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Vol. LXV, No. 25
December 6, 2013

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Hartge, ‘The People’s Epidemiologist,’ Retires from NCI

Dr. Patricia Hartge
After 36 years at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Patricia Hartge, deputy director of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program within the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG), retired recently. She is known internationally for her methodological contributions to epidemiology, from the first application of random-digit dialing in the 1970s to conducting genome-wide association studies (GWAS) today. During her tenure at NIH, she carried out path-breaking research on ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma and other malignancies.

“As a key member of the division leadership, Trisha’s influence over the course and direction of our research agenda and training program yielded innumerable benefits to the health of the American public and the world,” said DCEG director Dr. Stephen Chanock. “She is truly ‘the people’s epidemiologist.’”

Hartge was instrumental in the scientific management of DCEG research programs, serving as deputy director of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program since 1996. She is perhaps best known as the architect of international, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional consortia in cancer epidemiology, including InterLymph and the NCI Cohort Consortium.

“Trisha is not only a gifted epidemiologist and mentor but she is also a visionary leader,” said Dr. Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., founding director of DCEG. “She is a most talented ambassador to the extramural community. It was her passion and commitment that set the foundation for the NCI Cohort Consortium.”

In the year leading up to her retirement, Hartge took on additional responsibilities, including chairing the DCEG promotion and tenure review panel. She took great pride in shepherding investigators through the NIH tenure review process.

“Junior investigators owe her a great debt, as well, because her work behind the scenes always included concern for and advocacy on their behalf, even when that meant giving away an idea or an opportunity to lead an important publication,” said Dr. Robert Croyle, director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences.

Hartge is the recipient of many honors including an NIH Merit Award for research on ovarian cancer, the Harvard School of Public Health Alumni Award of Merit and the Department of Health and Human Services Career Achievement Award, as well as the NIH Director’s Award for Mentoring.

In her new role as scientist emerita, Hartge will continue mentoring junior scientists and offering expertise in the arena of study design for GWAS and other projects where pooled data are imperative.—Jennifer Loukissas

CSR’s Krishnan Retires with 33 Years of Service
By Paula Whitacre

Dr. Krish Krishnan

Dr. Krish Krishnan retired recently as a scientific review officer (SRO) in the Center for Scientific Review, where he coordinated study sections and special emphasis panels related to metabolic diseases.

“He had a huge impact on diabetes research…through leadership of his study sections at a time when diabetes was exploding as a public health problem,” said Dr. Judith Fradkin, director of NIDDK’s Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases.

Krishnan’s focus on diabetes as an SRO and in his own research stemmed in part from family history with the disease.

After earning a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Madras in southern India, Krishnan graduated first in his class with an M.S. from the University of Baroda, then received a Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Science, both in biochemistry. He was the only one in his family of three brothers (the other two are engineers) who aimed for study in the United States.

In 1972, he was accepted into the John Fogarty International Fellowship Program at NIH and worked in labs at NHLBI and NINDS. At NHLBI, his research focused on the role of second messengers in pathophysiological processes in tissue and cellular systems. He stayed on as a senior staff fellow at NINDS from 1978 to 1984, when his research shifted to understanding underlying mechanisms of ion channels.

A 6-month consultancy in the National Eye Institute and 1 year with NHLBI gave him, as he described it, “a wonderful opportunity to see what extramural was like.” In 1986, he joined the then Division of Research Grants (now CSR). He administered the metabolism study section for more than 15 years, when he took over special review study sections related to endocrinology, metabolism, nutrition and reproductive sciences. The portfolio included small business grants, fellowships, applications that would have conflicts of interest if reviewed in chartered study sections and continuous submissions.

“The portfolio was always changing and I learned something new every day,” he said. One of the most important aspects of peer review, he noted, is recruiting the right mix of reviewers. Fradkin agreed. “Because of his long-term associations, he was very successful in getting top, established investigators to serve as reviewers,” she said.

“Krish was known for encouraging an atmosphere of camaraderie and collegiality on study sections he ran,” said Dr. Robert Garofalo, chief of the endocrinology, metabolism, nutrition and reproductive sciences integrated review group in CSR. “He was seen as putting fairness of the discussion and the review above all else.” Krishnan was also known for his outreach to study section members and program staff after meetings for feedback to improve future efforts.

Krishnan served on a number of NIH committees, including the peer review best practices, seminar and employee advisory committees in CSR. For 4 years, he was on the diabetes mellitus interagency coordinating committee organized by NIDDK.

His immediate retirement plans include travel and possible limited activity in peer review administration or in coordinating diabetes/metabolism research in other ways.

Institute’s Longest-Serving Staff Member
NIGMS Budget Officer Vess Retires
By Jilliene Drayton

Nancy Vess

When Nancy Vess joined NIGMS, the institute had recently commemorated its 10th anniversary, its home was off campus and its budget was $187 million. During her 38 years of federal service—all spent at NIGMS, and the last 10 of them as its budget officer—Vess saw the institute relocate to Natcher Bldg. on campus, mark its 50th anniversary and increase its budget to $2.4 billion.

On Nov. 2, she experienced another milestone: retirement.

As NIGMS’s longest-serving employee, Vess can remember when the institute used calculators and typewriters rather than computers. “I also witnessed a lot of programmatic changes, including the transfer of a number of programs to NHGRI and NIBIB and, more recently, the transfer of NCRR programs to NIGMS,” she said.

Shortly after earning an associate’s degree in business administration from Montgomery College, Vess joined NIGMS as a grants clerk in what was formerly known as the Clinical and Physiological Sciences Program. Having a love for math and data analysis, she later advanced to grants financial analyst. In 1981, she joined the institute’s budget office, where she served as a budget analyst until she was promoted to deputy chief in 1984. The following year, she earned a B.S. degree in business administration and accounting from American University. Vess was appointed budget officer in 2003.

In addition to budget formulation, presentation and execution responsibilities, Vess served on numerous NIH committees, including the IC budget officers’ group and the NIH OD central services advisory committee. She also received numerous awards and honors, including three NIH Awards of Merit as well as two NIH Director’s Awards for her contributions to the implementation of NIH Roadmap for Medical Research programs.

“Nancy is well-regarded both within NIGMS and in the broader NIH budget community for her seasoned financial management advice and expertise,” said NIGMS Executive Officer Sally Lee. “She offered practical recommendations regarding fiscal matters based on an expert knowledge of our programs and grant funding mechanisms and her contributions to NIH and NIGMS have been invaluable. Needless to say, she will be missed!”

In retirement, Vess plans to make time for hobbies and interests that she once struggled to squeeze into her busy schedule. Her list of future activities includes reading, crocheting and tackling house projects. Vess also plans to spend more time with family, visit her son in Los Angeles and enjoy life as a grandmother when her other son has his first child in the spring.

Compton Named Deputy Director of NIDA

Dr. Wilson Compton
Dr. Wilson Compton

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has named Dr. Wilson Compton, a nationally known expert on the causes and prevention of drug abuse, as deputy director of the institute.

Since 2002, he has served as director of NIDA’s Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research, managing a program of national and international scope addressing the extent and causes of drug abuse and the development of effective prevention strategies.

Compton has been a member of the DSM-5 task force and the substance use disorders workgroup for the past 5 years. In addition, he has been leading an effort jointly sponsored by NIDA and FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products to field a large-scale longitudinal population study of more than 50,000 persons to assess the impact of new tobacco regulations.

In October 2013, Compton was one of 10 people to receive the HHS Secretary’s Award for Meritorious Service. He was recognized for outstanding cross-agency collaborations linking NIDA with multiple HHS and outside agencies to reduce tobacco and prescription drug abuse and to improve substance abuse prevention and treatment systems.

2013 ExLP Cohort Graduates

ExLP grads this year include (from l) Phil Wang (NIMH), Cathy Spong (NICHD), Doug Sheeley (NIGMS), Ellen Rolfes (NHGRI), Dorit Zuk (OD), David Michael (OD), George Coy (NIDCR), Cathie Cooper (CSR), Janet Shorback (OD), Yang Fann (NINDS), Betsy Wilder (OD), Phil Smith (NIDDK), Valerie Gill (OD), Kate O’Sullivan (NHLBI), Luigi Ferrucci (NIA), Chris Long (NIEHS), Susan Weiss (NIDA). Not shown are Dennis Dixon (NIAID), Isabel Garcia (NIDCR), Gary Gibbons (NHLBI).
ExLP grads this year include (from l) Phil Wang (NIMH), Cathy Spong (NICHD),Doug Sheeley (NIGMS), Ellen Rolfes (NHGRI), Dorit Zuk (OD), David Michael (OD), George Coy (NIDCR), Cathie Cooper (CSR), Janet Shorback (OD), Yang Fann (NINDS), Betsy Wilder (OD), Phil Smith (NIDDK), Valerie Gill (OD), Kate O’Sullivan (NHLBI), Luigi Ferrucci (NIA), Chris Long (NIEHS), Susan Weiss (NIDA). Not shown are Dennis Dixon (NIAID), Isabel Garcia (NIDCR), Gary Gibbons (NHLBI).

Norman Augustine Dr. Griffin Rodgers
Addressing program graduates at the ceremony were Norman Augustine (l) chair, NIH scientific management review board and retired chair and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Dr. Griffin Rodgers, NIDDK director

NIH leaders spanning 14 institutes participating in the Executive Leadership Program (ExLP) recently graduated from the 7-month program.

Highlights of the ceremony included messages about the importance of leadership and characteristics of great leaders from Lockheed Martin Corp. retired CEO Norman Augustine, who chairs NIH’s scientific management review board, and Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of NIDDK.

Rodgers shared his personal leadership journey with with his “top 7 leadership lessons.” He closed his presentation with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Life’s most urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” Rodgers related this quote to NIH’s mission and to the ExLP.

“Because of your work with NIH, each and every one of you can answer this question proudly in the affirmative,” said Rodgers. “And because of your leadership training through ExLP, you’ll be able to answer it even more emphatically in the future. I can say unequivocally that through your leadership at NIH, and by following your passions, it will lead you to the greatest reward one can have—to make a positive, profound difference in people’s lives. And one day may that be said about every single one of us.”

Information about the 2014 ExLP is available at

Five Join NICHD Advisory Council

New to the NICHD council are (seated, from l) Dr. Piero Rinaldo, Dr. Walter R. Frontera, Wendy Lazarus, Dr. Ruth Lehmann and ex officio representative Dr. Patricia Dorn. Standing are NICHD staffers (from l) Dr. Constantine Stratakis, director, Division of Intramural Research; Dr. Catherine Spong, director, Division of Extramural Research; Dr. Alan Guttmacher, director; and Dr. Yvonne Maddox, deputy director.
New to the NICHD council are (seated, from l) Dr. Piero Rinaldo, Dr. Walter R. Frontera, Wendy Lazarus, Dr. Ruth Lehmann and ex officio representative Dr. Patricia Dorn. Standing are NICHD staffers (from l) Dr. Constantine Stratakis, director, Division of Intramural Research; Dr. Catherine Spong, director, Division of Extramural Research; Dr. Alan Guttmacher, director; and Dr. Yvonne Maddox, deputy director.

The National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council recently welcomed five new members.

Dr. Piero Rinaldo is T. Denny Sanford professor of pediatrics and professor of laboratory medicine, department of laboratory medicine and pathology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Dr. Walter R. Frontera is professor and chair, department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Wendy Lazarus is founder and co-president of the Children’s Partnership.

Dr. Ruth Lehmann is Laura and Isaac Perlmutter professor of cell biology and director, developmental genetics program, Skirball Institute and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York University School of Medicine.

Ex officio representative Dr. Patricia Dorn is director of rehabilitation research and development, Department of Veterans Affairs.

History Office’s Martensen Mourned

Dr. Robert L. Martensen

Dr. Robert L. Martensen

Dr. Robert L. Martensen, 66, who directed the Office of NIH History from 2007 until his retirement in 2012, died Sept. 26 in Pasadena, Calif.

Martensen came to NIH with a unique background: he had been a physician in emergency rooms and intensive care units and a professor at Harvard Medical School and Tulane University. As a professor, he taught both bioethics and medical history. After Hurricane Katrina devastated Tulane, he left Louisiana for NIH.

Martensen was the second director of ONH. He greatly expanded the Stetten fellow research program, which brings in post-docs in medical history to work on topics in specific institutes. While at ONH, Stetten fellows work with scientific contacts in the institutes and publish articles and books and present lectures based on their research into NIH’s history. Martensen was particularly concerned with mentoring the next generation of medical historians and worked closely with the fellows to develop their research topics, skills and output. He also built up the office by adding an archivist and exhibit designer to the staff.

With wide-ranging research interests, Martensen published on several seemingly disparate topics. For example, he received a Guggenheim fellowship to complete his book The Brain Takes Shape: An Early History (2004). He also wrote on 19th century theories of health and the environment in Restorative Commons: Creating Health and Well-Being Through Urban Landscapes (2009). But he is most widely known for his book A Life Worth Living: A Doctor’s Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era (2008). He used patient cases, many in which he was a participating physician, to examine end-of-life care issues in the United States from the points of view of hospital administrators, patients and physicians. The book garnered great interest from both physician groups and patients and the media because of its frank depictions and discussions of the emotionally fraught decisions that must be made at the end of someone’s life.

“Robert’s varied qualities—empathy, intelligence, calmness and ability to communicate— all of which made him a quality physician and historian, also made him a genuinely interested and interesting leader. He was easy to talk to about work and about personal issues,” said ONH’s Michele Lyons. “In that he was rare.” He also collected art and loved the opera, bicycling, traveling and his three sons—Bayard, Charles and Robert (known as Max), who survive him.

CSR’s Chen Dies Unexpectedly

Dr. Priscilla B. Chen

Dr. Priscilla B. Chen, long-time scientist at the Center for Scientific Review, died unexpectedly on Oct. 11 at age 69. She was a scientific review officer who coordinated review of NIH grant applications assigned to the skeletal biology development and disease study section.

“Priscilla was an amazing and exceptionally professional individual,” said Dr. Rajiv Kumar, chief of CSR’s musculoskeletal, oral and skin sciences integrated review group. “She undertook her job with passion, dedication and fairness and she personified the highest level of integrity.”

Tributes poured into CSR after news of her passing reached the scientific community. “Dr. Chen was the best of the best at NIH: fair, honest and above reproach,” said Dr. Clifford Rosen, past president of the American Society of Bone & Mineral Research. One of her reviewers summed up the sentiments of many: “Priscilla had served NIH and the scientific community with her unique style that will be hard to replace,” said Dr. Subburaman Mohan of the VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif. “Her fairness, kindness and tireless work ethic will be missed by all.”

Another of Chen’s reviewers brought news of additional tributes. “I was at the annual meeting of the Society of Craniofacial Genetics and Developmental Biology where we honored Priscilla by naming the keynote speech given by Bjorn Olsen in her name and awarding the top post-doc poster prize named the Priscilla Chen Excellence in Science Award,” said Joan Richtsmeier of Pennsylvania State University. “Many wonderful things were said about Priscilla.”

Chen was born in Baltimore, but spent time in Ethiopia, receiving her B.Sc. in 1964 from Haile Selassie I University. She earned her Ph.D. in parasitology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972, and then returned to Maryland as a postdoctoral fellow at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda from 1972-1974. She next joined the School of Dental Medicine at then SUNY at Buffalo (now the University at Buffalo). For many years she conducted NIH-supported research on the immune response to oral microflora and played an active role in the oral biology Ph.D. training program.

In March 1991, Chen joined the Division of Research Grants (now CSR) to manage the oral biology and medicine 1 & 2 study sections before the CSR reorganization of study sections in 2004. At that time, and until her death, she was scientific review officer for the skeletal biology development and disease study section.

Chen had a great love of horses and devoted much attention to her 12 Arabian horses on her farm in Warrenton, Va. She won many showing competitions over the years and entered many endurance events. She also ventured off on trail rides and camping trips with friends. She is survived by her nephew and his family, her horses and her cat.

Kaplan Named Chief of New NIAMS Intramural Branch

Dr. Mariana Kaplan

Dr. Mariana Kaplan has been named chief of the newly established intramural Systemic Autoimmunity Branch, NIAMS. A rheumatologist, she will head a new research program focusing on adult rheumatic diseases.

Most recently, Kaplan was a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, where she held several NIH grants. Her research has focused on mechanisms by which cardiovascular disease is accelerated in people with lupus, the role of innate immunity in the development of lupus-related organ damage and strategies to curtail tissue damage in people with the disease.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Kaplan is joining us,” said NIAMS scientific director Dr. John O’Shea. “She is clearly a recognized expert in rheumatology and we are excited about the prospect of expanding lupus research in the intramural program and NIH Clinical Center.”

Kaplan has published more than 85 peer-reviewed papers in rheumatology and immunology and has served on a number of editorial boards. She is a fellow in the American College of Rheumatology and was awarded ACR’s Henry Kunkel Young Investigator Award in 2010. She is also a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Kaplan graduated summa cum laude from the National Autonomous University of Mexico School of Medicine in 1992. Following completion of her residency in internal medicine, she accepted a rheumatology fellowship at the University of Michigan, where she was promoted to associate professor in 2008 and to professor in 2013.

The Systemic Autoimmunity Branch will combine natural history or treatment studies with basic investigations into the etiology and/or pathophysiology of rheumatic diseases, with an emphasis on systemic lupus erythematosus and other systemic autoimmune diseases affecting adults.

NCI’s Merlino Honored for Melanoma Research

Dr. Glenn Merlino
Dr. Glenn Merlino, a deputy director of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research and chief of CCR’s Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics, recently received a lifetime achievement award from the Society for Melanoma Research at the society’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. The award honors his outstanding contributions to the understanding of tumor initiation and metastatic progression. Merlino began his career at NCI in 1980 as a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Ira Pastan. He has also served as head of CCR’s Laboratory of Cell Regulation and Carcinogenesis. Merlino was the first to report that a protein involved in communication between cells promotes melanoma when activated by UV radiation. He was also among the first to show in living animals that growth factors, such as proteins or hormones, can turn normal cells into tumor cells. His lab currently uses genetically engineered mouse models of human cancer to investigate the complex molecular programs governing the genesis of melanoma.

Greenberg Named NIGMS Acting Deputy Director

Dr. Judith H. Greenberg

NIGMS director Dr. Jon Lorsch has named Dr. Judith H. Greenberg as the institute’s acting deputy director. She will serve in this capacity while a national search for a permanent deputy director—the first since the position became vacant in 1999—is under way.

“Dr. Greenberg’s long record of exceptional contributions includes two stints as acting director of NIGMS, leadership of the NIH Director’s Pioneer and New Investigator Award programs and advice to NIH on human embryonic stem cells, gene therapy and other important topics,” Lorsch said.

A developmental biologist, Greenberg has directed the institute’s Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology since 1988, and will continue to do so while serving in her new role.

Among her many honors are a PHS Special Recognition Award in 1991, a Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award in 1999, NIH Director’s Awards in 2006 and 2008, and the inaugural NIGMS Distinguished Service Award earlier this year.

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