Dr. Jean L. Flagg-Newton, a longtime NIH administrator who was instrumental in helping to establish the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, retired at the end of September.
Flagg-Newton spent most of her 28-year career at NIH, most recently as acting director of the Office of Health Equity at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She also served as a scientific review officer at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences; program officer for the Research Collaborative Awards Program and the Minority International Research Training Program of the Fogarty International Center; coordinator of the Minority Health Initiative and deputy director of the Office of Research on Minority Health; and deputy director and chief of the Office of Research in the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the precursor to NIMHD. While at NCMHD, Flagg-Newton implemented its first Centers of Excellence Program and Research Endowment Program.
“Building it from the ground up and launching the first programs was very rewarding,” she said.
Dr. Catherine Spong, NICHD acting director, thanked Flagg-Newton for her unfailing commitment and dedication to NIH at a Sept. 21 NICHD advisory council meeting.
“You have been a tremendous asset to our institute and all of NIH,” said Spong. “We thank you for your many contributions. We will miss you greatly.”
Behind all the titles is a soft-spoken, determined woman who didn’t distinguish her day job from her life’s mission. “On most days throughout my career, coming to work has not been like coming to work,” she said with a quick smile. “There has been an excitement about it, a passion.”
That passion will continue in her ancestral home. She plans to move to South Carolina to help develop the infrastructure of Daufuskie Island, a small sea island not much bigger than the NIH campus, located between Savannah, Ga., and Hilton Head Island, S.C. It is the home of her grandmother and great-grandparents, members of the native Gullah community.
The late author Pat Conroy fictionalized the island in his novel The Water is Wide. Flagg-Newton intends to use her leadership skills to help build a park and bring an island-owned boat and other basic amenities to the local Gullah community.—Meredith Daly
Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak, chief of NINDS’s cell biology and biophysics unit, was recently named one of 31 finalists for the 2016 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. The awards celebrate exceptional young researchers who drive the next generation of scientific innovation by answering the most complex scientific questions of today. The awards were established by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in 2007 and are administered by the New York Academy of Sciences.
Thirty-one finalists were selected among 3 categories—life sciences, physical sciences and engineering, and chemistry—from more than 300 nominations of outstanding faculty-rank researchers from 148 of the nation’s leading academic and research institutions. Roll-Mecak was one of 10 finalists selected in the life sciences category. According to the foundation, she and her fellow finalists are addressing difficult scientific questions with transformative insight, innovative strategies and revolutionary technologies.
Roll-Mecak’s laboratory studies intracellular organization and movement, with a primary interest in microtubules. Microtubules are components of the cytoskeleton and serve as the structural “scaffold” or platform of all cells. She was recognized for her key contributions and discoveries in understanding cytoskeletal regulation, mechanisms of microtubule dynamics and laying the groundwork for deciphering the complexities of the tubulin code.
The finalists competed for three spots as 2016 Blavatnik National Laureates. Laureates and finalists were honored at an annual awards ceremony Sept. 12 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Roll-Mecak earned her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City in 1996, and earned her Ph.D. in molecular biophysics from the Rockefeller University in 2002. She conducted her postdoctoral studies with Dr. Ron Vale at the University of California, San Francisco, in the department of cellular and molecular pharmacology. She joined NINDS in 2009.
NINR director Dr. Patricia Grady recently welcomed six new members to the National Advisory Council for Nursing Research:
Dr. Kathryn H. Bowles is the vanAmeringen professor in nursing excellence at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and vice president and director of the Center for Home Care Policy and Research at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Her program of research examines decision-making supported by information technology to improve care for older adults.
Dr. Aaron G. Buseh is professor of nursing and director of the Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, College of Nursing. His program of research focuses on conducting population-based, multidisciplinary studies aimed at reducing the effects of health disparities within ethnic minority communities.
Dr. George Demiris is the alumni endowed professor in nursing at the School of Nursing and Biomedical and Health Informatics at the School of Medicine, University of Washington. His research interests include the design and evaluation of home-based technologies for older adults and patients with chronic conditions and disabilities and the use of informatics to support patients and caregivers in home care and hospice.
Lt. Col. Jennifer Hatzfeld is a research scientist in the U.S. Air Force. She is currently executive director of the TriService Nursing Research Program at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.
Dr. Deborah Koniak-Griffin is professor and Audrienne H. Moseley endowed chair in women’s health research and associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing. Her work is advancing understanding of methods to eliminate health disparities through health promotion interventions with vulnerable populations, including pregnant/parenting adolescents and Latina women.
Dr. Rita H. Pickler is the FloAnn Sours Easton professor of child and adolescent health and director of the Ph.D. and M.S. in nursing science programs at Ohio State University College of Nursing. Her research focuses on the care of the preterm infant with a focus on improving neurodevelopmental outcomes.
STRUCTURAL BIOLOGY PIONEER
Dr. David Davies, NIDDK scientist emeritus, died Sept. 1 from medical complications following hospitalization. He was 89.
Davies was a founding member of the intramural NIDDK Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) and chief of the lab’s section on molecular structure. His work greatly enhanced biomedical understanding, identifying targets for therapy by uncovering the molecular details of protein and nucleic acid interactions needed for processes that cells undergo.
“David epitomized scientific excellence and collegiality,” said Dr. Michael Krause, NIDDK scientific director and LMB chief at the time of Davies’ retirement. “His genuine excitement about science was infectious and touched everyone fortunate enough to share time with him.”
Davies grew up in Pontardulais, Wales. The first in his family to attend college, he graduated from Oxford University and received a doctorate in 1952. In 1955, he joined NIMH and moved to NIDDK 6 years later. He retired from NIDDK in 2012 after 57 years of federal service and transitioned to an active scientist emeritus.
Among the earliest researchers to characterize nucleotides and important classes of proteins, Davies was closely connected to some of the most important advances on the NIH campus throughout his long and fruitful career, including discovering the first three-stranded helical nucleic acid molecule.
Passionate to foster the next generation of scientists, he recruited and mentored dozens of young scientists who developed successful research careers of their own.
Davies published a brief memoir titled “A Quiet Life with Proteins” in 2004 (see http://bit.ly/2bGuTs8). In it, he observed, “When I came to the NIH in 1955 I never thought that I would stay so long. It was only gradually that I realized what a superb place it is to do research and how many outstanding scientists there are in such a variety of disciplines.”
Davies’ myriad recognitions include election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1978 and receipt of the Stein & Moore Award from the Protein Society in 1998.
“Dr. Davies was a true pioneer in the field of structural biology,” said NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers. “The scientific community is indebted to both his foundational contributions and integral role in cultivating a world-class research program at the NIH.”
Davies is survived by his wife, Monica, and his two daughters, Helen and Sally Davies.