Still Plans to Volunteer
Medical Arts’ Brown Retires After 48 Years
By Rich McManus
Linda Brown, who for the past 17 years was creative services director in what is now the Division of Medical Arts, retired Jan. 31 after 48 years at NIH.
Photo: Ernie Branson
Linda Brown, who for decades assured that NIH’s world-class science was represented by world-class art—including lecture, event and campaign posters that both won awards and became collectors’ items—retired Jan. 31 after a 48-year NIH career.
And, with her signature sense of humor and warmth, she announced her plans to return to NIH the following Monday to serve as a volunteer.
Brown joined NIH’s Medical Arts and Photography Branch as a general illustrator fresh out of the University of Kansas in 1966; she had majored in design.
“I did not expect to be here 48 years later,” she confides. “The plan was to spend a little time on the East Coast, a little time on the West Coast…but that didn’t happen,” she laughs. “NIH is a wonderful place to work.”
Born and reared in the vicinity of Kansas City, Mo., Brown, 71, grew up at the height of counterculture ascendancy in the U.S. and embraced its imagination, openness and sense of adventure, while cultivating a Midwesterner’s bedrock accountability. When scientists brought their ideas to her, they found someone whose mind was often as agile as theirs and absolutely dedicated to delivering a project that would delight everyone.
“I have enjoyed my clients,” she says. “Gosh, we’ve got the greatest clients you could imagine.”
Brown describes herself as “very old-school. Everything we do should be quality-driven. That’s what medical arts always was for me…when you can point with pride to what you do, you feel good about work.”
Although she began as an illustrator, Brown was for years chief of the design section in medical arts, where she hand-picked a stable of artists she considered the equal of any design house in the private sector.
“I have really worked with some wonderful people,” she said. “I’ve been lucky. These are people I consider friends. But it’s beyond that—it’s family.”
For the past 17 years, she has been creative services director in what is now the Division of Medical Arts. “I slid out of the drawing-board phase,” she recalls, “but I did keep some projects for myself.”
In recent years she interviewed clients in DMA’s front office and assembled the most appropriate teams to tackle the work. “I like to play matchmaker,” she said, “passing out work, taking it to the right section head. I managed the more complicated projects, arranging all the pieces.”
When an astonished coworker discovered that Brown could detect which contractor worked on a project, based simply on the smell of the printer’s ink, Brown could only reply, “It’s just stuff you pick up.”
That kind of dedication, however, is becoming rare, she said. “Times have changed and people tend to move around more. Medical arts has been my career for so long, it’s really the only business I know. I’m afraid that retirement will be like leaving home, so I’m turning right around as a volunteer. It’s the social interactions and the people I’m going to miss.”
She took particular satisfaction in establishing rapport with clients, many of whom became friends.
A number of corridors at NIH are decorated with her branch’s art. “I remember all of those,” she says. “It’s fun to walk around NIH and see posters hanging up on the walls. I know the backstory of every one, who planned the event, etc. I met the greatest people and got to invent how their event was going to be branded. It was really fun to work with people.”
She jokes, “I’m counting on NIH to save my memory—that’s why I support NIH. Save my happy memories!”
Brown also treasured mentoring newcomers, a role she assumed easily. “I like working with the new or young employees,” she said. “Passing out the work and monitoring it in progress is not the same reward as doing it all yourself, but it is a great reward to watch others take off and succeed. I have been very lucky to work with such talented people.”
Starting Feb. 3, Brown returned to her desk to wrap up projects already in progress and complete some committee assignments. “I’m not ready to give those up,” she said. “Once you’ve had the management hat on, it’s really hard to take off.”
She also intends to help the archivists at NIH’s history office: “I plan to sit at the feet of the historians and do what they want me to do,” Brown said.
“I could never picture myself not working,” she admitted, and once relished a reputation among the many contractors with whom she worked as never mentioning retirement, even though she could have done so years ago. “But your interests do shift,” she said. “I thought they never would. But I’m backing out slowly. Maybe I will have more time for middle school science projects and closet organization.”
She laughs, “Isn’t that what every retiree says? ‘I’m going to clean out that closet!’”
NIDCD Audiologist Brewer Honored
Dr. Carmen Brewer of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has been honored by the American Academy of Audiology with its distinguished achievement award. The honor was given in acknowledgement of her “dedication to the profession of audiology for almost 40 years as an innovator in clinical teaching and mentoring, a pioneer in the area of delivery of clinical services and a translational researcher whose body of work has impacted generations of audiologists.”
For the past 11 years, Brewer has served as a research audiologist and chief of NIDCD’s audiology unit. The unit functions as both a research and clinical laboratory and conducts studies and has current collaborations with more than 30 intramural research protocols from various institutes and centers.
Brewer’s current position was preceded by a 28-year tenure at Washington Hospital Center, where she began her professional career as a clinical fellow and rose to director of hearing and speech and administrative director of oral surgery and otolaryngology.
“Through her clinical, scientific and training leadership, Dr. Brewer has raised the profile of NIH audiology into an internationally recognized center with unparalleled expertise in the auditory and vestibular phenotypes of rare diseases,” said NIDCD scientific director Dr. Andrew Griffith. “Her expertise is reflected in the referral of dozens of visiting audiology doctoral candidates from a variety of institutions across the U.S. for clinical and research mentorship in the NIH audiology unit.”
The award will be presented at AAA’s annual meeting Mar. 27 in Orlando.
NIMH Scientist Emeritus Mudd Mourned
NIMH scientist emeritus Dr. S. Harvey Mudd, 86, died of pneumonia Jan. 21, following heart surgery. His family reported that he was having them read him emails about patients and attempting to answer them up until the day before he died. Throughout his final month he was discussing the details of his treatment with his physicians and nurses.
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., Mudd graduated from Harvard University in 1949, completed his M.D. at Harvard in 1953 and his internship at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1954. He worked as a National Science Foundation research fellow in biochemistry for 2 years at MGH. He then came to NIMH’s Laboratory of General and Comparative Biochemistry headed by Dr. Giulio Cantoni in 1957.
He became chief of the section on alkaloid biosynthesis in that lab from 1961-1987, during which time he also served as a commissioned officer in the Public Health Service. He received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1988, when he retired.
Mudd studied methionine metabolism over the next several decades with special emphasis on the pathway by which methionine is synthesized by plants—the ultimate source of dietary methionine for mammals.
He wrote almost 200 papers (his latest review was published in November 2013), many of which were highly influential. He was widely considered the “father of methionine metabolism.” He collaborated across the globe and was methodical in his pursuit of understanding how best to treat patients with these inborn errors of metabolism.
Dr. William Gahl, NHGRI clinical director, noted, “We have lost a generation of biochemistry in a single man. His work improved the lives of hundreds of homocystinuria patients over the years and nurtured the minds of scores of scientists.”
Mudd and his wife Marion, who survives him, were avid bird watchers and hikers. Other survivors include Mudd’s sister Emily, brother John, children Susan, Lincoln and Dan, 6 grandchildren, sisters-in-law and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.