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Vol. LXV, No. 19
September 13, 2013

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Van Nevel, Former NCI Communications Chief, Mourned
By James Mathews

J. Paul Van Nevel

J. Paul Van Nevel, former associate director for cancer communications at NCI, died on Aug. 4 from complications related to progressive supranuclear palsy. He was 75 years old.

Van Nevel joined NCI in 1973, bringing with him considerable experience from his time as director of public relations at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and earlier as director of public information at the University of Wisconsin Medical Center.

His arrival at NCI coincided with implementation of the National Cancer Act of 1971, which included mandates to promote and disseminate information about cancer research to the public. By the time he retired in 1999, after 26 years of federal service, Van Nevel had helped equip NCI with a premier communications operation, leaving behind a legacy of enduring programs and accomplished leaders in the field of communications.

Among the many colleagues he mentored was John Burklow, current NIH associate director for communications and public liaison, who remembers Van Nevel as a thoughtful public servant and source of inspiration. “Paul was a true leader and made a lasting impact not just in cancer communications at NCI, but across the NIH communications landscape,” Burklow said. “He will be deeply missed.”

During his tenure at NCI, Van Nevel cultivated a reputation as a reliable, resourceful manager and innovator. In addition to being one of the charter members of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service, he led many efforts that were considered cutting-edge at the time and that have continued to evolve and thrive to this day.

In 1976, for example, he spearheaded establishment of the Cancer Information Service, a nationwide information and education network that provides Americans with free access to the latest, most accurate cancer information. Before the CIS telephone service was established, the public had no reliable source for information about cancer. Today, CIS has expanded into a robust multichannel contact center that responds to several hundred thousand public inquiries per year using web-based communication tools, including social media.

Van Nevel also helped pioneer the involvement of advocacy groups in program planning. In the 1970s, he invited breast cancer advocates to help develop NCI’s first breast cancer education program. He reached out to diethystilbestrol advocates for the first DES educational campaign and often engaged cancer patient organizations in the development of NCI’s patient education programs, which were numerous during his tenure. In all these efforts, he ensured that programs included outreach to minority and underserved populations.

In 1988, Van Nevel became founding editor of the news section of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. His work in this area would go on to serve as a model for other federal newsletters and publications at NCI and elsewhere—both in print and online.

In addition to developing NCI’s extensive press relations program, Van Nevel created the Cancer Centers Public Affairs Network, a group that helped mobilize the cancer center community to get cancer information to the American public more quickly and more consistently. He also championed a number of widely regarded public health promotion campaigns that centered on tobacco cessation, nutrition and early detection. Among them was NCI’s collaboration with the U.S. Postal Service, which in 1996 issued 100 million breast cancer awareness stamps as part of a wider informational campaign about breast cancer detection.

Over his final decade with NCI, Van Nevel oversaw the institute’s transition into the digital communications age. He aggressively pursued NCI’s web presence throughout the 1990s and helped adapt the institute’s communications resources to the emerging medium.

In 1999, Van Nevel received the University of Wisconsin’s Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism and Mass Communication and was selected by then President Bill Clinton for the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive.

Van Nevel is survived by Lois, his wife of 51 years, his daughters Catherine and Kari, seven grandchildren and eight brothers and sisters and their families.

NINR’s McCloskey Named an AAN Fellow

Dr. Donna Jo McCloskey

Dr. Donna Jo McCloskey, a program director in NINR’s Office of Extramural Programs, was recently selected as an American Academy of Nursing (AAN) fellow. AAN fellows are nurse leaders who have made significant contributions to nursing and health care. McCloskey oversees the NINR centers program and the institutional training awards program. During her 28 years at NIH, she has also held positions at the Clinical Center and the National Center for Research Resources. Her research on improving venous access devices and related thrombotic complications is published in national as well as international journals. Recently, she convened a team of representatives from NIH, CDC, other federal agencies and NIH-grantee institutions to publish the 2nd edition of the HHS publication Principles of Community Engagement. McCloskey received a B.S. in nursing from Marymount University and an M.A. in research design and interpretation and a Ph.D. in nursing from George Mason University. She is the recipient of several awards, including a Clinical Center Nursing Research Award, an NIH Distinguished Nurse Award, an Alumni Achievement Award from Marymount University and an NIH Director’s Award. The 2013 class of fellows will be inducted during the academy’s annual meeting in October.

Journal Honors NIDDK’s Minton

Dr. Allen Minton

Dr. Allen Minton, senior investigator at NIDDK’s Laboratory of Biochemistry and Genetics, was recently featured in a special issue of Biophysical Reviews to honor his 70th birthday and pay tribute to his career. The issue recognized his achievements as “one of the most innovative biophysical scientists of the last 50 years.”

Minton first came to NIDDK in 1970, when it was known as the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, he and his coworkers pioneered the concept of macromolecular crowding, which describes how the presence of a high concentration of macromolecules in a particular medium influences the way each species of macromolecule behaves in that medium. Much of his research over the years, including what he learned from interactions between pharmacologically active ligands and their cellular receptors, has set the foundation for drug developments.

“I first decided to pursue science hoping to build on the ideas of others before me and perhaps come up with a few good ideas of my own,” he said. “Over the course of my career at NIDDK, I have been lucky to work in a stable, nurturing environment filled with talented researchers. It has been humbling for Biophysical Reviews to honor me in this way.”—Krysten Carrera

NIDA Honors Addiction Science Awardees

The 2013 winners of NIDA’s Addiction Science Awards presented their projects to NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow (third from l). They include (from l) Gili Risak (honorable mention); Zarin Ibnat Rahman (first place); Emory Morris Payne and Zohaib Majaz Moonis (second place); and Alaina Nicole Sonksen (third place).
The 2013 winners of NIDA’s Addiction Science Awards, part of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, presented their projects to NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow (third from l) and other NIDA scientists recently and afterwards toured the NIH campus. They include (from l) Gili Risak (honorable mention); Zarin Ibnat Rahman (first place for “The At-Risk Maturing Brain: Effects of Stress Paradigms on Mood, Memory and Cognition in Adolescents and the Role of the Prefrontal Cortex”); Emory Morris Payne and Zohaib Majaz Moonis (second place, “The Effect of Ethanol on Beta Cell Development in Zebrafish”); and Alaina Nicole Sonksen (third place, “Determining the Behavioral and Physiological Effects of Pentedrone-Based Bath Salts on Drosophila melanogaster”).

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