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Vol. LXVI, No. 25
December 5, 2014

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2014 NIH Executive Leadership Program Cohort Graduates

Greg Leifer

Dr. Willy Burgdorfer


Milestones

2014 NIH Executive Leadership Program Cohort Graduates

The graduates include (l, front to back) Amy Swain, NIGMS; Judith Hewitt, NIAID; Rajesh Ranganathan, NINDS; Treava Hopkins-Laboy, OD; Anne Tatem, OD; Franziska Grieder, OD; T. Jake Liang, NIDDK; David Shurtleff, NCCAM; Laura Lyman Rodriguez, NHGRI; and (r, front to back) Anita Linde, NIAMS; Elizabeth Gillanders, NCI; Tim Tosten, ORS; Matthew McMahon, NEI; Chad Wysong, NIDCD; James Meegan, NIAID; Phil Day, CIT; Richard Siegel, NIAMS; Christine Flowers; NIEHS; George Mensah, NHLBI. Not shown is John McKew, NCATS.
The graduates include (l, front to back) Amy Swain, NIGMS; Judith Hewitt, NIAID; Rajesh Ranganathan, NINDS; Treava Hopkins-Laboy, OD; Anne Tatem, OD; Franziska Grieder, OD; T. Jake Liang, NIDDK; David Shurtleff, NCCAM; Laura Lyman Rodriguez, NHGRI; and (r, front to back) Anita Linde, NIAMS; Elizabeth Gillanders, NCI; Tim Tosten, ORS; Matthew McMahon, NEI; Chad Wysong, NIDCD; James Meegan, NIAID; Phil Day, CIT; Richard Siegel, NIAMS; Christine Flowers; NIEHS; George Mensah, NHLBI. Not shown is John McKew, NCATS.

Twenty leaders from 15 institutes and centers recently graduated from the NIH Executive Leadership Program (ExLP). The ceremony featured Holly Wong, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Global Affairs, HHS, who shared insight about the importance of U.S. leadership in global health, the role of HHS and U.S. medical/research agencies in global health and how individual leaders can make a difference in this arena.

NHGRI director Dr. Eric Green offered his “6 tenets of leadership,” encouraging ExLP graduates to: be passionate, brave, learn from role models, embrace debate, value partnerships and “always keep your eyes on the ball.

“Being an effective leader requires ongoing self-reflection and skill-refinement,” said Green. “We are fortunate that NIH sees the value in leadership training, providing you and others the opportunity to become better leaders through programs such as the one from which you are now graduating.”

ORF’s Leifer Receives DOE Award

Greg Leifer

The Department of Energy has presented ORF’s Greg Leifer with a 2014 Federal Energy and Water Management Award for Exceptional Service on behalf of NIH. Leifer is the energy efficiency and water efficiency manager for NIH and has been acting in this capacity since 2001. He coordinated energy efficiency efforts across the agency, which comprises a total of nearly 16 million gross square feet of facility space. During his 13-year tenure, NIH has increased its facility space by 35 percent and has added approximately 4 million gross square feet of mostly energy-intensive space. Leifer’s efficiency programs have positioned NIH to meet campus energy and water reduction goals as outlined in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and Executive Order 13514. From 2003 to 2013, the Bethesda campus’s energy use dropped by 27 percent and water use dropped by 14 percent. Leifer’s efforts and cost-saving vision enabled NIH to lower its water and energy bills and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. An awards ceremony to honor the 2014 winners will be held this month at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Burgdorfer, Who Identified Cause of Lyme Disease, Dies at 89

Dr. Willy Burgdorfer Burgdorfer, early in his career as a tick surgeon.

Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, a medical entomologist who gained international acclaim for identifying the cause of Lyme disease, died Nov. 17 in Hamilton, Mont. He was 89 years old. A self-proclaimed “tick surgeon,” Burgdorfer dissected thousands of the arachnids during a research career of nearly 35 years at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

In late 1981, while examining deer ticks at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), Burgdorfer was surprised to see corkscrew-shaped organisms on the slides of his microscope. The ticks had been sent to him by New York colleagues who were trying to determine the cause of a spotted fever outbreak near Long Island.

“Once my eyes focused on these long, snake-like organisms, I recognized what I had seen a million times before: spirochetes,” he said in a 2001 interview. At the time, hard-bodied, slow-feeding deer ticks were not known to carry spirochetes. Later, Burgdorfer obtained serum samples from Lyme disease patients and tested them for antibodies against the bacterium. “When the tests were positive, we knew we were dealing with the causative agent of Lyme disease,” he said.

Burgdorfer and his colleagues published their seminal work in the journal Science in 1982. A year later, at the first international symposium on Lyme disease, Burgdorfer’s colleagues voted to name the new organism after him: Borrelia burgdorferi.

He continued his work at RML until retiring in January 1986. He was an internationally recognized expert on rickettsial diseases such as typhus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. After his retirement, he maintained an office at RML on a part-time basis. He continued to visit colleagues at the lab and discuss advances in his field of research. One of Burgdorfer’s protégés was Dr. Tom Schwan, former chief of NIAID’s Laboratory of Zoonotic Pathogens.

“Willy was a great mentor and friend and he was a tremendous help getting me started with my research at RML back in 1986,” said Schwan. “I think I treasure most those times in the lab when he taught me techniques that he developed and fine-tuned during his long and productive career while working with ticks.”

Burgdorfer was born and educated in Basel, Switzerland. He earned his Ph.D. in zoology, parasitology and bacteriology from the University of Basel and the Swiss Tropical Institute. He spent much of his early career in the 1950s studying a bacterium that causes relapsing fever disease. After finishing his doctoral studies, Burgdorfer traveled to RML in Hamilton, Mont., to begin his study of ticks.

At the time of his death, Burgdorfer was married to Lois Rohr Burgdorfer, his second wife. He met his first wife, Dale, at RML and they married in 1952; she died in 2005. Burgdorfer is survived by his sons, Bill and Carl, and grandchildren Alex and Madison.

Burgdorfer was very active in the Hamilton community. He often lent his booming voice to many musical events over the decades. He also was instrumental in bringing youth soccer to Hamilton and Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.


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