|Vol. LXVIII, No. 15|
|Dr. Paul Sieving New members of the ORWH advisory council Dr. Nara Gavini Dr. Helen Sunshine|
The Societa Oftalmologica Italiana (SOI) recently recognized National Eye Institute director Dr. Paul Sieving with the SOI Honorary Award in Ophthalmology.
Since 2008, the SOI has used the award to acknowledge individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the field of ophthalmology.
Based in Rome, the SOI was founded in 1869 and is the oldest society of ophthalmologists in Europe. It currently includes nearly 5,000 members.
Sieving has directed NEI since 2001. He is known for clinical and basic studies of degenerative retinal disorders. His studies of pharmacological approaches to slowing degeneration in retinal transgenic animal models led to the first human clinical trial of ciliary neurotrophic factor for retinitis pigmentosa. In 2015, he initiated the first gene therapy trial for x-linked retinoschisis.
Sieving is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and of the German National Academy of Sciences.
Three new members were recently named to the NIH advisory committee on research on women’s health.
Dr. Chloe Bird is a senior social scientist at the RAND Corp., professor of policy analysis at Pardee RAND Graduate School and author of Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choice and Social Policies. Her work assesses and maps gender differences in the quality of care for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Dr. Carolyn Mazure is a professor of psychiatry and psychology at Yale University’s School of Medicine, where she created and directs the interdisciplinary research center on health and gender. She developed new approaches for examining risk factors for depression and was the first to demonstrate how stress is a more potent pathway to depression in women than men.
Dr. David Page is director of Whitehead Institute, a professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He reconstructed the evolution of today’s X and Y chromosomes from an ancestral pair of chromosomes that existed 300 million years ago and discovered molecular evolutionary mechanisms by which the Y chromosome became functionally specialized in spermatogenesis.
Dr. Nara Gavini recently joined the National Institute of Nursing Research’s Division of Extramural Science Programs as chief of the Office of Extramural Programs. He will be responsible for overseeing all activities related to NINR funding for research that occurs outside of NIH in institutions across the country and internationally.
Before joining NINR, Gavini served as a health scientist administrator at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, where he led many scientific, training and diversity initiatives.
Gavini has held a professorship at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, served as head of the department of biological sciences at Mississippi State University and as cross-cluster program director at the National Science Foundation. He has served as principal investigator on grants from the National Science Foundation, NIH and U.S. Department of Agriculture. His scientific expertise spans molecular and cellular biosciences, chemical and computational sciences and quantitative and analytical sciences.
Dr. Helen Sunshine, who recently retired as chief of NIGMS’s Office of Scientific Review (OSR), feels a bit like she’s on summer vacation. For the first time in decades, she doesn’t have—or want—a script for her life. She recently said farewell to her 38-year career at NIH without trepidation.
“Many worry about the future as they approach retirement, but I didn’t,” said Sunshine. “There is no shortage of interesting things to do.”
A seed planted early in life by her high school teacher is what eventually led Sunshine to a career in science and ultimately to NIH. “I was inspired by my chemistry teacher who had a Ph.D.,” she said. “She encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry.”
Sunshine went on to earn a B.A. in chemistry from Barnard College followed by a B.Sc. in inorganic chemistry from Oxford University in England. She then returned to New York to pursue a Ph.D. in bioinorganic chemistry at Columbia University.
For the next few years, Sunshine tried out different career options. In 1974, she joined Howard University as a visiting lecturer in chemistry. A couple of years later, she took a position as an instructor at Prince George’s Community College. Although the college offered her a tenure-track position, her heart was in research. So in 1976, Sunshine joined the NIH intramural program, working first as a postdoctoral fellow and then as a senior research scientist in the Laboratory of Chemical Physics at NIDDK.
Sunshine joined NIGMS in 1981 as a scientific review officer in OSR. She briefly served as a program director and then chief of the biophysics section in the former Biophysics and Physiological Sciences Program. In 1989, Sunshine returned to OSR as its chief, a position she would hold for the next 27 years.
“OSR was a pretty small office when I first joined,” she said. “The reviews primarily involved research training grant applications and there were virtually no RFAs. The work has changed enormously since then.”
Known by colleagues for her intellect and wit, Sunshine worked throughout her career to uphold the highest standards of peer review. She was particularly focused on ensuring high-quality research training within NIGMS-supported programs.
“Helen shaped the way we review research training grants here at NIGMS,” said NIGMS director Dr. Jon Lorsch. “Her knowledge and expertise, along with her passion for training future researchers, made her a great asset to our institute.”
Sunshine was also an influential figure within the broader NIH community.
“Helen was a pillar of the NIH review community for many years and an encyclopedia of knowledge on peer review, particularly with respect to training grant mechanisms,” said Dr. Sally Amero, NIH review policy officer. “She trained a whole cadre of scientific review officers, was an active member of the review policy committee and always made time to help out a colleague or work on a project.”
Until recently, Sunshine even handled the review of some grant applications personally. “I had to shift gears and focus more on guiding and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the office, as the institute expanded and gained additional programs from NCRR,” she said. “We also had to make a lot of changes in our review process.”
While NIGMS has grown and evolved since Sunshine joined, one thing that has remained constant is her love for mentoring others and her appreciation for the relationships she developed over the years.
“I will miss my colleagues and our interactions as well as the intellectual challenges of my job,” Sunshine said. “But for now, I look forward to having time to myself. I will try to be more structured after the summer.”