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Vol. LXVII, No. 15
July 17, 2015

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M. Janis Mullaney

Dr. Richard M. Suzman

Dr. Ariela Vergara-Jaque

Dr. Cora Lee Wetherington


Milestones

Mullaney Retires After 40+ Years of Service

M. Janis Mullaney greets NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, who attended her retirement gathering in Wilson Hall.

M. Janis Mullaney greets NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, who attended her retirement gathering in Wilson Hall.

M. Janis Mullaney retired from NIH—for the second time—on May 31 after more than 40 years in federal service. Most recently, she served as NCATS’ associate director for administration (executive officer). At NCATS, she was instrumental in launching and shaping the center’s administrative operations and strategy and oversaw virtually every management function including financial and human capital management, acquisitions, information technology, management analysis and ethics. Prior to NCATS, she was in a similar role at NHGRI (2008-2013) after then-NHGRI director Dr. Francis Collins enticed her out of her first federal retirement.

“With her thorough knowledge of NIH and other government agencies and expertise and experiences in business, public-private partnerships and management—not to mention her indefatigably positive and cheerful demeanor—Janis was the first person I sought to help establish NCATS,” said NCATS director Dr. Christopher Austin. “Her visionary thinking and skills in strategic management were a crucial asset and she truly has been an indispensable partner and advisor to me.”

Throughout her career, Mullaney demonstrated dedication, commitment and passion in supporting and mentoring others and to building connections among her peers and colleagues. She began her federal service in 1971 with the then Bureau of Drugs at the Food and Drug Administration. A promotion lured her to NIH where she served as an administrator from 1981 through 1999 for NIDCR, NINDS and NIDCD in Bethesda and at NIEHS in North Carolina.

In 1999, she returned to Bethesda as intramural management liaison director, working for NIH deputy director for intramural research Dr. Michael Gottesman. She led numerous teams to improve support systems across NIH for the Office of Intramural Research. Prior to her first retirement, Mullaney also served at NCI 2000-2004, first as associate director for management and later as acting deputy director for management. Throughout her years at NIH, she chaired or participated in numerous NIH-wide committees, using her collaborative nature to influence better ways of doing business in support of science.

During her first retirement from the government, Mullaney worked for the Foundation for the NIH as a senior advisor for public-private partnerships. She was instrumental in developing collaborations between NIH institutes and interested sectors, including other government agencies, industry, academia, foundations, associations and the philanthropic community.

Mullaney looks forward to again living with her husband full-time at the beach in Southport, N.C., and plans to travel.

NIDCD Mourns Loss of Mundell

Gayle Mundell, 56, passed away on Mar. 2 after a long illness. She was in the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders for 15 years, at NIH for nearly 25 years and a federal employee for 40 years. She had retired in January.

As a human resources liaison and ethics program coordinator, Mundell was a well-respected and trusted advisor on ethical issues for the institute and somebody that NIDCD employees sought for answers to questions. In November 2014, NIDCD honored her with the institute’s highest award, the NIDCD Award of Excellence, for her years of stellar service.

Tim Wheeles, executive officer of NIDCD, said, “Gayle had such a wonderful spirit and was a vital part of the institute. Everybody loved Gayle, and when she smiled and laughed, it was just infectious. Gayle was one of those staff I could always turn to for her institutional knowledge and her awareness of the people and issues across the institute.”

Many coworkers describe Mundell as friendly, caring and easy to talk to. Her positive approach to the day-to-day challenges at work and her joyfulness and happiness in dealing with others were highly valued by her NIDCD family.

During her illness, NIDCD staff participated in bone marrow and stem cell donor registries as a way to help both Mundell and others in her situation.

Craig Jordan, director of NIDCD’s Division of Extramural Activities, noted, “I first met Gayle the day I joined NIDCD in 1990. Over the decades she has been a valued colleague and friend, not just to me, but to everyone with whom she interacted. It was Gayle’s knowledge and connections to so many people that made her effective in her job; it was her caring, joy and compassion that made her such a memorable colleague.”

Mundell was born in Washington, D.C. Beyond NIDCD, she was dedicated to her family and friends. In high school, she worked as a co-op student at NIH. Then, while attending American University, she continued to work here. She enjoyed cooking, shopping and rooting for Washington’s football team.

She is survived by her husband, Terry Sr.; son, Terry Jr.; daughter, Ashley; three brothers, Gary and Maurice Galloway and Frederick Lockett, Jr.; sister, Kimberly Lockett; two nephews, Jelani and Reginald Galloway; and niece, Jamila Galloway.

NIA’s Suzman Dies at 72
By Barbara L. Cire

Dr. Richard M. Suzman

Dr. Richard M. Suzman

Dr. Richard M. Suzman, director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) at the National Institute on Aging, died Apr. 16 from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He was 72.

Suzman’s ingenuity and determination helped transform the behavioral and social sciences. He made critically important contributions to the science of demography and promoted the development of new subfields, including the demography of disability and the bio-demography of aging.

“On a personal level, Richard Suzman was for me a constant example of what can be accomplished through vision, energy and intellect,” said NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “He was a tireless advocate for the best in science and for the health of older people and their families. We will remember Richard—both the scientist and the man—with admiration and affection.”

A native of South Africa, Suzman joined NIA in 1983 as director of the Office of the Demography of Aging and staff director of the Federal Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, a coordinating organization made up of more than 35 federal agencies. He later served as chief of the Demography and Population Epidemiology Branch before becoming division director in 1998.

“Richard Suzman was a demanding boss, but he was also a supportive and generous mentor and friend with whom we were privileged to work, and we miss him very much,” said Georgeanne Patmios, who worked for Suzman for almost 22 years. “BSR staff are grateful we had the opportunity to help Richard continue to work throughout his 14-month struggle with ALS. During this time, Richard remained actively engaged with staff and with the aging research community, mostly working from home.”

During his years with the federal government, Suzman brought several new transdisciplinary fields of study to NIA, including neuro-economics, social neuroscience and behavioral genetics. His career changed the understanding of longevity and aging, integrating economic and social behavior with biological and clinical aspects of advancing age.

On Mar. 4, 2014, more than 100 people gathered in Wilson Hall at a reception to honor Suzman’s 30 years of distinguished federal service. NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak said that Suzman was one of the early pioneers who realized that the 85+ population was growing and that it was important to study them. Dr. Norman Anderson of the American Psychological Association remarked that “Richard is the Wayne Gretzky of the behavioral and social sciences…Gretzky didn’t skate to where the puck was; he skated to where the puck was going to be. Richard not only does that, he puts the skates on us and pushes us to where advances need to be made.”

Perhaps Suzman’s key achievement is the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which has grown to encompass a group of international surveys that cover more than half the world’s population. These related surveys allow researchers to compare data on aging cross-nationally, demonstrating how both common and unique biological, cultural, institutional and policy features can affect health and well-being with age.

Suzman’s relentless insistence that the HRS reach out to multiple disciplines, incorporate new ways of thinking and adopt innovative technologies and methodologies has led to new and deeper insights into the ways people age across the globe. Some of these innovations include using biomarkers and genetic measures, promoting the public release of harmonized data from HRS sister studies around the world and providing data on Alzheimer’s disease prevalence and its effect on caregivers and society. Suzman’s loss will not only be felt in the United States, but also internationally.

Suzman also led development of important trans-NIH initiatives. The Common Fund’s interests in the science of behavior change and in health economics are already making a difference, through studies of new ways to intervene in health behaviors, including tobacco use, diabetes management and the dissemination of and adherence to medical regimens. His understanding of how economics can affect health and aging has already changed trajectories for participation in pension savings in the U.S., for the benefit of today’s older Americans and generations to come.

Before his tenure at NIA, Suzman served on the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine and was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, where he also served briefly on the faculty. After attending the University of the Witwatersrand, he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University and a diploma of social anthropology from Oxford University.

He is survived by his wife, Janice Krupnick; children Daniel and Jessica; and brothers David, Stephen and Peter.

NINDSís Vergara-Jaque Wins 2015 International Rising Talent Award
By Shannon E. Garnett

With the award, Dr. Ariela Vergara-Jaque plans to extend her postdoctoral training in the U.S., attend courses pertaining to computational biology and organize a workshop in Talca to help other bioinformatics engineering students learn some of the cutting-edge techniques she has been exposed to while at NIH.

With the award, Dr. Ariela Vergara-Jaque plans to extend her postdoctoral training in the U.S., attend courses pertaining to computational biology and organize a workshop in Talca to help other bioinformatics engineering students learn some of the cutting-edge techniques she has been exposed to while at NIH.

Photo: L’Oréal Foundation

Dr. Ariela Vergara-Jaque, an NINDS postdoctoral research fellow and a recipient of the L’Oréal Chile-UNESCO 2013 Women in Science fellowship, now holds another honor. She recently received a second Women in Science award—a 2015 International Rising Talent award—from L’Oréal-UNESCO.

“It is a great honor to be one of the winners of the Women in Science International Rising Talent award,” said Vergara-Jaque. “This prize is a credit to my home city in the south of Chile, where I received the solid training in science that enabled me to attain this honor.”

The Rising Talents award—part of the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science program—promotes scientific excellence and rewards women scientists from around the globe. Vergara-Jaque was identified as one of 15 promising young women researchers from among the 236 Women in Science fellowship winners. The honor seeks to boost the careers of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows by offering them extra grant support and international visibility. In addition to grants of 15,000 euros each, winners receive special mentorship and training from other top L’Oréal-UNESCO female scientists.

“Already, the 2013 award has made it possible for me to travel to the U.S. and obtain postdoctoral training at NIH,” said Vergara-Jaque. “This second award enables me to continue my postdoctoral training and will open doors to me in establishing myself as an independent researcher. Success requires not only strenuous effort and perseverance, but also opportunity, and the latter is what the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science program has given me.”

Vergara-Jaque became interested in science in high school, during her first biology and chemistry classes. “Cell division, the human genome and protein folding seemed to me an exciting new world,” she said. “I went to the University of Talca—my home university—to ask about the bioinformatics program and saw an amazing moving picture of a protein generated by a computer. You could turn it and examine each part like you were holding it in your hand. This picture has become my daily work.”

Vergara-Jaque now works in the NINDS computational structural biology unit directed by Dr. Lucy Forrest, using complex computational tools to study proteins—the building blocks of the human body. Proteins work like tiny machines to keep us alive. Through computer simulations, Vergara-Jaque can observe the virtual proteins from all sides, see their movements in three dimensions and manipulate them according to various hypothetical scenarios to observe how they might behave. Her current focus is on proteins located in cell membranes, whose dysfunction has been implicated in complex neurological disorders.

“These proteins act as gates, allowing certain substances to enter the cells and other substances to leave,” she said. “We aim to understand how the proteins rearrange their internal structure to permit or block passage of specific substances. When vital substances are blocked from entering or when substances that should be eliminated are retained, the cells malfunction and cause disease. Our ultimate goal, along with unraveling this complex but important process, is to identify which parts of the protein might be targeted by drugs in order to fight diseases.”

NIDAís Wetherington Receives Award

The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Dr. Cora Lee Wetherington (c) has received the 2015 Martin and Toby Adler Distinguished Service Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence for her outstanding contributions. The award was presented at CPDD’s 77th annual meeting held in Phoenix recently. Wetherington has been with NIDA since 1987, and serves as chair of the women and sex/gender differences group and as NIDA’s representative to NIH’s coordinating committee of the Office of Research on Women’s Health. Her work is aimed at infusing and advancing the study of women and sex/gender differences into all areas of drug abuse research, both clinical and preclinical. Presenting the award are CPDD executive officer Dr. Martin Adler and executive officer-elect Dr. Loretta Finnegan. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Dr. Cora Lee Wetherington (c) has received the 2015 Martin and Toby Adler Distinguished Service Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence for her outstanding contributions. The award was presented at CPDD’s 77th annual meeting held in Phoenix recently. Wetherington has been with NIDA since 1987, and serves as chair of the women and sex/gender differences group and as NIDA’s representative to NIH’s coordinating committee of the Office of Research on Women’s Health. Her work is aimed at infusing and advancing the study of women and sex/gender differences into all areas of drug abuse research, both clinical and preclinical. Presenting the award are CPDD executive officer Dr. Martin Adler and executive officer-elect Dr. Loretta Finnegan.

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