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Vol. LXIII, No. 21
October 14, 2011
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Two NIH Scientists Win ‘Sammies’

NCI’s Dr. C. Norman Coleman (l) accepts the 2011 Homeland Security Service to America Medal following remarks by Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu (r).

NCI’s Dr. C. Norman Coleman (l) accepts the 2011 Homeland Security Service to America Medal following remarks by Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu (r).

Two NIH scientists are among nine federal workers honored with the 10th annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, or “Sammies,” conferred by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. The winners were feted at a gala downtown on Sept. 15.

Dr. William A. Gahl, clinical director at the National Human Genome Research Institute and director of the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP), won the award, along with Dr. C. Norman Coleman, associate director of the Radiation Research Program at the National Cancer Institute.

“I am delighted that the Partnership for Public Service has bestowed the Science and Environmental Medal to Bill Gahl for his work with the Undiagnosed Diseases Program and for his 30-year career at NIH,” said NHGRI director Dr. Eric Green. “He is a model physician-scientist who tirelessly pursues understanding the genetic basis of rare diseases and developing new therapies for his patients. He ably leads the internationally recognized NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program that seeks to establish the cause of diseases that have eluded diagnosis. He is certainly worthy of a national award of this caliber.”

Attending the award presentation was Sally Massagee, a UDP patient and a resident of North Carolina. Her amyloidosis—a rare condition that causes build-up of immunoglobulin proteins in some blood vessels—was diagnosed in 2009, leading to a treatment that has restored her health.

“Dr. Gahl created the UDP and it literally saved my life,” said Massagee. “Thirteen different specialists said to me, ‘Something is wrong, it is not my field, goodbye.’ I can’t convey to you the loss, the grief, the fear, the pain and the heartbreak that I felt as my body failed more and more quickly. The UDP gave me hope; the UDP gave me my life.”

Dr. William Gahl (l) accepts the Service to America Award in the company of UDP patient Sally Massagee and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Dr. William Gahl (l) accepts the Service to America Award in the company of UDP patient Sally Massagee and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Photos: Sam Kittner/kittner.com

NCI’s Coleman, recipient of the Partnership’s Homeland Security Medal, is a radiation oncologist who developed a comprehensive blueprint to prepare U.S. government and emergency responders for terrorist attacks involving radiological or nuclear materials. Earlier this year, he assisted in Japan’s response to radiation resulting from the earthquake- and tsunami-damaged nuclear power plants.

The emergency response plans that Coleman and his team use are built from the best available science. The team works with NCI and the Centers for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation, NIAID. They rely on advanced development support from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. This builds on the concept of “dual-utility” so that investments in cancer research and emergency response benefit one another.

“The recipients of the Service to America Medals showcase the good that government does, which positively affects our lives every day,” said Max Stier, Partnership for Public Service president and CEO. “By honoring these outstanding public servants, we give America’s federal heroes the long overdue thanks and recognition they deserve.”

The Partnership reviewed the accomplishments of more than 400 nominees whose contributions have had a profound impact on the health, safety and well-being of Americans. NIHRecord Icon


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