New CC Authority, Grant Disparity, Zika Top ACD Agenda

Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan speaks at NIH.
At a June 9 meeting of the advisory committee to the NIH director, Dr. Hannah Valantine gives an update on disparity in grant review.

Crucial topics at home and abroad headlined the most recent meeting of the advisory committee to the NIH director (ACD).

At NIH home base, the Clinical Center’s leadership began to undergo some of its first significant restructuring since opening in 1953, in response to recommendations by the ACD-appointed Red Team [see sidebar 1].

In the extramural community, persistent disparities in funding outcomes for African- American grant applicants will be studied further following new analysis by NIH’s Office of Scientific Workforce Diversity [see sidebar 2].

Globally, the Zika outbreak has spread to Puerto Rico with no signs of slowing. Newly confirmed facts about the virus’s impact on fetuses, newborns and pregnant women require immediate and comprehensive research, according to updates by leaders of NIAID and NICHD [see sidebar 3].

These issues, reports on the Cancer Moonshot and Big Data to Knowledge and more packed the 1½-day ACD agenda June 9-10.

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Davidson Lectures on Benefits of Meditation

Dr. Richard Davidson
Dr. Richard Davidson

We undergo many kinds of training in life—career, physical fitness, sports, artistic pursuits. Dr. Richard Davidson asks, why not consider training in a life skill that, the evidence suggests, could benefit our health and well-being, and in turn our wider communities and the world?

Davidson, an NCCIH grantee and an internationally known researcher on meditation and other contemplative practices, reported findings from his laboratory at the 2016 Stephen E. Straus Distinguished Lecture in the Science of Complementary Therapies, “Change Your Brain by Transforming Your Mind.” At the University of Wisconsin, he is the William James and Vilas professor of psychology and psychiatry, director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds. NCCIH’s annual lecture honors Straus, its founding director.

While most meditation practices originated in ancient religious and spiritual traditions, Davidson said, the reasons that people use them today have often changed: “People feel like they’re overwhelmed and very stressed. They may have chronic pain. [They want] to quiet the soul, produce some modicum of equanimity. They may feel like their lives are not working and want some kind of other strategy to help them cope with life’s slings and arrows.”

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