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January 27, 2017

Long-Time Comms Leader Jackson Retires

Why is this man smiling? For starters, he retired in December. But throughout his distinguished 35-year NIH communications career, Calvin Jackson often smiled and appeared mysteriously calm, even under tight deadlines. His positive leadership style remained a constant source of inspiration, one of many attributes for which he’ll be missed.

OCPL’s Calvin Jackson bade farewell to NIH last month.
OCPL’s Calvin Jackson bade farewell to NIH last month.

Jackson, deputy NIH associate director for public affairs, had previously served as chief of the News Media Branch in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, OD, for 8 years. Throughout his career, he produced a variety of NIH audiovisual and other media projects.

“Calvin is remarkable for not only what he accomplished here at NIH, but how he worked with others, which was always with grace,” said John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison. “He is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people at NIH.”

“In a place filled with talented and dedicated people, Calvin Jackson stands out,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “I have had the pleasure of working with Calvin since 1982, and I have always been so impressed with his collegiality, his conscientiousness and his love for this great institution. I will miss him greatly and wish him all the best as he embarks on this exciting new chapter.”

At a retirement party for Jackson, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins noted, “Have you ever seen Calvin get really rattled by anything? I’ve tried really hard, shared my hare-brained ideas at the last minute, but he would always just nod and smile.”

Jackson reflected on a career that not only connected him to valued colleagues but also had impact on the public. “When I think about NIH, who can argue with our mission?” he said. “It doesn’t matter your political affiliation. Everyone wants better health, to live longer and healthier.”

Some stories took him in unexpected directions. About 20 years ago, Jackson produced a radio segment on the lack of minorities on organ and marrow donor registries. The story inspired him to get his bone marrow tested. Two years later, he was a match. He then became the first donor to serve as a board member of the National Marrow Donor Program.

One of his proudest achievements, Jackson said, was completing the ReadyCam studio in Bldg. 31. Researchers and institute directors now can do multiple live broadcasts right from NIH.

Building the studio became more of a hands-on project than Jackson expected. When the project manager left halfway through the job, Jackson quickly had to learn about wiring, carpentry and other facets of building a studio from the ground up.

Another proud feat was LabTV, an effort to collect video vignettes intended to inspire a new generation of scientists; Jackson produced almost 1,000 of them with NIH investigators. “LabTV was one of Calvin’s major accomplishments in recent years,” said Burklow.

Jackson inspired many people through the years with his involvement in NIH’s Management Intern Program. “He’s long been a champion of career development and strengthening diversity in the workforce,” said Burklow.

Dr. Marin Allen, OCPL deputy associate director and long-time colleague, noted, “Calvin has an extraordinary ability to truly listen to what people are saying about their needs and their aspirations, especially young people.”

One of Jackson’s mentees is audiovisual production specialist Woleola “Wally” Akinso. “Calvin often gave me tasks I didn’t think I could handle because he believed in me,” he said. “Calvin’s respect for you makes you want to go the extra mile.”

Upon retirement, Jackson hopes to develop a mentorship program in the Lewes, Del., area where he and his wife now live.

“A lot of kids don’t see college as a viable option,” Jackson said. “I’d like to make college not the exception but what everyone should be aiming for.”

He first came to NIH as a summer intern at the NIH Record. He was a physics major at Tougaloo College in Mississippi but, after writing articles and snapping photos, realized communications might be the career for him. He spent his last 2 summers during college as a writer at NIH’s neurology institute. He was then hired as an editorial assistant at the National Institute on Aging.

“Calvin’s colleagues in the NIH community will remember him as someone who was great—and great fun—to work with,” said Marian Emr, NINDS communications director, who was his supervisor at NIA. “But what will long be remembered is his legacy of quality radio, TV and online programming that tell the NIH story to audiences around the country and the world.”

While working at NIH, Jackson participated in a 6-month internship program at WTTG-TV to get television experience. The station then hired him as an assistant producer for weekend news.

For 3 years, I worked 7 days a week: here at NIH during the week and at the TV station on weekends,” Jackson recounted. “I loved my time at WTTG but I finally decided I needed a life.”

He then migrated to OD, which started producing a radio program on health for local radio station WGMS-FM.

“What changed my career path was getting into the Management Cadre Program at NIH,” said Jackson. The program introduced him to several OD offices. “It gave me a broader idea of what happens here.”

Colleagues have long been impressed with Jackson’s composure, no matter how hectic the workload. “He’s never annoyed. He never complains,” said Akinso. “I always was impressed by his even-keel leadership style, his humility and his kindness.”

“He’s always cool, calm and collected,” said Burklow. “With Calvin, there’s no drama. I really appreciate that in this line of work. He’s also completely reliable. We’ll miss his positive presence.”

Jackson said he plans to decompress for a while but looks forward to doing more oil painting, a longtime hobby, getting involved with his local church, playing tennis and traveling.

Putnam Retires After 42 Years at NIH

Israel Putnam, “the Cal Ripken Jr. of radiation safety,” retired recently.
Israel Putnam, “the Cal Ripken Jr. of radiation safety,” retired recently.

The Cal Ripken Jr. of radiation safety has hung up his cleats.

On Jan. 2, Israel Putnam retired as radioactive material supply management officer in ORS’s Division of Radiation Safety, Materials Control and Analysis Branch. His wife nicknamed him the Ripken of radiation safety because both men spent their entire careers in one place.

Putnam was in charge of the radioactive material inventory used in biomedical research at NIH. Radioactive materials are used for cancer treatments, biological research and in medical imaging. Most of the radioactive material at NIH is not dangerous if handled properly, he noted.

He kept track of all radioactive materials coming in and out of NIH and how they were used. He also helped ensure that NIH was in compliance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.

“Israel has been a stalwart employee of DRS and long ago established himself as the subject matter expert on radioactive materials shipping/receiving,” said Cathy Ribaudo, director of the Division of Radiation Safety. “Over the past 40 years, he has likely spoken with every single principal investigator who has ordered radioactive material for his or her lab and every purchasing agent who has procured it. He’s had an amazing career and I’m deeply appreciative of his many years of service to NIH.”

After he graduated from Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville, Md., Putnam began working at NIH as a radioactive waste physical science aid. He worked part-time and took college courses at night. Two years later, he became a full-time employee.

“I got married young, so I had kids young. I had to work,” he said.

When he first started, his division handled 35,000 shipments of radioactive material a year. They don’t process that many anymore, but Putnam was just as busy as ever. The NRC requires more information about NIH’s nuclear materials than before. He didn’t enjoy enforcing the rules, but knew that he had to in order to advance NIH’s mission.

When a shipment of radioactive material for patients arrived, Putnam and his staff delivered it as fast as possible. Some drugs, for example, have a half-life of 3 hours, which means they become ineffective quickly. Putnam ensured that the packages arrived on time—even if he had to deliver them personally.

Last winter, a snowstorm dumped 2 feet of snow on campus. Although federal offices were closed for 2 days, the Clinical Center stayed open. Researchers still needed their shipments. Putnam dug himself out of his neighborhood in Burtonsville, drove to Bethesda and delivered the goods.

“If I need to be here, I’m going to be here,” he said.

Once, he came into work to solve a problem on the same day his daughter was born. When his daughter was getting married, he oversaw the shipment of a 35-ton cyclotron from NIH to a laboratory in Idaho.

In retirement, he plans on fixing up his townhouse in Burtonsville. A year and a half ago, his wife passed away, so he’ll spend time with his children, Andrea and Michael, and his two grandchildren. In 2017, he’ll spend January in Las Vegas and March in Daytona Beach. And in August, he’ll be in Wyoming to watch the total solar eclipse.

“I get to miss most of winter this year,” he exclaimed.

Bennett Named Director of CSR Scientific Review Evaluation

Melinda Bennett

Melinda Bennett has been named director of scientific review evaluation activities (SREA) at the Center for Scientific Review. This group manages costs, contracts, payments and non-federal travel associated with NIH peer review meetings for CSR and 23 other NIH institutes and centers. Bennett previously served as deputy director in SREA. She has had a 10-year tenure at CSR. She started her career at NIH in 1995 as animal resource program coordinator for the intramural research program at the National Eye Institute.



NIAIDís Belkaid Receives SanofiĖInstitut Pasteur Award

Belkaid, shown at right with Dr. Staffan Normark of the award jury, obtained her Ph.D. in 1996 from the Pasteur Institute in France on innate responses to Leishmania infection.

Dr. Yasmine Belkaid, chief of the mucosal immunology section in NIAID’s Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, has been awarded one of four Sanofi–Institut Pasteur 2016 International Awards. Belkaid received the International Mid-Career Award for her contributions to the field of immunology. Each year, these awards honor four scientists “whose outstanding research in the life sciences is contributing to progress in global public health.” The award was presented on Dec. 13 in Paris, France.

Belkaid, shown at right with Dr. Staffan Normark of the award jury, obtained her Ph.D. in 1996 from the Pasteur Institute in France on innate responses to Leishmania infection. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at NIAID on immune regulation to infection, she joined the Children’s Hospital Research Foundation in Cincinnati as an assistant professor in 2002. In 2005, she joined the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases as a tenure-track investigator and became a tenured investigator in 2008. Since 2007, she has worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work explores the role of the microbiota and nutrition in the control of immunity to infection.


Sanders Is New CSR Budget Officer

Valerie Sanders

Valerie Sanders has been named budget officer at the Center for Scientific Review. She had previously served as a budget analyst at CSR. During a 14-year NIH career, Sanders has steadily risen. She started out as a secretary at NCIís Laboratory of Cell Regulation and Carcinogenesis and then worked as an administrative officer at NIMH and CSR before becoming a CSR budget analyst in 2014. During this period, she earned an M.S. in accounting from Strayer University and a B.S. in health care management from Southern Illinois University.

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