As a college student, Dr. Ericka Boone struggled with the dilemma of taking a summer internship with Merck or one with Penn State’s department of biobehavioral health.
“That decision shaped the rest of my life. I realized this is what I love doing,” said Boone, who studied the effects of alcohol on neurotransmitter systems in the brains of mice that summer at Penn State and went on to get a Ph.D. from the university.
Boone is acutely aware of the quandary young scientists face, debating whether to go into higher paying jobs in private industry and shed their educational debt quickly or follow their passion for research. As new director of the Division of Loan Repayment in the NIH Office of Extramural Research, she is heading a program that can influence their choice.
The Loan Repayment Program (LRP) is focused on attracting qualified physician-scientists to research careers and retaining them by helping pay back up to $35,000 a year for 2 years (total $70K) of their eligible educational debt; awardees are also eligible for 1- or 2-year renewals. The caveat? They must agree to conduct NIH-mission relevant research for 20 hours a week at a domestic nonprofit or government agency over the same period.
Doing research comes at a sacrifice,” noted Boone, who was a postdoc at Emory University and the University of Illinois. “I had friends who bought houses and had great careers, while I drove a Ford Escort for 14 years.
“We want to remove the financial burden and get the message out about the program, as the LRPs represent an important investment by NIH in the future of health discovery.”
“Congress saw indebtedness of physician-scientists, including dentists and veterinarians, as one of the major barriers that forced them from research into direct clinical care,” said Dr. Sherry Mills, director of the Office of Extramural Programs at OER and Boone’s supervisor.
The LRP, mandated by Congress, funds some 1,500 researchers a year outside of NIH, with annual awards totaling $65 million to $70 million (see https://www.lrp.nih.gov/). “We are taking bright physician-scientists, eliminating most of their educational debt, helping them stay in research and starting their trajectory into independent research,” Mills said.
Mills praised Boone as “very smart, very focused and someone who has embraced the spirit of the program in a core way. She carries the best interests of participants at all times and is a super advocate for applicants and staff.”
Boone joined NIH in 2008, working in NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications, where she developed publications on substance use and abuse. She later began assisting with the LRP at NIDA, becoming an LRP program officer in 2010 and NIDA’s LRP liaison in 2013. When the LRP division director job opened up at OER, it seemed an ideal fit for her qualifications. Boone applied and was named director recently.
The daughter of a Navy officer, Ernest Kimbrough, and a Department of Transportation contractor, Toni Kimbrough, Boone grew up in a big family (four sisters and a brother) and moved around a lot. The Virginia Beach native says she gets her joy for life from her father and her “knuckle-down, hard work ethic” from her mother.
In her spare time, she makes jewelry, travels and loves attending jazz, R&B and gospel concerts.
A single parent, Boone says she has been absorbed for the past 18 years in raising her son, Evan, a college freshman. She has volunteered at his school since his pre-K days and is currently a volunteer on the NAACP Parents’ Council in Montgomery County.
And she has graduated to a Hyundai Sonata.
Dr. Sarah Hollingsworth Lisanby has joined NIMH as director of the Division of Translational Research (DTR). She comes from Duke University School of Medicine, where she was chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and J.P. Gibbons professor of psychiatry. Prior to that, she was chief of the division for brain stimulation and neuromodulation at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute and professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia.
Lisanby is a leading researcher in the area of neuromodulatory interventions for treating major depression. She has received numerous awards for her research, including the Max Hamilton Memorial Prize of the International College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the Klerman Prize from what is now the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and the Eva King Killam Research Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
In addition to research, Lisanby has served on numerous advisory panels, editorial boards and professional associations. She has served as president of the Association for Convulsive Therapy (now the International Society of ECT and Neurostimulation) and the International Society for Transcranial Stimulation and as chair of the American Psychiatric Association task force to revise the practice of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
As DTR director, Lisanby will oversee a research funding portfolio of about $400 million and help set a national agenda for research on mental illness.
'A NATIONAL TREASURE’
Linda Brown, 73, who worked for the Medical Arts Branch for over 48 years and was an integral part of the branch’s creative process and culture, died Oct. 25 after battling cancer for 3 years.
In January 2014, Brown retired from her role as creative services director, which she held for 17 years. But she returned immediately as a volunteer and mentor, exemplifying her dedication to NIH and the creative process. She also volunteered at the NIH history office, helping with the archives of years of illustrations, posters and photographs created by Medical Arts staff. Brown admitted that she could not picture herself not working, so she slowly transitioned into retirement. She concluded her volunteer work at the end of 2014.
Brown first joined Medical Arts as a general illustrator in 1966, after graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in fine arts. She began her NIH career with the expectation of moving to the West Coast at some point, but that never happened. She enjoyed her work and her clients so much that she didn’t mind that her plans changed, affirming that “NIH is a wonderful place to work.”
Brown considered herself old-school and believed that whatever she produced should be quality-driven. When she transitioned from being an illustrator to creative services director, she was still able to keep some important projects for herself. In the latter role, one of her responsibilities was to interview Medical Arts’ clients and match them to the best team to get the job done. “I like to play matchmaker,” she said. “I managed the more complicated projects,” organizing the tasks and workloads.
Brown could tell which designer or illustrator completed a project simply by looking at it. She was able to distinguish her employees’ artwork by the type of ink used, inconspicuous signature designs or particular techniques.
“With tremendous creative energy, Linda worked to create a vision and an award-winning NIH standard of art as it applies to communicating discoveries in biomedical research,” said Tammie Edwards, Medical Arts chief. “She ensured the continuation of this tradition by training and mentoring numerous creative staff over the years, including myself. We have always considered her a national treasure.”
Survivors include a sister, Mary Ann Marmon, nieces Karen Marmon and Nancy Carson, nephew Glenn Marmon and granddaughters Rachel and Leah Rosenberg, as well as many close friends.
In remembrance of Brown and her dedicated efforts, Medical Arts is planning an art show to celebrate her life’s works and contributions, date pending.