Rockey Wins Carrabino Award for Research Administrators
By Manju Subramanya
Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH deputy director for extramural research, recently won the Joseph A. Carrabino Award from the National Council of University Research Administrators.
Photo: Elise Rabin
For universities submitting grant applications to federal agencies, variations in grants policy can cause major headaches, noted Dr. Carol Blum, director of research compliance and administration at the Council of Governmental Relations, an association of research universities.
So Blum is appreciative of the work being done by Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH deputy director for extramural research. “She has worked really hard to make sure agencies have a common approach,” said Blum, who nominated Rockey for the Joseph A. Carrabino Award.
The award, from the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA), recognizes a federal partner who has made a significant contribution to research administration.
“@NCURA today, honored to receive Joseph Carrabino award—excellence in university/government relations,” a delighted Rockey tweeted at the awards luncheon in Washington D.C., recently.
Rockey leads the NIH Office of Extramural Research, which sets grants policy, ensures compliance and integrity, electronically processes grants and is responsible for stewardship of the NIH research grant portfolio. With over 80 percent of NIH’s $30.9 billion annual budget going towards funding medical research worldwide through grants, OER has a major responsibility.
Rockey has the difficult task of balancing the mission of NIH and the concerns of the biomedical research enterprise at large. “You have to be quick on your feet, pay attention to both sides and come to solutions that will benefit both the federal government and the research community,” she noted.
Rockey has had a hand in major fed-wide efforts to streamline research administration—through, for example, the proposal for a single researcher profile with SciENcv and an effort to bring all information on awarded grants together so that university partners can find it through Star Metrics.
She has won high praise for her work co-chairing the A-21 task force that recommended ways to the Office of Management and Budget to reduce burdens and costs for academic research.
“Sally is a tireless and enthusiastic leader, with the superb capability of balancing the interest of the federal government for accountability and the interest of academia for simplicity,” noted Gil Tran, an OMB senior technical manager, in his nomination of Rockey.
Rockey’s current focus includes the biomedical workforce initiative, looking at the pipeline of researchers and examining training programs.
She has also won kudos for engaging with the research community through her blog Rock Talk. “What a buzz about her blog,” Blum said. “It is the kind of engagement with the community that has done more for NIH in terms of reputation in research administration than anything else.”
Rockey’s love of biology came from her mother, a teacher who loved the outdoors and painting landscapes. Rockey received a Ph.D. in entomology from Ohio State University and then took a job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, running an entomology competitive grants program. She soon climbed the ladder, leading the extramural competitive grants program and even spending her last couple of years at the agency as chief information officer.
With 19 years at USDA and the Presidential Rank Award in 2004, Rockey was recruited by NIH in 2005 as deputy director of OER and assumed the top job in 2008.
Rockey is married to Sam Stribling, an environmental consultant. Their son, Jimmy, is studying at Savannah College of Art & Design. Rockey is also an avid bridge player, book club participant, a gym regular and can be spotted at almost every local Bruce Springsteen concert (50 and counting), singing along until she is hoarse.
“Springsteen? I’m not surprised. Like him, she is there working for the little folks,” Blum said with a chuckle.
NHLBI Mourns Loss Of Vascular Science Expert Skarlatos
Dr. Sonia I. Skarlatos, deputy director of the NHLBI Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, passed away on Aug. 6 at age 59.
During her 20-year career with NHLBI, Skarlatos became a distinguished national and international leader in vascular science. She helped develop several gene and cell
therapy programs and was one of NIH’s most
respected leaders in advancing an agenda to
support translational research. In 2012, she was
awarded the inaugural Distinguished Service
honor from the American Society of Gene and
“For many of us, Sonia was a role model as a
selfless, dedicated public servant,” said
NHLBI director Dr. Gary Gibbons. “She was
highly esteemed by colleagues throughout our
internal community and the greater extramural
community. Sonia will be remembered for
her innumerable contributions to the health
of the nation as well as for her thoughtful and
Skarlatos earned her undergraduate and master’s
degrees in biology from Shippensburg University
in Pennsylvania, followed by her Ph.D. in
physiology from Pennsylvania State University.
She joined NHLBI in 1985 as a senior staff fellow
in the section of experimental atherosclerosis.
In 1992, she became a health science
administrator in the Vascular Biology Program,
launching a gene therapy data safety and monitoring
board and coordinating gene therapy
research across NHLBI. She then served as
acting director of the cardiovascular division
before becoming its deputy director in 2004.
Skarlatos’s concern about the gap between discovery
and clinical testing led her to establish
the Science Moving Towards Research Translation
and Therapy Program, which assists with
the translation of new synthetic, natural or
biologic treatments for heart, lung and blood
diseases from the scientific community to the
clinic. She also managed the Cardiovascular Cell
Therapy Research Network, which promotes
and accelerates the evaluation of new cell therapy
treatment strategies for people with cardiovascular
Skarlatos published numerous influential
papers throughout her career. In the past year
alone, she co-authored eight articles, including
a seminal report in the Journal of the American
Medical Association on the results of a clinical
trial testing the use and timing of bone marrow
mononuclear cells on left ventricular function
after acute myocardial infarction. She also
co-authored a recent paper on the value of cell
therapy research for preventing heart failure
after myocardial infarction and for treating
patients with existing heart failure.
“Sonia offered incredible leadership and contributions
to all of us, to the scientific community
and to the nation,” said Dr. Michael Lauer,
director of NHLBI’s Division of Cardiovascular
Sciences. “Beyond her professional interests and accomplishments, we will
remember her as a dear dedicated friend, colleague, advisor, mentor and confidant.
Being able to work with and learn from Sonia was a great blessing. She
will be deeply missed.”
Skarlatos is survived by her husband, Dr. Howard Kruth, an investigator in the
NHLBI Division of Intramural Research; daughter, Roxane Burkett, in NHLBI’s
Office of Acquisitions; stepdaughter, Rachel Kruth; mother, Sylvette; brother,
Stephen; and grandchildren, Patric and Sofia Burkett.
NHLBI Alumnus Letendre Mourned
Dr. Carol H. Letendre, 75, former deputy director
of NHLBI’s Division of Blood Diseases and
Resources, died Aug. 22 of septic shock and
pneumonia. She retired in March 2001 and had
enjoyed volunteer work in recent years at the
National Aquarium in Baltimore.
Letendre, a biochemist, spent 20 of her 32 years
at NIH at NHLBI. She helped guide research
that led to such advances as an understanding
of the role of blood clots in heart attacks, a
national blood safety program and new developments
in the management of hemophilia and
sickle cell disease.
Letendre also contributed to the development of
NHLBI’s stem cell research and stem cell transplantation programs. Her interests
were treatment and cure of hemophilia and prevention and treatment of
Early in her NIH career, she was a research chemist in NICHD’s Laboratory of
Biomedical Sciences. She became director of the NIA dermatology program in
1980, marking the start of a 20-year career as a health scientist administrator.
In 1981, she joined NHLBI as executive secretary of the institute’s research
manpower review committee in the Division of Extramural Affairs. Two years
later she became program administrator for the DBDR Hemophilia and Platelet
Disorders Program, and in 1986 she was named the division’s deputy director.
She won an NIH Director’s Award in 1999 for her work as a member of the
trans-NIH zebrafish coordinating committee.
She is survived by two sons, Dr. Kenneth A. Letendre of Albuquerque, N.M.,
and Robert W. Letendre, Jr. of Germantown, Md.; a brother, Richard Hilary of
Tallahassee, Fla.; a sister, Sue Hilary Castillo of Albuquerque, N.M.; and by her
former husband, Robert W. Letendre, Sr. of Potomac, Md.
NIAID’s Barillas-Mury Wins Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award
Dr. Carolina V. Barillas-Mury, chief of the mosquito immunity
and vector competence section in NIAID’s Laboratory
of Malaria and Vector Research, has received a 2013
Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award for her outstanding contributions
to understanding the mosquito immune responses
that affect malaria transmission. Recently, Barillas-Mury
and her research group discovered a gene, called Pfs47,
that enables the malaria-causing Plasmodium falciparum
parasite to elude the mosquito immune system. She and her
colleagues are now investigating ways to block the function
of this key gene so the mosquito immune system can detect and eliminate the parasite
before it is transmitted to people.
EAMC Names New Chairs
The NIH Extramural Administrative Management Council recently designated NCI’s Kristie Hill (r) and NIDCD’s Lisa Portnoy (c) as incoming EAMC chair and vice chair, respectively. They will serve for a year, starting in October. Nikki Lattimore (l) of NBS will replace NIAID’s Veree Bampoe-Addo as agenda chair. The council serves as a resource for communicating the latest NIH administrative issues and developments to the extramural administrative community. It provides a forum for AOs to focus on advances in administrative services in support of NIH science.