skip navigation nih record
Vol. LXIII, No. 20
September 30, 2011
cover

previous story

next story


Milestones

ORWH’s First Permanent Director Pinn Retires
By Jenny Haliski

Women who can now stand on equal footing with their male colleagues—at NIH, in the extramural community and throughout the health sciences in the U.S.—have women like Dr. Vivian W. Pinn, first permanent director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health, to thank.

To name just a few of her firsts: Pinn was the only African American and the only woman to graduate from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 1967. Almost 40 years later in 2005 she became the first African-American woman to speak at UVa.’s commencement. She was also the first African- American woman to chair an academic pathology department in the United States, at Howard University College of Medicine.

A native of Lynchburg, Va., Pinn has always reached out to mentor others—a unifying thread throughout her career. After graduating from Wellesley College and UVa., she completed her residency in pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1970 while also serving as a teaching fellow at Harvard Medical School. In 1970, she joined the faculty of Tufts University School of Medicine as assistant dean for student affairs so she could be a mentor for all students—female or male, minority or not. When she lost her mother as an undergraduate, she recognized the need for a mentor’s support and guidance. Thanks to mentoring, most of the school’s medical students flourished despite their doubts.

After serving as professor and chair of Howard University College of Medicine’s department of pathology since 1982, Pinn in 1991 was appointed to lead ORWH. In 1994, she also became NIH associate director for research on women’s health. Her to-do list at the time: implement inclusion policies for women and minorities in clinical trials, support science-driven sex differences research and collaborate with the ICs to bring true trans-NIH ownership to women’s health research and career development programs. Under her leadership for nearly 20 years and with NIH support, ORWH succeeded on all fronts.

For the first 10 years, ORWH participated in the ICs’ requests for applications or provided supplements to existing grants, but had yet to issue its own. Still, those funding supplements had quite a reach and counted many notable scientists among their grantees—including, in 1992, to a researcher at the University of Michigan by the name of Dr. Francis Collins for “Genomic Technology and Genetic Disease.”

Collins, now NIH director, has thanked Pinn “for her strong leadership in the effort to improve the health of women and minority populations and to increase career opportunities for women and minorities in science and medicine. Appointed as the first permanent director of ORWH, she blazed many new trails in shaping the office.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe (l) was one of several senators and representatives who received a glass bowl from Pinn at the time of ORWH’s 20th anniversary celebration, to thank them for the role they played in starting and supporting ORWH.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (l) was one of several senators and representatives who received a glass bowl from Dr. Vivian Pinn at the time of ORWH’s 20th anniversary celebration, to thank them for the role they played in starting and supporting ORWH.

The launch of the Building Interdisciplinary Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program in 2000 and Specialized Centers of Research on Sex and Gender Factors Affecting Women’s Health in 2001 began a legacy of ORWH-directed initiatives. Pinn says she’s extremely proud of how these programs have grown from a vision to a mechanism to support a high caliber of researchers, both male and female.

“Everywhere I travel, several investigators in the audience were or are BIRCWH scholars and tell me how much the program contributed to their current success,” she said. She says she’ll ideas into actions and ORWH initiatives that make a difference in women’s health and careers.

Most recently, Pinn spearheaded a series of nationwide scientific meetings and public hearings to reexamine priorities for women’s health research and inform ORWH’s new strategic plan—all in time for ORWH’s 20th anniversary in September 2010. “Dr. Pinn understands that priorities won’t set themselves; it takes a passionate, intelligent, experienced and insightful individual, with an incredible amount of support, to gather the right folks and figure out what we still don’t know but need to know,” said NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy Dr. Kathy Hudson.

The NIH working group on women in biomedical careers, which Pinn co-chaired with Collins, “sends a signal to other organizations,” said Pinn, “that this is not just another committee that talks, but takes action on strategies that will make a difference.” To help women of color navigate the NIH grants process and receive career development advice, the working group is launching the Women of Color Research Network.

“Dr. Pinn has had a major impact on women’s health and women’s careers globally,” said Dr. Margery Gass, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, who worked with Pinn as a principal investigator on the Women’s Health Initiative and also for the society’s mentoring research program. “She tackled the challenges of too few women in clinical trials, too few women in science careers, too few women advancing in science careers and the lack of funding to understand and treat gender health differences. She spoke out on these issues around the world and implemented programs to improve the situation.”

Pinn is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 1995. The Foundation for Gender Specific Medicine honored her in May 2011 with its Athena Award, which recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly to the understanding of human health and the pathophysiology of disease. She also received the Tufts University School of Medicine Dean’s Medal. She has received 11 honorary degrees of laws and science since 1992 and was the second woman to be named president of the National Medical Association in 1989.

Her legacy also includes the UVa. School of Medicine’s Vivian W. Pinn Distinguished Lecture in Health Disparities, the Vivian Pinn College of UVa. (one of four advisory colleges for medical students), Tufts University’s Vivian W. Pinn Office of Student Affairs and a Tufts Medical School scholarship in her name for disadvantaged students.

After leaving NIH, Pinn will spend “more time energizing” medical students at UVa. and Tufts. She says she’ll miss NIH’s rich intellectual environment, as well as the friendship and supportive relationships that the agency fosters. “Often I have sat in awe of the people around me at NIH, the research they’re doing, the influence each of us has individually and as part of the global scientific community,” she said. “I was just amazed to be here and be part of this.”

BIG Hosts Farewell Gathering to Honor Pinn

NIH’s chapter of Blacks In Government recently hosted a farewell salute to NIH associate director for research on women’s health Dr. Vivian Pinn, who retired Sept. 30.
The celebration was held in Bldg. 1’s Wilson Hall. During the event, Pinn was lauded with well-wishes by a number of NIH’ers both past and present.

NIH’s chapter of Blacks In Government recently hosted a farewell salute to NIH associate director for research on women’s health Dr. Vivian Pinn, who retired Sept. 30.

“It has been a genuine thrill for the members of the NIH chapter of Blacks In Government to serve as hosts for Dr. Pinn’s retirement celebration,” said Sylvester Jackson, chapter president. “Throughout her distinguished 20-year career at the NIH, she has been recognized by us as a true champion for issues important to men and women of color and she is now and always will be a shining example of the kind of success that moral courage, hard work and enduring faith can bring. We wish her the very best.”

The celebration was held in Bldg. 1’s Wilson Hall. During the event, Pinn was lauded with well-wishes by a number of NIH’ers both past and present. A commemorative cake capped the festivities. Shown at the event are Pinn and Jackson, holding a crystal vase and a crystal platter presented as retirement gifts by BIG and benefactors from the NIH Black Scientists Association.

Photos: Timothy Johnson, Felicia Shingler

Former NIDDK Chemist Jerina Mourned

Dr. Donald M. Jerina

Dr. Donald M. Jerina, 71, formerly a senior investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, died May 22 from the consequences of a bacterial infection.

Jerina was an organic chemist and biochemist who began working at NIH in 1969 and was chief of the oxidation mechanisms section until 2006. His government career included appointment to the Senior Executive Service in 1983.

He was awarded the Hillebrand Prize from the American Chemical Society in 1979, the 1982 B.B. Brodie Award for Research in Drug Metabolism from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and the Polycyclic Aromatic Compound Research Award of the International Society for Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds in 1999. His highly cited research publications were mentioned in an article in The Scientist in 1990 that identified Jerina as a potential Nobel Prize contender. He published more than 500 scientific papers.

Jerina’s early career at NIH was highlighted by his mechanistic elucidation (along with NIH colleagues Gordon Guroff and John W. Daly) of the eponymous “NIH shift,” in which a hydrogen atom migrates around an aromatic ring in the biological synthesis of certain neurotransmitters. The intermediate in this process is a 3-membered epoxide ring that opens to permit migration of a hydrogen atom from one carbon atom to an adjacent one. This discovery led to a lifelong interest in microsomal oxidations and the role of epoxides as reactive intermediates in biological processes, most notably DNA damage and carcinogenesis.

As an international leader in the field of chemical carcinogenesis, Jerina pioneered research on cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are widespread environmental contaminants, most notably in tobacco smoke, automobile exhaust and the charred portions of grilled foods.

Jerina is survived by a daughter, Julianne Marcus, and a son, Derek A. Jerina.

Ombudsman Office Gains Staff, Projects

Ombudsman Office Gains Staff
Members of the OO/CCR include (standing, from l) Linda Myers, Dr. Howard Gadlin, Barbara Washington, Dr. Kathleen Moore, David Michael. In the front row are (from l) Linda Brothers, Samantha Levine-Finley and Lisa Witzler.

There are three new ombudsmen and several new projects under way at the Office of the Ombudsman/Center for Cooperative Resolution (OO/CCR), a unique resource for the NIH community that provides confidential, neutral assistance to address work-related concerns and conflicts. Established in 1997, the office has helped thousands of employees and managers, as well as many work groups, successfully navigate workplace, lab and scientific issues.

David Michael, deputy ombudsman, brings many years of experience in conflict practice (mediation, group facilitation, coaching and consensus-building), as well as training, program design, strategic planning and performance management. Most recently, while at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, he provided facilitation, mediation, coaching and training for federal agencies. Earlier he led court-based and non-profit alternative dispute resolution (ADR) organizations.

Linda Myers, associate ombudsman, has an extensive mediation background, including work in equal employment opportunity cases, prohibited personnel practices complaints (including whistleblower reprisal), labor-management disputes and organizational conflict resolution. Prior to joining the office, she served as deputy director of the U.S. Army ADR Program in the Office of the Army General Counsel.

Lisa Witzler, associate ombudsman, received a master’s degree in dispute resolution from the University of Massachusetts and is working toward her Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolution at Nova Southeastern University.

Before joining the office, she worked at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. She is a trained mediator and facilitator interested in group dynamics, communication, dispute resolution design and conflict coaching.

These new staff join OO/CCR director Dr. Howard Gadlin and associate ombudsmen Linda M. Brothers, Dr. Kathleen Moore and Samantha Levine-Finley.

Gadlin has been ombudsman and director of the office since 1999. He formerly served as an ombudsman at UCLA and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is past president of the University and College Ombuds Association and the Ombudsman Association. He currently chairs the federal interagency alternative dispute resolution working group. He is the author of, among other writings, Bargaining in the Shadow of Management: Integrated Conflict Management Systems; Conflict, Cultural Differences, and the Culture of Racism; and Mediating Sexual Harassment.

Brothers has been an associate ombudsman at NIH since 2006. Prior to coming to NIH, she was director of equal opportunity and ombudsperson at Wellesley College, where she established its Ombuds Office. Her areas of special focus include perceived difference and racial/intercultural conflict, systems change and role boundary conflation. She has designed numerous systemic interventions and is the author of many training and educational programs addressing interpersonal and institutional dispute resolution. She is a past board member of the New England Association for Conflict Resolution.

Moore has been an associate ombudsman at NIH for 10 years. Prior to that, she spent more than 10 years as an Employee Assistance Program provider at NIH and 2 years as an employee relations specialist. She earned a Ph.D. in human and organizational development from George Mason University in 2000. Her varied background provides a basis for analyzing conflict from several vantage points, including a psychological grounding of personal dynamics; an institutional knowledge of administrative practices; and experience in resolving conflict in a neutral setting with a focus on personal and organizational interests.

Levine-Finley has been an associate ombudsman at NIH since 2008. A former print journalist, she earned a master’s degree in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University and has interests in interpersonal dynamics, the psychological aspects of conflict and escalation and coaching. She has conducted training on communication in conflict, negotiation and managing emotions. She is a leader in the International Ombudsman Association and co-authored a recent article on the history of the organizational ombudsman profession for Conflict Resolution Quarterly.

In addition to adding new staff, the office recently launched a new web site—http://ombudsman.nih.gov. It will provide the NIH community with helpful resources and in-depth information. New features on the site include pages tailored to scientists, administrators, support staff and trainees on the wide variety of services offered by the office and links to tools to assist personnel in managing workplace and lab concerns.

The OO/CCR has also completed a Biennial Report covering 2009 and 2010 that highlights accomplishments over the past 2 years. The report also references the recent evaluation of the office that was conducted by the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. The office is implementing recommendations from the evaluation to enhance its services. The Biennial Report is available at http://ombudsman.nih.gov/aboutReport.html.

If you or a colleague could benefit from a confidential and impartial perspective on a workplace concern or question, consider contacting the office, which is located in Bldg. 31, Rm. 2B63. The office’s confidential main number is (301) 594-7231.

White House Announces New NCAB Members

Dr. Bruce Chabner Dr. Marcia Cruz-Correa
Dr. Bruce Chabner Dr. Marcia Cruz-Correa

The White House recently announced the appointment of five new members to the National Cancer Advisory Board and the designation of the NCAB chair, Dr. Bruce Chabner.

Chabner is director of clinical research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. He is an internationally renowned oncologist and cancer pharmacologist who has devoted both his clinical and research career to the improvement of patient treatment and care affecting patients throughout the world.

Dr. Marcia Cruz-Correa is an associate professor of medicine and biochemistry at the University of Puerto Rico, and basic and translational science director, UPR Comprehensive Cancer Center San Juan. At UPR, she leads a gastrointestinal oncology program.

Dr. Kevin J. Cullen Dr. Olufunmilayo F. Olopade
Dr. Kevin J. Cullen

Dr. Olufunmilayo F. Olopade
Dr. Jonathan M. Samet Dr. William R. Sellers
Dr. Jonathan M. Samet Dr. William R. Sellers

Dr. Kevin J. Cullen is director of the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland and a professor of medicine. Under his leadership, the center became an NCI Designated Cancer Center in 2008.

Dr. Olufunmilayo F. Olopade is the Walter L. Palmer distinguished service professor of medicine & human genetics, associate dean for global health and director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She is an authority on cancer risk assessment, prevention and individualized treatment based on risk factors and quality of life.

Dr. Jonathan M. Samet is professor and Flora L. Thornton chair of the department of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and director of the USC Institute for Global Health. He has addressed health risks posed by environmental agents, including active and passive smoking, indoor and outdoor air pollution, cancer occurrence among diverse populations and patterns of cancer care.

Dr. William R. Sellers is vice president and global head of oncology for the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, where he oversees small molecule and antibody-based drug discovery efforts in oncology. He has won research funding from a number of organizations including NCI, the Damon-Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation.

NIGMS Welcomes Janes, Lees

Dr. Daniel Janes Dr. Robert “Bob” Lees

Evolutionary geneticist Dr. Daniel Janes (l) recently joined NIGMS as a program director in the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology, where he will oversee research grants in the areas of DNA replication, recombination and repair. Before coming to NIGMS, Janes was a research fellow at Harvard University. He earned a B.A. in biology from Boston University and a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Florida, then did postdoctoral research at Iowa State University. Dr. Robert “Bob” Lees came to NIGMS as a program director in the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry, where he will manage grants in the area of synthetic organic chemistry. Prior to joining NIGMS, he was a program director in the Developmental Therapeutics Program, Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis at NCI. Lees earned a B.S. in chemistry from Duke University and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Stanford University.

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins administers the oath of office to new NIDCR director Dr. Martha Somerman.
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins administers the oath of office to new NIDCR director Dr. Martha Somerman.
NIDCR Director Somerman Sworn In

On Aug. 31, Dr. Martha Somerman took the oath of office as the eighth director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in a ceremony officiated by NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. Also attending was Dr. Lawrence Tabak, NIH principal deputy director and former director of NIDCR.

A widely respected periodontist and researcher, Somerman most recently served as dean of the University of Washington School of Dentistry in Seattle. She held that post since 2002, while also teaching in the school’s periodontics and oral biology departments and serving on the medical staffs of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and the University of Washington Medical Center.

Somerman’s research on development and regeneration of oral tissues has been recognized with numerous honors and awards. She will continue her research on oral connective tissue biology with a lab in the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. No stranger to NIH’s intramural program, Somerman was a staff fellow in the National Institute of Dental Research (which has since added Craniofacial to its name) in the early 1980s.


back to top of page