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Vol. LXIV, No. 17
August 17, 2012

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Office of the Director Hosts All-Hands Meeting

On the front page...

NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak addresses OD all-hands meeting.

NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak addresses OD all-hands meeting.

On July 16, Office of the Director employees gathered at an all-hands meeting to hear NIH leadership thank them for their hard work, describe challenges and accomplishments and relay results of a recent employee survey.

To a full Masur Auditorium, Dr. Lawrence Tabak, NIH principal deputy director, joked, “The rumor is that I’m going to retire and that this was the only way I could get anyone to come to the party.” He urged everyone to “Exhale! Nothing bad is going to happen…Thank you, first and foremost. Without you, very important things would not get done around here.”

Tabak introduced the five other NIH deputy directors, allowing each to outline his or her responsibilities and share recent accomplishments and challenges.

Dr. James Anderson, director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, explained the divisionís role of overseeing research infrastructure, advancing comparison medicine and identifying scientific priorities across NIH.


“We’re becoming more effective in working across our offices,” Anderson said. “It’s sometimes a challenge to work across all the institutes and centers.” Several deputy directors echoed this theme of improvement in working across divisions within OD, although challenges still remain in trans-NIH efforts because of the historically decentralized model of the organization.

Colleen Barros Dr. Kathy Hudson and Dr. Michael Gottesman

Among the NIH deputy directors on the panel were (from l) Colleen Barros, Dr. Kathy Hudson and Dr. Michael Gottesman.

Photos: Ernie Branson

Colleen Barros serves as deputy director for management and chief financial officer, overseeing the business infrastructure of NIH. “We have had a good past couple years with my management team, not only in terms of developing a vision for what we do administratively, but also in working very closely with our colleagues in the centers and institutes.”

Office of Management accomplishments, Barros said, range from implementing telework programs to fostering a more collaborative culture across divisions. OM also orchestrated logistics planning and administration during this year’s storms and heat wave, as well as helped oversee the creation of NIH’s newest center, NCATS. OM’s challenges range from navigating budget cuts to “developing saving strategies that may depend on consolidating activities in a highly decentralized environment.”

Masur Auditorium was full for the July 16 OD all-hands meeting.

Masur Auditorium was full for the July 16 OD all-hands meeting.

Dr. Michael Gottesman, deputy director for intramural research, and his staff oversee intramural research, training, scientific appointments and technology transfer within NIH. “Our major goal is to ensure the scientific staff is of high quality, while creating a research environment for success.” He said that expanding diversity within the NIH scientific community is an ongoing challenge.

“Everything will be fine,” assured the 19-year veteran of his post. By this fall, he said, he will have assembled an advisory committee to help guide the Office of Intramural Research. “I have to say,” he admitted, “that 19 years went really quickly.”

As deputy director for science, outreach and policy, Dr. Kathy Hudson works with her staff to promote NIH’s research in the media, advance the organization’s legislative agenda and develop scientific policy on issues such as avian influenza. She also stressed the importance of relationships with other organizations within NIH, such as their work to help the newest member of the NIH team, NCATS, get off to a smooth start.

Dr. James Anderson of DPCPSI

Dr. James Anderson of DPCPSI

Finally, Dr. Sally Rockey, deputy director for extramural research, explained that her world consists of grant funding for research that occurs outside of NIH; she pointed out that NIH made its first extramural grant in 1939.

“Our extramural research program is very large,” she explained. “We support 300,000 scientists across the country and world.” One of the challenges for the Office of Extramural Research, she continued, is that the program encompasses so many issues. New technology such as blogging, however, has helped provide information on OER grants and their results to a wider audience. She is also assisted by an attitude she has made public on numerous occasions: “It truly is a joy to come to work each day.”

Tabak then reviewed a PowerPoint presentation depicting the results of the 2011 Employee Viewpoint Survey. “I don’t even speak to my wife without [using] PowerPoint,” he quipped. The answers to survey questions were collapsed into ratings of positive, neutral or negative responses. Additionally, several recommendations were borne of this survey, one of which, Tabak remarked, included the all-hands OD meeting.

He noted that 83 percent of respondents believe the work they do is important. Overall, a majority of respondents believe their supervisors are doing a good job and 68 percent report satisfaction with their job, but Tabak recommended more communication across work units and encouraged leadership to continue to support their staff.

Dr. Sally Rockey addresses crowd in Masur

Dr. Sally Rockey addresses crowd in Masur.

“Based on the feedback, we need to enhance our efforts at rewarding creativity and innovation,” he said, as only slightly over half of respondents felt they had sufficient resources to do their jobs. The majority of respondents, 64 percent, felt that OD has policies to promote diversity, Tabak added, “but we want 100 percent on this one.”

Finally, Tabak initiated a question-and-answer period for the final 15 minutes of an hour-long session. Asked what would happen if the federal budget supercommittee could not agree on a budget before next Jan. 2, Tabak said, “The effect of sequestration on NIH as a whole would be nothing short of catastrophic.” He predicted the loss of thousands of grants and “an impact on the workforce that we may feel for generations to come.”

Employees are invited to email questions/comments to Concluded Tabak, “I hope this won’t be a one-time event.”

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