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Vol. LXVII, No. 3
January 30, 2015


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Dr. Story Landis

Dr. Richard Aragon

William R. Lynn

Dr. Joe B. Harford

Steve Peterson

Dr. Roderic Pettigrew

Jennie Lucca


Landis Retires from NINDS
By Paul Girolami

Dr. Story Landis and her husband Dr. Dennis Landis share a light moment at the reception.

Dr. Story Landis and her husband Dr. Dennis Landis share a light moment at the reception.

Among the gifts to Landis at the farewell event was a pin in the shape of a neuron, commissioned by artist Reiko Ishiyama and presented by NIH deputy director for extramural research Dr. Sally Rockey (l). Landis also received a large aerial photo of the PNRC signed by NINDS staff.

Photos: Bill Branson

Among the gifts to Landis at the farewell event was a pin in the shape of a neuron, commissioned by artist Reiko Ishiyama and presented by NIH deputy director for extramural research Dr. Sally Rockey (l). Landis also received a large aerial photo of the PNRC signed by NINDS staff.

Passionate about science, no nonsense, unfiltered—these were just some of the traits mentioned repeatedly by nearly every IC director in a videotaped tribute to Dr. Story Landis, who retired recently as NINDS director. More than 200 colleagues crowded into the atrium of the Porter Neuroscience Research Center for a reception honoring Landis, who had been NINDS director since 2003 and its scientific director for the previous 8 years.

“We are losing one of the true giants at NIH,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “Very few can match Story’s towering intellect, boundless energy, commitment to biomedical research and scientific expertise.” He called the announcement of the BRAIN Initiative by President Obama in April 2013 “a major testimony” to Landis’s contributions to NIH. Collins also sang a parody of the Bob Dylan song If Not for You as part of his tribute.

During her tenure at NINDS, Landis was instrumental in reshaping the NIH intramural research community and in the development and building of the PNRC. Between 1999 and 2000, under the oversight of NINDS director Dr. Gerald Fischbach, she led the movement together with then-NIMH scientific director Dr. Robert DeSimone to bring a sense of unity and common purpose to 200 laboratories from 11 different NIH institutes, all of which conduct leading-edge clinical and basic neuroscience research. The PNRC now houses 99 investigators from 10 ICs who share intersecting interests.

Landis also was a founding co-chair of the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, another effort to break down traditional research silos and foster trans-NIH activities in the brain sciences. In 2007, she was named chair of the NIH stem cell task force and in 2012 she became the inaugural chair of the interagency pain research coordinating committee. Along with others at NIH, she designed the K99/R00 NIH Pathway to Independence Award, which offers promising postdoctoral scientists protected training time and funding to secure an independent research position. She also was directly involved in developing a research program funded by NIH and the National Football League that looks at the effects of repeated head trauma and, specifically, chronic traumatic encephalopathy and concussion. She strongly promoted the role of young investigators in all areas of neuroscience and her mission and vision have been felt throughout the field.

NINDS acting director Dr. Walter Koroshetz emceed the event and presented the Maine-bound Landis with several gifts, such as a pair of snowshoes he referred to as “Maine slippers” and a pair of galoshes he called “Maine dancing shoes.” NINDS scientific director Dr. Alan Koretsky noted that NINDS now has 90 intramural scientists, three-quarters of whom were recruited by Landis. One of NINDS’s principal investigators presented Landis with a key to her own PNRC office, where she will work as an NINDS scientist emeritus when she is in Bethesda.

Among other tributes was a videotaped message from former NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni calling Landis “one of the best appointments I ever made; she speaks truth to power” and Sen. Tom Harkin entering remarks into the Congressional Record in praise of Landis’s “courage” and “ability to bridge gaps,” in particular “the divide between scientists and policymakers.” Harkin recalled their history of working together and said Landis always spoke “with the poise of a leader at a prestigious national institution, the rigor of a renowned scientist and the insight of a truly extraordinary pioneer working on the frontiers of our knowledge of the human brain.”

CSR director Dr. Richard Nakamura said to Landis, “Your record of endurance defied some of the oddsmakers who at the beginning thought you were too fundamentally honest to have a long career in the federal government. You inspired a generation of us with your sense of honesty, your sense of humor and your appropriate use of sarcasm to help all of us understand that honesty and use of science in the long-term was the way to make a real difference.”

NICHD director Dr. Alan Guttmacher added, “NIH is sometimes too bland a place—we bump around in black and white, but one could always count on Story showing up and adding living color to the conversation.”

An appreciative Landis told the crowd, “I’ve had the privilege of working at NINDS the past 19 years, as scientific director and the last 11 as director. I was fortunate to participate in remarkable changes across NIH and in neuroscience and have the opportunity to work on exciting, innovative and rewarding neuroscience projects such as the NIH Blueprint and the BRAIN Initiative. I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity; it’s been a great run.”

Aragon Named Chief of NIGMS Office

Dr. Richard Aragon, chief of the NIGMS Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Evaluation

Dr. Richard Aragon, chief of the NIGMS Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Evaluation

Photo: Chidinma Okparanta

Dr. Richard Aragon is the new chief of the NIGMS Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Evaluation. This role includes advising on the institute’s strategic planning activities, analyzing and evaluating its research and training programs and serving as its legislative liaison.

“Richard brings a unique blend of experiences to this position,” said NIGMS director Dr. Jon Lorsch. “He has the ability to operate across multiple scientific areas and bridge program and policy. His expertise in evaluation and commitment to using data to drive policy decisions make him an ideal choice to lead this key office.”

Prior to joining NIGMS, Aragon held two positions in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources within the Office of the HHS Secretary: directing the Division of Program Integrity Assessment, Integration and Oversight and the Division of Outreach, Communications and Training. His responsibilities included spearheading implementation of the secretary’s initiative on program integrity and establishing the agency’s first enterprise risk management framework.

Before that, Aragon was a program director in the NCI Office of Technology and Industrial Relations. During his time there, he served as a Brookings Institution executive fellow in the office of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, where he worked on legislation related to science and technology policy and national health care reform. Earlier in his career, Aragon was a senior policy analyst in the NIH Office of Science Policy and a research biologist in NIAAA’s Laboratory of Neurogenetics.

Aragon earned a B.A. in neurobiology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he was a participant in what is now the NIGMS Maximizing Access to Research Careers program. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from George Washington University Medical Center and conducted postdoctoral research at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

NCI’s Lynn Mourned

William R. Lynn

William R. Lynn, 68, a federal health officer who helped manage anti-smoking efforts for NIH and the Office of the Surgeon General, died Nov. 18 at a hospital in the Villages, Fla. The cause was heart disease.

Lynn was born in Wabash, Ind., and was a wounded combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He was a health officer in Indiana and Massachusetts before joining NIH in 1979. Among his projects, he helped run two of the nation’s first community-based anti-smoking initiatives—COMMIT and ASSIST. He also edited Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s report on the effects of secondhand smoke and helped hire celebrities, including Brooke Shields and Mia Hamm, as anti-smoking spokespersons. Upon his retirement in 2002, Lynn moved from Frederick, Md., to Florida.

“Bill was a dear friend and colleague to me for many years,” said Bob Vollinger of NCI’s Tobacco Control Research Branch. “I learned so much from Bill over the years and came to truly respect his vast wisdom and broad public health expertise. But even more so, I deeply appreciated his friendship and good advice. Bill always had a huge smile and a great joke or two to share. And he was always trying to do something to make the world a better place for others. He had a great spark that could always bring joy to others.”

Lynn is survived by his wife of 47 years, Rebecca Ann Lynn, and three sons, Matthew Lynn of Sharon, Conn., Jason Lynn of Englewood, Fla., and Ryan Lynn of Tampa, Fla. He is also survived by his grandson Liam Lynn of Tampa; his brother, John Lynn, and sister-in-law, Beverly Lynn of Wabash and numerous nieces, nephews and grand nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held in the spring at a location to be announced. Donations may be made in Lynn’s honor to the Wounded Warrior Project or to the American Heart Association.

NCI’s Harford Gets Alumni Medal of Merit

Dr. Joe B. Harford

Ohio University alumnus Dr. Joe B. Harford recently received the Medal of Merit at the annual Alumni Awards Gala on homecoming weekend. The medal is awarded to alumni who have achieved distinction in their chosen fields. Harford is senior project officer at NCI’s Center for Global Health. During his 18 years with the institute, he served for more than a decade as director of the Office of International Affairs, the forerunner of the Center for Global Health, and also served as associate director for special projects and chief of staff for the Office of the NCI Director. Prior to joining NCI in 1996, Harford served as chief scientist for RiboGene Inc. and is the co-inventor on two issued U.S. patents related to drug discovery. He has published more than 130 scientific papers.

ORS’s Peterson Honored

Steve Peterson

Steve Peterson of the Office of Research Services was recently approved by the North American Application Review Commission to receive the certified emergency manager credential. CEM designation is the highest honor of professional achievement available from the International Association of Emergency Managers, which includes more than 9,000 professionals whose goals are saving lives and protecting property and the environment during emergencies and disasters. Peterson successfully completed an extensive credentials package, a management essay and a written examination.


NIBIB Director Receives Gold Medal from ARR

Renee Cruea (c), executive director of ARR, joins NIBIB director Dr. Roderic Pettigrew (l) and Dr. Jonathan Lewin, ARR president, at the Gold Medal event.
Renee Cruea (c), executive director of ARR, joins NIBIB director Dr. Roderic Pettigrew (l) and Dr. Jonathan Lewin, ARR president, at the Gold Medal event.

NIBIB director Dr. Roderic Pettigrew recently received the first-ever Gold Medal Award from the Academy of Radiology Research. ARR is an alliance of 28 societies that works nationwide to enhance patient care through advances in biomedical imaging.

ARR created the award to highlight the impact biomedical imaging has had on modern health care and to encourage continued leadership and advances in the field. The award was presented at the 2014 Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago.

ARR president Dr. Jonathan Lewin said, “We are inspired by, and are the beneficiaries of, Dr. Pettigrew’s remarkable talents and efforts in advancing imaging research and the dramatic difference it has made on the practice of medicine. The NIBIB has led the way in supporting a new breed of innovative researchers who converge multiple disciplines to help achieve more effective, more accessible and less costly health care.”

Pettigrew has served as director of NIBIB since its establishment in 2002. Under his leadership, the institute has become a leader in biomedical imaging research and in the development of cutting-edge imaging technologies that affect the way diseases are diagnosed and treated.

Currently, NIBIB funds approximately 900 grants to researchers around the globe annually. After its first year in existence, grant applications increased by 450 percent and more than half of these were submitted by investigators new to NIH—a testament to the interdisciplinary nature of NIBIB’s mission. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of applications that have scored within the top 10th percentile, up 80 percent in the last 4 years alone.

Advances in biomedical imaging during Pettigrew’s tenure as NIBIB director include: a 20-fold improvement in MRI spatial and temporal resolution—enabling more sensitive, more precise and faster studies and new applications; the world’s first hand-held battery-powered Doppler ultrasound imaging system; and research to reduce routine CT radiation dose 10-fold, leading to doses that are comparable to levels seen with natural environmental exposure in a year.

Pettigrew said, “This is a moving honor. I accept this first academy gold medal on behalf of the many individuals who comprise NIBIB and the early groundbreaking leaders who dreamed of creating the institute, saw it as a necessity and worked tirelessly to make it a reality. I’m incredibly gratified by the critical role NIBIB has played in improving the nation’s health.”

Lucca Named CEO of Children’s Inn

Jennie Lucca

Jennie Lucca has been named new CEO of the Children’s Inn at NIH. She has served in a leadership capacity at the inn for more than 11 years, overseeing the daily management of resident services, family programs and facility operations.

Lucca is a seasoned human service professional with more than 20 years of experience working in the non-profit sector. Her career began in Anchorage, Alaska, working for The Arc of Anchorage, an organization dedicated to serving individuals with disabilities. Since that time, her focus primarily has been on developing and managing family support programs in community and health care settings.

“Over the past 11 years, Jennie Lucca has demonstrated leadership and creativity in responding to the evolving needs in clinical care and medical research,” said Kelvin Womack, chair of the inn’s board of directors. “She has a proven track record of managing the activities that are integral to the mission of the inn.”

Lucca was born in Anchorage and completed her undergraduate work in child psychology at the University of Minnesota, followed by a master’s in social work with a focus on policy, planning and administration from Catholic University. She and her husband Rob have two children and live in Oak Hill, Va.

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