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Vol. LXIV, No. 20
September 28, 2012

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NIH Scientists Receive 2012 Service to America Medals

Dr. Lynn Mofenson Dr. Neal Young
Dr. Lynn Mofenson of NICHD and Dr. Neal Young of NHLBI were among 9 winners of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals.

Two NIH scientists were among 9 winners of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, or “Sammies,” bestowed on public servants who make “high-impact contributions to the health, safety and well-being of Americans.”

Dr. Lynn Mofenson, chief of NICHD’s Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal AIDS Branch, received the Federal Employee of the Year Award from the Partnership for Public Service.

Dr. Neal Young, chief of NHLBI’s Hematology Branch, received the Sammie in the Science and Environment category.

Mofenson was recognized for playing a crucial role in preventing the AIDS epidemic among U.S. children, helping to design and conduct a pivotal clinical trial that led to an effective means to prevent pregnant women from passing HIV on to their infants and for dedicating her career to conducting additional research on HIV and influencing national HIV policy.

In 1989, when Mofenson came to NICHD, 25 to 35 percent of all infants born to HIV-positive mothers were themselves HIV-positive. A landmark research study published by Mofenson and her colleagues in 1994 showed that use of the anti-HIV drug zidovudine (AZT) reduced the mother-to-child HIV transmission rate to 8.3 percent. Mofenson’s further collaborations led to other successful strategies for blocking mother- to-child transmission. She later chaired a Public Health Service task force that made national recommendations on preventing pediatric AIDS infection and later worked to implement these recommendations. Currently, there are fewer than 100 new HIV cases transmitted from mother to child in the U.S. each year. Today, Mofenson continues to work with colleagues in this country and around the world to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Young’s work has saved the lives of patients with bone marrow failure diseases, including aplastic anemia. Accomplishments from his laboratory include the successful development of immunosuppressive therapies for patients with aplastic anemia and related syndromes; the description of B19 parvovirus as an agent of human disease and the development of a vaccine that is now in clinical trials; and the elucidation of both the immunology and genetics of acquired aplastic anemia, including the first demonstration of pathogenic mutations in TERT, the gene for the telomerase enzyme.

“It is wonderful to see Neal receive such prestigious recognition for his achievements and his ongoing efforts to improve the lives of people with rare blood and bone marrow diseases,” said NHLBI director Dr. Gary Gibbons. “We are proud of the extraordinary public service that he and others of our staff here at the NHLBI perform every day.”

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