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November 6, 2015
Milestones
NCATS director Dr. Christopher Austin NINDS director Dr. Walter Koroshetz
NCATS director Dr. Christopher Austin (l) and NINDS director Dr. Walter Koroshetz are 2015 NAM members.

An NIH institute director and center director are among 70 new members elected to the National Academy of Medicine, formerly the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Christopher Austin, director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, were named new NAM members Oct. 19.

Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. The new members were named at the inaugural annual meeting as the National Academy of Medicine and the 45th year since the establishment of the Institute of Medicine.

“Our newly elected members represent the brightest, most influential and passionate people in health, science and medicine in our nation and internationally,” said NAM president Dr. Victor Dzau. “They are at the top of their fields and are committed to service.”

NAM works alongside the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.

NIMHD’s Maddox Retires

At age 5, Dr. Yvonne Maddox knew she wanted to be a doctor. Although she had no idea what they did, she knew doctors were respected and revered. A series of life events led her down a path of medical research rather than clinical medicine, but the little girl’s dream came true—she became a cardiovascular physiologist.

Recently, Maddox retired from NIH after nearly 30 years of distinguished service, having earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues along the way.

She has no plans to slow down or take it easy, however. She recently became vice president for research at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. In addition, she is an NIH collaborating scientist, maintaining a campus office as part of her ongoing effort to advance research by developing partnerships between NIH, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and USUHS.

“Yvonne made so many contributions to NIH during her tenure, I’ve lost count,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “She always brought tremendous energy, insight and commitment to every challenge she took on. We miss her dearly and I’m glad she’s only across the street.”

With a Ph.D. in physiology from Georgetown University, Maddox came to NIH in 1985 as an NIGMS health science administrator and soon after was named chief, physiological sciences section.

Dr. Yvonne Maddox (l), shown in 2003 with longtime mentor Dr. Ruth Kirschstein
Dr. Yvonne Maddox (l), shown in 2003 with longtime mentor Dr. Ruth Kirschstein

She served in many NIH leadership positions over the years. In April 2014, Maddox was appointed acting NIMHD director following Dr. John Ruffin’s retirement. Before that, she was NICHD deputy director (1995-2014). She also served as acting NIH deputy director from January 2000 to June 2002 and co-chaired the first NIH Strategic Plan to Reduce and Ultimately Eliminate Health Disparities.

Among numerous accomplishments at NIMHD, Maddox conceptualized a scientific planning process in collaboration with other institutes and centers to define a vision that will guide development of the science of health disparities research.

“Yvonne provided steady leadership for the institute at a critically important time,” said Dr. Joyce Hunter, NIMHD deputy director. “I know that she will bring much enthusiasm and passion to her new career and I wish her much success.”

On behalf of NIMHD, she fostered collaborations with such organizations as the American College of Surgeons and the National Hispanic Medical Association. Maddox convened an American Indian/Alaska Native Research Forum—the first of its kind at NIH—to provide researchers an opportunity to highlight studies and share challenges in conducting culturally appropriate health research within American Indian/Alaska Native communities.

“What Dr. Maddox has done over more than four decades has transformed our thinking about the need to eliminate health disparities and to focus on the production of scientists from all backgrounds,” said Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, III, president, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “Most important, she represents one of the best examples of inclusive excellence that America has produced.”

During her 19 years as NICHD deputy director, Maddox also served as acting director of the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research and director of the Division of Extramural Research.

“Few people have served NIH in so many ways, or as selflessly, as Yvonne Maddox,” said former NICHD director Dr. Alan Guttmacher. “Whether as program officer at NIGMS, longtime deputy director of NICHD, acting deputy director of NIH, or acting director of NIMHD, Yvonne used her intelligence, incredible interpersonal skills and indefatigability to move forward missions for which her passion was both obvious and infectious.”

In addition, Maddox led a number of federal and international efforts to improve maternal and child health, including the NICHD Safe to Sleep campaign, the federal SIDS/sudden unexpected infant death working group and the NIH Down Syndrome Consortium.

As a 2013 recipient of the NIH Director’s Award for mentoring, Maddox highly valued mentorship and often credited mentors as vital to her own career advancement. This includes everyone from school teachers who saw her potential early to the late Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, who helped recruit Maddox to NIH and took her under her wing when Kirschstein was NIGMS director.

Maddox received many honors and awards, including both the Presidential Distinguished and Meritorious Executive Rank Awards and the HHS Secretary’s Award. She also is an inductee in medicine to the Historical Black College and Universities Hall of Fame and a recipient of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Distinguished Public Service Award and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Flame Award. Recently, she received the 2014 National Caucus on Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Health Disparities’ Vanguard Award for Scientific Leadership in Health Disparities.

“Dr. Maddox always rose to the top ranks of leadership in any organization fortunate to have her commitment,” said former NICHD director Dr. Duane Alexander. “Fulfilling all her leadership roles required long work days, usually beginning at 5 a.m. and frequently not ending until 9 p.m., when she would return from her long commute from NIH to her home in Upper Marlboro, where she lives with her husband Charles and raised their son Jonathan. Dr. Maddox had a huge and beneficial influence on NIH, its science, programs and people and we wish her well as she takes her remarkable capabilities to the USUHS.”

PRAISED FOR OPENNESS
Rockey Bids Farewell to NIH, Begins New Venture

Dr. Sally Rockey accepts the gift of an electric guitar from NIH director Dr. Francis Collins at her retirement party Sept. 16 in Natcher Bldg.
Dr. Sally Rockey accepts the gift of an electric guitar from NIH director Dr. Francis Collins at her retirement party Sept. 16 in Natcher Bldg.

PHOTO: BILL BRANSON

The trademark ladybug toys that filled her corner office in Bldg. 1 are gone. So is Dr. Sally Rockey, the Ohio State University entomologist who rose to become NIH deputy director for extramural research. She left to take a new position Sept. 14.

But not without leaving a trail of goodwill and respect—garnered over her 10-year tenure at NIH—from outside scientists conducting NIH-funded research.

“As deputy director for extramural research during a very difficult era, she was the voice of an underfunded agency speaking to a research community desperate for funding,” said Dr. Howard Garrison, public affairs director at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). “She kept us informed of good news and bad and actively sought feedback from the community NIH serves.”

In that role and as director of the NIH Office of Extramural Research (OER), Rockey was responsible for setting and implementing grants policy, ensuring compliance and integrity, managing the electronic processing of grant applications—in essence, steering NIH’s research grant portfolio. With over 80 percent of NIH’s $30.3 billion annual budget going towards funding medical research worldwide through grants, OER and Rockey carried a huge responsibility.

“Under Rockey’s leadership, OER has become a phenomenally open organization. She communicates personally through her blog, often anticipating issues and sometimes reacting to it,” Garrison said of Rockey’s Rock Talk blog, which he described as a must-read for scientists, administrators and policy people. “It is marvelous. In my 20 years at FASEB, I haven’t experienced anything like this.”

Dr. Lawrence Tabak, NIH principal deputy director, noted that “Sally has been stellar in every possible way,” but her enduring legacy will be “the unprecedented transparency she brought to the whole process.

Rock Talk revolutionized the way people looked at OER,” Tabak said. “It [peeled back the curtain and]taught NIH it is okay to do that.

“She is very creative, engaging, highly intelligent and able to engage people at all levels,” he said. “Her departure is an enormous loss for NIH.”

Rockey came to NIH in 2005, becoming OER’s acting director in late 2008. Just months into her tenure, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act swept into NIH like a tidal wave, bringing tons of money on its crest but also demanding a skillful balancing of work by NIH staff to get funding out the door quickly.

“It was an amazing time for NIH and amazing work by staff,” Rockey said. “We all came together to make it work. It was a great accomplishment for NIH as we supported incredible research, which fueled our knowledge-based economy.”

Dr. Ann Bonham, chief scientific officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, lauded Rockey’s “achievements, especially in clarifying NIH policies, emphasizing the biomedical workforce and working with the Federal Demonstration Partnership [an agency-university partnership] to try and streamline effort-reporting [reporting the effort of everyone associated with a grant].”

The biomedical workforce initiative aims at addressing a major challenge—a glut of Ph.D.s chasing scarce tenure-track jobs, as well as too few minorities in the sciences. Solutions include broadening training experiences for graduate students, higher stipends for postdoctoral researchers and a better system to gather data on NIH-funded trainees.

Rockey’s passion for biology came from her mother, who loved the outdoors. Armed with a Ph.D., Rockey joined the Department of Agriculture and soon led its extramural research competitive program.

Despite a demanding career, Rockey has always found time to play bridge, attend a book club and sing herself hoarse at Bruce Springsteen concerts (nearly 60 and counting).

“She is one of the few people who can weave in the Redskins, the Ravens, Bruce Springsteen and effort-reporting into a single conversation,” Bonham said.

After nearly 30 years in government, Rockey is headed to the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research in Washington, D.C., as its first executive director. The nonprofit aims to bring together private and public support for innovative agricultural research.

Any parting advice?

“My successor has to be very attuned to the issues happening at the ICs and the extramural community and think about the end results of the policies we develop,” she said. “That outward look is very important.

“Leaving is bittersweet,” Rockey concluded. “I am proud of OER and all we have done for NIH and our biomedical research community. Everyone here works very hard and is dedicated to the idea of public service, as I am. I have so enjoyed working with [NIH director Dr.] Francis [Collins] and Larry and had a great time in leadership.

“I have loved my time at NIH and couldn’t imagine a job as rewarding. I’m really going to miss NIH and everyone here.”

Guttmacher Retires as NICHD Director

Dr. Alan Guttmacher, NICHD director, retired after leading the institute for nearly 6 years.
Dr. Alan Guttmacher, NICHD director, retired after leading the institute for nearly 6 years.

Dr. Alan Guttmacher, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, retired from his position Sept. 30. He led NICHD for nearly 6 years.

“Alan possesses a rare combination of brilliance, impeccable scientific acumen, a lightning-quick wit and an inspiring sense of humanity,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “I am truly sorry to see him retire from NIH, but I am deeply grateful for his enormous contributions to this agency and to advancing medical research.”

Guttmacher was appointed NICHD director in 2010, after serving as the institute’s acting director the previous year. Among his many accomplishments, he championed the development of a scientific vision for the institute, soliciting the advice and counsel of scientists and public health experts from several disciplines to identify the most promising scientific opportunities across NICHD’s mission areas. He also launched the Human Placenta Project, a collaborative research initiative aimed at improving understanding of the placenta and its role in health and disease.

Guttmacher began his NIH career as a special assistant to Collins when Collins was director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. Guttmacher became deputy director of NHGRI in 2002 and acting director in 2008.

Among Guttmacher’s areas of expertise was the development of new approaches for translating genomics into better ways of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease. He came to NIH from the University of Vermont, where he directed the department of pediatrics’ Vermont Regional Genetics Center and Pregnancy Risk Information Service. He also served as medical director of the Vermont Newborn Screening Program, founded Vermont’s only pediatric intensive care unit and co-directed the Vermont Cancer Center’s Familial Cancer Program.

In retirement, Guttmacher plans to move back to Vermont with his wife and remain active in issues of reproductive health and children’s well-being.

Dr. Catherine Y. Spong, formerly NICHD deputy director, became acting director on Oct. 1. She has held several leadership positions during her 20-year career at NICHD, including director of extramural research and chief of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch. She is an internationally recognized researcher and board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine.

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