McNicol Retires After 25 Years at NEI
By Robin Latham
While some people leaving a leadership position hand over piles of folders and lists of contacts, Dr. Loré Anne McNicol, who retired recently after 25 years at NEI (the last 15 as director of the Division of Extramural Research), handed over a Native American “talking stick” to Dr. Michael Steinmetz, who serves as acting DER director.
The gesture was a reflection of what McNicol’s colleagues will tell you was an exceptionally open and inclusive way of managing her division and the people who worked in it. “She had an open door policy,” said Don Everett, a program officer in DER. “Anyone here felt comfortable going into her office at any time. And they did.”
In later years, McNicol made a weekly meeting open to everyone in DER. “She included everyone—from interns to program directors—because this way she would only have to explain something once and everyone heard the same thing,” said Dr. Ellen Liberman, extramural policy officer in DER. “She’d tell us everything. She didn’t believe in secrets.”
Hence the talking stick.
“As much as I tried to tightly structure the meetings,” said McNicol, “certain things would always happen. People would talk over each other or several different conversations would be going on at the same time. I grew up in northern Montana and I knew about the talking stick the Blackfoot Indians used at their tribal councils. You could only speak if you were holding the stick. It had to be passed from one person to the next. So I thought this might be helpful to Mike going forward.”
McNicol earned her Ph.D. in medical sciences from Boston University School of Medicine and focused on infectious diseases during postdoctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. After holding several faculty positions, and discovering she wanted a career that was primarily research-oriented, she joined NIH as a World Health Organization fellow in the malaria unit of NIAID. Although the focus on research was intellectually gratifying, the tug between laboratory and family obligations gave her little control over her time. When a position as a program director opened up at NIGMS, McNicol applied, secured the job and found that science administration was much to her liking. In 1989, she joined NEI as corneal diseases program officer and then took on the DER director’s job
One of the first things McNicol put into place were administrative supplement grants to support state-of-the-art instrumentation in the vision community. “I felt the lack of up-to-date technology was holding the field back,” she said. “Advances would only happen if the vision community had the tools they needed to do high-end computation.” These grants put expensive suites of equipment into the hands of vision researchers and their colleagues.
“I’ve always said that instrumentation is the gift that keeps on giving,” said McNicol. “If it’s in a department, everyone can use it. And it encourages collaboration.”
Under NEI policies, grantees could also look to end-of-year funding to support their equipment needs. Over time, grantees got to know this policy, said Liberman. “They would send us requests throughout the year that we’d hold onto until August. It was like a wish list. It was good stewardship of funds, when funds were very tight.”
McNicol’s achievements were recognized in 2011 by the Carl Kupfer Visionary Award—NEI’s highest honor—and by the Meritorious Executive Rank Award in 2007, a special recognition for exceptionally strong leaders in public service that is given to few across government.
“The extramural division of NEI thrived under Loré Anne’s leadership,” said NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving. “She was an expert on scientific review, funding mechanisms, budget, government regulations and program management. Opportunities for vision research prospered during her time.”
In retirement, there will be more science, although in archeological, rather than biomedical, research. “I’ve been studying the ancient Egyptian language for most of my life,” said McNicol. “I planned to travel to Egypt to participate as a volunteer in a dig. But currently, western airlines won’t fly to Cairo because of the unrest in the area. I hope to volunteer for an Oxford University museum project transcribing papyri.” A trip to Antarctica will tick off another item on McNicol’s bucket list.
NIDA Mourns Death of IRPís Goldberg
Dr. Steven Goldberg, chief of the pre-clinical pharmacology section in NIDA’s intramural research program, died on Nov. 25 at age 73.
In 1979, he joined the Addiction Research Center (currently housed within NIDA) and, over the last several decades, he made outstanding contributions to the understanding of the behavioral and neuropharmacological mechanisms triggered by drugs of abuse. Goldberg collaborated extensively with many U.S. and European labs and published more than 370 empirical papers, reviews and book chapters. He and his group developed many experimental procedures and identified various neuropharmacological mechanisms of drug reward and relapse that laboratories around the world have capitalized upon.
Goldberg was a visiting professor and adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, the University of Maryland and the University of Cagliari in Italy.
Beyond his outstanding scientific achievements, Goldberg is remembered by his colleagues and friends “as an exceptionally generous and honest person, an excellent mentor and role model to his trainees and a fantastic collaborator.” He is survived by his wife and two children.
NCIís Chambers Named Deputy Director, Implementation Science
Dr. David Chambers has been named deputy director, implementation science, in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute. He will provide national scientific leadership on numerous research projects to close the gap between research discovery and program delivery in public health, clinical practice and health policy. He will also be responsible for guiding some of NCI’s flagship research dissemination tools such as Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T, Research to Reality, Cancer Trends Progress Report and State Cancer Profiles.
“David is highly regarded among his colleagues, in large part because of his understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities in the field at present,” says Dr. Robert Croyle, DCCPS director. “He possesses a sound and broad knowledge base to increase the uptake of scientifically based efforts in cancer prevention and control across diverse community settings. In addition, he has experience in developing and sustaining key strategic partnerships, community engagement and information technologies to enhance capacity for implementation research.”
Chambers earned his D.Phil. and M.Sc. degrees in management research from the University of Oxford, where his master’s and doctoral work involved studying one of the first broad-based efforts to implement evidence-based medicine—the Promoting Action Toward Clinical Excellence. Prior to joining DCCPS, he spent the past 13 years at the National Institute of Mental Health, working to advance mental health services research and, more specifically, dissemination and implementation research within the institute and across NIH.
Wildin Named Chief of Genomic Healthcare Branch
Dr. Robert Wildin, a clinical geneticist with nearly three decades of experience in private and hospital-based medical practice, joined the National Human Genome Research Institute recently as chief of the Genomic Healthcare Branch. He will provide leadership for activities to promote the integration of genomic discoveries into day-to-day clinical and public health practice.
“Dr. Wildin’s background and expertise are particularly well suited for leading the programs within NHGRI’s Genomic Healthcare Branch,” said Dr. Laura Lyman Rodriguez, director of the Division of Policy, Communications and Education. “At a time when opportunities are increasing for health care professionals to consider and use genomic information in their care delivery, Dr. Wildin will be able to draw upon his years on the front lines of medical practice in various community and underserved settings to target NHGRI activities to those stakeholders and initiatives most in need.”
Wildin received his bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his M.D. from the University of California, San Francisco. He completed a pediatrics residency, a medical genetics fellowship and a postdoctoral fellowship in immunology at the University of Washington.
He has served on the medical faculty of teaching hospitals in Seattle, Galveston and Portland, Ore. He was medical director for a clinical molecular diagnostic laboratory and, for several of the past 10 years, the sole general clinical genetics provider for two large community hospital systems in Boise and Portland. He also established a biomedical informatics software and consulting business.
Willis Joins NIGMS Genetics Division
Dr. Kristine Willis is the new program director in the NIGMS Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology, where she oversees research grants in the areas of DNA repair and mutagenesis. Willis was formerly an assistant research professor in the department of biology at Georgetown University. She earned both a B.S. and Ph.D. in biology from the University of Southern Mississippi and conducted postdoctoral research on genomic-level cell growth and division at the University of Toronto.