Photojournalist Bartlett Ends 35-Year NIH Career
By Raymond MacDougall
Maggie Bartlett, with NHGRI director Dr. Eric Green, says so long after 35 years at NIH.
Photo: Ernesto Del Aguila
If you’ve been around NIH for any length of time, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered Maggie Bartlett’s wide smile and ubiquitous camera. In January, Bartlett retired from a long NIH career that has been full of variety and opportunity—from capturing photos of heart specimens to helicoptering over NIH’s Bethesda campus to collect aerial footage. She also became adept at all aspects of videography in her last position with the National Human Genome Research Institute.
“Maggie’s creative visual expertise, her cheerful and energetic temperament and her organizational skills have been fantastic resources for NHGRI,” said Dr. Laura Lyman Rodriguez, director of NHGRI’s Division of Policy, Communications and Education. “I am joined by many across NIH who thank her for her 35 years of service and wish her well in retirement.”
Bartlett joined the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in 1979. At that point, her resume boasted an associate’s degree in biomedical photography from Rochester Institute of Technology along with experience as a company photographer at Litton Bionetics, now a part of Northrop Grumman. She worked as a scientific photographer at NHLBI until 1986, depicting many human heart, lung and vascular specimens in her photos. But she said that her most memorable assignment was to photograph the powerful structure of an elephant heart.
“People at the National Zoo knew about NHLBI’s work on cardiac pathology so they sent the elephant heart to see if NHLBI’s expert, Dr. William C. Roberts, could figure out why the elephant had died,” Bartlett recalls. “It looked very similar to a human heart but much, much bigger. We could stick a whole human heart into the left ventricle of the elephant’s heart. It was really cool.”
She subsequently joined the National Cancer Institute, where she worked until 2001. There, she played a key role in developing Visuals Online (https://visualsonline.cancer.gov/), a resource that remains a source of quality biomedical images. She also coordinated an NCI communications internship program.
In 2001, Bartlett took a detail with NHGRI to help mark completion of the draft human genome sequence by arranging logistics for a gala celebration at the National Building Museum. “I was in the right place at the right time,” she said, describing the lure of the project. “I found it amazing that everybody pitched in,” she said. “I had no idea about anyone’s grade or level of responsibility. It was a young institute with lots of enthusiasm and a very special place.”
Among the many awards she amassed during her career was a 2002 Distinguished Service Award for her contribution to a publication titled How DNA Can Help Identify Individuals. The guide explained DNA’s role in identifying victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon disasters. “This was a publication they took door-to-door and one that I helped get printed on very quick turnaround,” she said. “My part wasn’t a big thing, but the purpose was huge.”
Meeting people engaged in projects in and around NHGRI proved to be among the most satisfying parts of her photography and videography work, she said. “It’s been really fun to meet so many people and to learn about what they are doing at NHGRI. I am amazed by the content of the videos we broadcast and find it fascinating.” Bartlett helped develop a library of more than 1,000 videos on NHGRI’s YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/GenomeTV.
Bartlett’s commitment to the mission of NIH ran deep, both in and out of the office. In December 2011, she reached the milestone of 100 donations of blood to the NIH Blood Bank; she has since surpassed 115 donations.
“Donating blood is something you can do that doesn’t cost anything and has great rewards for the patients,” she said. “It contributes to the mission of NIH, which is all about the patients and how we can alleviate pain and prevent illness.”
She witnessed the benefit of such donations when her own sister was sustained by blood transfusions as she dealt with effects of multiple myeloma. “It kept her alive for a period of time,” Bartlett noted.
Bartlett served as a Combined Federal Campaign key worker for more than a dozen years. She has taken part in NIH’s annual Take a Hike event and cycled 21 miles from her home in Boyds, Md., in the 2011 and 2013 NIH Bike to Work Day events.
Federal civil service runs in the family. Bartlett’s husband, Jeff Bartlett, retired from a long career as a records manager with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Her son, Chad Bartlett, currently is an NCI budget analyst. They also share a passion for the outdoors, especially ski season and various summer sports.
Asked about her retirement plans, Bartlett ticked off a characteristically ambitious list. She has set a goal to finish an Ironman triathlon, a sport in which she has trained since 2009. Her 21 events to date have included participation in two national championships and the 2014 world championship in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In addition to some work with NHGRI, she plans to continue volunteering with the Boyds Historical Society and Boyds Civic Association, start a small-events photography business and read books for pleasure—without guilt.
Sammak Joins Biomedical Technology Staff at NIGMS
Dr. Paul Sammak recently moved from a scientific review officer position at CSR to a program director role in the NIGMS Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. His responsibilities there include managing a portfolio of Biomedical Technology Research Resources grants and grants that support the development of microscopy and cell imaging technologies. Before coming to NIH in 2012, Sammak had held positions as a research associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, a principal scientist at Cellomics, Inc. (now Thermo Fisher Scientific) and an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. He earned a B.A. in physics from Hampshire College and an M.S. in physics and Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Wisconsin. Sammak conducted postdoctoral work in physiology and pharmacology at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the University of California, San Diego, in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Y. Tsien. He has 21 patents for cell-based assays.
Hunziker Elected to AIMBE’s College of Fellows
Dr. Rosemarie Hunziker (c), program director of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, has been inducted to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. AIMBE’s College of Fellows includes 1,500 individuals who make up the top 2 percent of the medical and biological engineering community. They are recognized for having made significant contributions to the medical and biological engineering community. Hunziker was nominated and elected in recognition of her service as a NIBIB program official who has championed applications of biomedical engineering both in and out of NIH. Joining her on stage are Jennifer West, chair of the College of Fellows, and Ravi Bellamkonda, AIMBE president.