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January 12, 2018
NCCIH Director Briggs Leaves for Journal Post

For many at NIH, NCCIH director Dr. Josie Briggs’s talents in thinking through tough problems, taking on the most “gnarly” and fearsome projects and ensuring that things get done have made her a lighthouse in the community.

Dr. Josie Briggs
Dr. Josie Briggs

In October, she navigated from NIH’s stretch of “coastline” to a new port. She retired from the directorship of NCCIH and a long NIH career to become editor-in-chief of the leading journal in her medical specialty and move part time to her beloved Maine.

Briggs has begun a 6-year term as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

“I am very happy for Josie, and I know that she will bring her exceptional scientific and administrative skills to her new position,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “But I am sad to see her go. She has been an outstanding director, a trusted advisor and a good friend. She is among the most accomplished leaders at the NIH and is universally respected both within and outside our agency.”

“I’m proud of many things as I depart,” Briggs said, “but most of all, I’m proud of the people across this institution who really deliver for the NIH and the American public on extraordinary science. The ability to find such wonderful people, at all levels, and encourage them has been the joy of this job.”

Briggs came to NIH in 1997 to direct NIDDK’s Division of Kidney, Urologic and Hematologic Diseases. In 2006, she left to become a senior scientific officer at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, but returned in 2008 to direct NCCIH.

“Josie brought a deep understanding of all aspects of research, including translational research, to the center’s studies of complementary health approaches,” said NCCIH acting director Dr. David Shurtleff. “She has had an indispensable role in moving the field forward and expanding the base of rigorous evidence on the safety and effectiveness of these diverse practices and products.”

During her tenure as NCCIH director, Briggs also took on many other large, complex NIH projects. She served as acting director of the Division of Clinical Innovation at NCATS, interim director of All of Us (formerly the NIH Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program) and co-chair of the NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory as well as several NIH Roadmap committees. Her memberships included the NIH steering committee (NIH’s most senior governing board), the NIH scientific management review board and the NIH Pain Consortium executive committee.

Newly retired NCCIH director Dr. Josie Briggs and husband Dr. Jurgen Schnermann, retired from NIDDK, at her retirement party in Wilson Hall
Newly retired NCCIH director Dr. Josie Briggs and husband Dr. Jurgen Schnermann, retired from NIDDK, at her retirement party in Wilson Hall


Being a mentor was another way Briggs shone light: “I am grateful for all Josie did to build an amazing network of young scientists, especially women,” Collins said. “She has lived what some people just talk about. The NIH is an infinitely better place today because of her.”

Briggs’s research interests range from the renin-angiotensin system to science communication. She said of her new job, “I see a journal editor as being in a position similar to a funder. I plan to enhance JASN’s role and focus on publishing the best primary research in the field, from the most basic to the most applied. Chronic kidney disease, in particular, needs a lot more innovative, practical work.”

Briggs received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School and completed her residence in internal medicine and nephrology, and a fellowship in clinical nephrology, at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She came to NIH from the University of Michigan, where she was a professor of nephrology and physiology.

Her many awards and prizes include the 2014 John P. Peters Award from the American Society of Nephrology for improving the lives of patients and furthering understanding of the kidney, six NIH Director’s Awards, the NIH OD Honor Award, the HHS 2014 Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service and the Volhard Prize of the German Nephrological Society.

She looks forward to spending time in Maine and D.C. with her husband, Dr. Jurgen Schnermann, retired senior investigator and former chief of NIDDK’s intramural Kidney Disease Branch, and to devoting more time to her family, gardening, drawing, running, biking and other interests. In addition to her JASN job, she will have a position at NCCIH as director emeritus and continue to collaborate with colleagues.

“Josie is proof positive that the impact someone can have at the NIH is completely unrelated to the size of their institute or center,” said NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak. “Whenever Josie was involved, it made anything better.”

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