisela Storz Joseph Fraumeni, Jr. Okihide Hikosaka
New inductees into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences include (from l) Drs. Gisela Storz, Joseph Fraumeni, Jr., and Okihide Hikosaka.

Three NIH scientists are among the 212 leaders in the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs and nonprofit sector who have been elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

They are Dr. Gisela Storz, chief of the unit on environmental gene regulation, NICHD; Dr. Joseph Fraumeni, Jr., director, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI; and Dr. Okihide Hikosaka, senior researcher and chief of the section of neuronal networks in the Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research, NEI.

Other inductees into the 2011 class of fellows include documentary film maker Ken Burns, singer-songwriter Paul Simon and Roberta Ramo, the first woman to serve as president of the American Bar Association.

Since its founding in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, the academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 1 at academy headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

NLM, NEI Recognized for Innovation

Dr. Lowell T. Harmison

On hand for the “Secretary’s Pick” Award to NLM were (from l) Joseph Potvin, Joyce Backus, Naomi Miller, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Stephanie Dennis, Dr. Maxine Rockoff of Columbia University and Sarena Burgess. Not shown are awardees Loren Frant, Martha Fishel and Wei Ma.

Dr. Lowell T. Harmison

NEI’s Dr. Manuel Datiles

Photos: Chris Smith/HHS

Two NIH components were among the six winners of round two of the HHSinnovates program, which was launched last year to recognize exceptional innovation efforts throughout all the agencies of HHS.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius named NLM’s MedlinePlus Connect a “Secretary’s Pick” for the HHSinnovates award. MedlinePlus Connect is a free service that allows any electronic health record system to easily link users to MedlinePlus, an authoritative, up-to-date information resource for patients, families and health care providers.

Winning honorable mention was “From Outer Space to the Eye Clinic,” a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Eye Institute that has led to development of a clinical device for much earlier detection of cataracts. NEI scientists Dr. Manuel Datiles and Dr. Frederick Ferris brought about the collaboration and development of the device, which measures changes in alpha crystalline proteins in the lens of the eye and is adapted from a device created for use in outer space. The device holds promise for improved understanding and treatment of cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the world.

Dr. Grace Kissling

Dr. Grace Kissling

Photo: Steve McCaw

Kissling To Receive American Statistical Association Honor

NIEHS/NTP staff scientist Dr. Grace Kissling will be inducted as a fellow of the American Statistical Association on Aug. 2 at an awards ceremony in Miami Beach. She will receive the highest honor in her field for what the ASA described as “outstanding contributions to the statistical profession.” A member of the Biostatistics Branch, Kissling provides statistical advice and assistance for the toxicology and carcinogenicity studies carried out by the NTP and experimental studies carried out by NIEHS researchers. She collaborates on research at all stages—study design, statistical analysis and interpretation—and has co-authored more than 125 peer-reviewed studies.

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