Maddox Takes Helm at NIMHD
Dr. Yvonne Maddox has been named acting director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. NIH director Dr. Francis Collins announced her selection recently, following NIMHD director Dr. John Ruffin’s retirement in March.
“I commend Dr. Ruffin for his years of service to the NIH and the community that is so in need of the research supported by NIMHD,” Maddox said. “I am looking forward to working with NIMHD staff and my other colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Department of Health and Human Services to continue to advance the programs of the institute. In addition, I look forward to listening and working with the many stakeholders to assess and identify the needs of the various populations that we serve.”
Prior to joining NIMHD, Maddox served as deputy director of NICHD. She has also served as acting deputy director of NIH from January 2000-June 2002 and co-chaired the first NIH Strategic Plan to Reduce and Ultimately Eliminate Health Disparities.
Maddox has also served as executive director of the HHS cancer health disparities progress review group and co-chaired the HHS Initiative to Reduce Infant Mortality in Minority Communities. She has also served on many public service and academic boards.
Maddox first came to NIH in 1985 as a health scientist administrator at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Before that, she was a research assistant professor in the department of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center. As a cardiovascular physiologist, Maddox has served in several scientific roles at NIH and has authored numerous scientific papers and review articles and delivered keynote scientific lectures domestically and internationally. She has received many honors and awards.
Maddox received her B.S. in biology from Virginia Union University and her Ph.D. in physiology from Georgetown University.
As acting director, Maddox will oversee the NIMHD budget of approximately $268 million. Additionally, she will assist in providing leadership for the minority health and health disparities research activities of NIH, which constitute an annual budget of about $2.8 billion.—Cherie Duvall Jones and Gerda Gallop-Goodman
Seto Named NEI Deputy Director
By Daniel Stimson
Dr. Belinda Seto joined NEI as its deputy director on Apr. 7. She comes from NIBIB, where she served as deputy director for 11 years, starting just 3 years after the institute was established.
Her professional career—and lifelong passion—in biomedical research actually started at NIH. After earning her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Purdue University, she came here in 1974 as a postdoctoral fellow working with Drs. Earl and Thressa Stadtman at NHLBI. The Stadtmans—who are the namesake of the Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigators Program—led a world-class biochemistry lab. Their research helped establish some of the basic principles found in today’s biochemistry textbooks, including enzyme function and regulation.
The pair was also famous for a mentoring style that became known as the Stadtman Way. Seto said the Stadtmans treated their lab like a family, but that they were also tough and could deliver rapid-fire critiques to their students and postdocs. “They fostered rigorous scientific debates. I learned that criticism should not only be accepted but appreciated,” Seto said. “They also taught me to take risks and not be afraid of failed experiments and that negative experiments are often as informative as those that worked as predicted.”
After completing her postdoc, she took those critical thinking skills to the FDA to conduct research on hepatitis B and vaccine development. About 10 years later, she returned to NIH and soon took a position at the Office of Extramural Research, where she oversaw analysis and reporting of NIH grants data. She ultimately became deputy director and then acting director of OER before moving to NIBIB.
The skills she applied in her research have served her well in analyzing trends, needs and opportunities in the extramural research world, Seto said. “Whether you’re doing research or in a position to guide research policies, you always need to think about what’s going to yield the most productivity,” she noted.
While at NIBIB, she began helping steer the institute’s management of “big data,” which refers to the ballooning volumes of data produced in research, especially through medical imaging. She continues to serve on the executive committee of the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative and its oversight body, the NIH scientific data council, which are providing researchers with better tools and training to deal with big data.
Seto is also continuing the tradition of mentorship she learned in the Stadtman lab. She has chaired the NIH working group on women in bioengineering, which aims to recruit and advance women in the bioengineering field, and she is a recipient of the Ruth Kirschstein mentoring award.
She was attracted to NEI, she said, because the vision research community has been at the forefront of pioneering areas such as stem cell therapy and gene therapy. This was a fortuitous time to join the institute, she said; the NEI Audacious Goals Initiative recently launched and will seek ways to regenerate damaged nerve cells within the visual system. “My biggest challenge is to help NEI reach that goal,” she said.
Sieving Elected to German Academy of Sciences
Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute, has been elected to the German Academy of Sciences. Known as Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften, or simply the Leopoldina, it is the German counterpart of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society. Leopoldina is the oldest learned society in the world and provides analysis on issues that affect the world from a scientific and medical perspective. About three-quarters of its 1,500 members are from Germany, Austria or Switzerland. The remaining membership represents 30 other nations. Notable members include Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Max Planck, as well as 57 Nobel laureates.