|Vol. LXIX, No. 5|
The Office of Strategic Planning, Legislation and Scientific Policy at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has added three staffers.
Dr. Steve Newell works as a health scientist. He assists in coordinating trans-NIH activities, preparing reports to Congress and planning strategic priorities and policies.
Prior to joining NIH, Newell served as a science and technology policy fellow on behalf of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Barbara Wojciechowski has joined the office as a statistician. She will be contributing to data analysis, data management, data mining, evaluation and assessments.
Before joining NIH, she served as a statistician for the Veterans Administration’s Health Equities and Rural Outcomes Center of Innovation at the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC in Charleston, S.C.
Wojciechowski holds an M.A. in mathematics with an emphasis on statistics from the University of West Florida and an M.S. in biomedical sciences with an emphasis on epidemiology from the Medical University of South Carolina. She is a grandmother of two baby girls and loves to crochet in her free time.
Dr. Carole Christian works as a health science administrator. She comes to NIMHD from the Office of Portfolio Analysis in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives and has been with NIH for 9 years. In addition to performing portfolio analyses, she founded and co-chaired the portfolio analysis interest group and initiated the OPA blog. Christian also planned and implemented symposia and workshops for OPA.
Prior to NIH, she worked at the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs as a science officer. Christian received her Ph.D. in virology at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
As a child in Bethlehem, Pa., Dr. Hilary Sigmon wanted to become a nurse. She did not envision then, however, that nursing would lead to master’s and doctoral degrees and a research career. Sigmon retired recently after 30 years at NIH, the last 15 as a scientific review officer in the Center for Scientific Review.
Sigmon attended the University of Pennsylvania. “Penn had a 5-year program at the time where I could earn a B.A. in sociology and also a diploma from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing,” she explained.
As a registered nurse, she moved to Washington, D.C., in 1973. She worked in George Washington University Hospital’s intensive care unit and later earned her master’s degree in nursing from Catholic University. She became a clinical nurse specialist in the intensive care units at Johns Hopkins Hospital and research assistant in Hopkins’ pathology department. She then moved to Washington Hospital Center to orchestrate the nursing flight team and co-head its shock trauma unit and helicopter emergency service.
Sigmon earned her Ph.D. at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in physiology, studying antithrombin III and its effect in disseminated anticoagulation during septic shock. “I defended my dissertation a month later than I planned because I gave birth to my son,” she recalled.
Sigmon first came to NIH through the National Center for Nursing Research, now NINR. “They were looking for a nurse-physiologist to help build their basic science portfolio,” she said. “It was a great entrée for a nurse researcher at the NIH,” she said.
In 2000, she moved to CSR as SRO for the Fogarty International Center to conduct site visits to projects in Russia, Haiti, Uganda and China—all in 6 months. “I basically did not sleep,” she said. Her background helped her form teams with the right mix of expertise, she noted.
“Hilary changed the model of how international initiatives are reviewed at CSR,” said Dr. René Etcheberrigaray, CSR deputy director. She involved a range of study sections, he explained, tapping into their scientific expertise while helping them understand the resource constraints in many middle- and low-income countries.
As another lasting contribution, Sigmon was SRO of the AIDS clinical studies and epidemiology study section. “She was part of the group of people who made a big difference in HIV/AIDS going from an acute disease that killed people to a chronic disease,” said Dr. Robert Freund, chief of the AIDS and AIDS related research integrated review group. “Her dedication to patients and applicants moved the field forward.”
In retirement, Sigmon divides her time between Maryland and Florida, travels internationally, volunteers for political causes and takes Spanish classes.
She remains an active alumnus of Penn, which her husband, sons, sister and other family members also attended. She credits her R.N. training there as the beginning of a challenging, yet unexpected trajectory. “The profession of nursing allowed me to fulfill my dreams,” she said. “It took me to places I never imagined, including international research related to HIV/AIDS.”
In an earlier stage in his career, Dr. Arnold Revzin pioneered the gel shift assay, a widely used method to determine if protein binds to a given DNA/RNA sequence. He transferred the creativity and perseverance that marked his research to the Center for Scientific Review, where he retired recently as chief of an oncology integrated review group.
Revzin’s ability to “roll up his sleeves and get to work” distinguished him as an outstanding scientist, administrator and NIH colleague, said Dr. Donald Schneider, senior advisor to the CSR director and former director of CSR’s Division of Basic and Integrative Biological Sciences. “We were lucky to have Arnold as a colleague. He has been a constructive force with substantial presence at NIH.”
Revzin grew up in Chicago and majored in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. “I gravitated to the ‘chemical,’ not the ‘engineering’ side,” he said. He went on to the University of Wisconsin, where he received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry. He then conducted postdoctoral research at the Weizmann Institute, Max Planck Institute and University of Oregon.
He joined the Michigan State University faculty in 1975 and is now professor emeritus. In 1981, his co-authored article introducing the gel shift assay garnered some 900 citations; he has also published numerous other articles, monographs and chapters.
In 1984, a 1-year rotation appointment as a program director at the National Science Foundation proved pivotal in two ways. First, when he returned to MSU, he went into administration, becoming associate dean in the College of Natural Science and assistant vice president for research services. Second, he found he enjoyed working in a federal science agency.
When his wife took a position at the National Archives in Washington, Revzin sought a position at NIH. He joined CSR in 1998 as a scientific review officer for three biophysical chemistry study sections. He also worked as a referral officer to assign grant applications to study sections for peer review. In 2013, he became chief of the oncology 1-basic translational IRG.
Revzin took on other assignments while at CSR, including chairing committees on training and on scientific overlap to respond to appeals by grant applicants. He also enjoyed outreach opportunities, explaining the review process to postdocs and early stage investigators at scientific meetings.
“Arnold is the ultimate professional,” said Dr. Noni Byrnes, current director of the Division of Basic and Integrative Biological Sciences. “He is easygoing, with a tremendous sense of integrity.” Schneider said he appreciated Revzin’s “ability to blend a blunt honesty with a wonderful sense of humor.”
Looking back, Revzin enjoyed each aspect of his career. “I liked being a faculty member and administration was interesting because I wanted to see how the university worked,” he said. “When I came to NIH, I found I enjoyed contributing to science in a different, broader way.”
Revzin will continue to “roll up his sleeves” in retirement. He volunteers at an addiction treatment center associated with Suburban Hospital. By taking on some of the center’s administrative and front-desk tasks, he frees up the professionals to focus on patient care. He also plays the recorder with a group of fellow musicians, mostly classical and occasionally ragtime and other genres of music. He also appreciates having more time to travel and to visit family members, including two grandchildren in Houston.
Kimberly Allen recently was named executive officer at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She had served as deputy EO since 2015. Before coming to NIMHD, Allen was deputy executive officer at NIGMS. She will serve as principal advisor to the director on management issues affecting the institute and will continue to serve as a key member of the leadership group in executing the strategic mission.
Dr. Shelli Avenevoli has been named deputy director of NIMH. She steps into the post having served as acting deputy during NIMH’s search for a new permanent director. She brings to the role a background and research interest in developmental science and epidemiology and a record of leadership within NIMH and in numerous cross-institute and interagency scientific collaborations.
Avenevoli came to NIH in 2001, joining the NIMH intramural research program as a staff scientist. Among the studies in which she was a co-investigator was the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Study, which aimed to gather information about the prevalence and course of mental disorders in children and adolescents. She moved to NIMH’s extramural program in 2005, ultimately becoming chief of the Developmental Trajectories of Mental Disorders Branch. While there, she guided the reorienting of NIMH’s translational neurodevelopmental research portfolio towards an emphasis on etiology, brain development and neurobiological function. She also led the building of a research program aimed at bipolar disorder and early, chronic irritability in children.
She has played a leadership role in a long list of collaborative initiatives and reports focusing on development. Most recently, she represented NIMH on the planning committees for the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes study and the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study.
As acting deputy director, she helped revise and implement NIMH’s strategic plan and the institute’s process for evaluating and approving funding opportunity announcements. Of the latter, former acting NIMH director Dr. Bruce Cuthbert said, “The revised process involved more staff members in the initiation and decision stages and resulted in better-targeted funding announcements.” He praised Avenevoli’s “thoughtfulness and her ability to quickly distill major points and identify issues. She played a leadership role in the task of revising NIMH’s funding announcements for clinical trials, including introducing different announcements for pharmaceutical, behavioral and device-oriented trials to help investigators develop optimal trial designs.”
Prior to joining NIMH, Avenevoli received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Temple University and completed an NIMH-funded postdoctoral fellowship at Yale.
NIMH director Dr. Joshua Gordon expressed his appreciation for what she brings to the post: “It is incredibly helpful—and a great pleasure—to have someone with Dr. Avenevoli’s insight and experience in the deputy role during a period of transition for me and for NIMH.”—Charlotte Armstrong