|Vol. LXX, No. 11|
|Dr. Richard Nakamura Dr. Helena Mishoe Dr. Leorey Saligan Dr. Adrian Wiestner NIH PHS Officers Volunteer at Local Parks|
CSR Director Nakamura Retires
“One of the great joys of my 39+ year career at NIH has been working with so many extramural scientists and staff who care deeply about the future of science and NIH research,” said Dr. Richard Nakamura, who retired as director of the Center for Scientific Review on Apr. 30. “Their service has made NIH a great powerhouse for science and health.
“I had planned on retiring a year after the NIH director asked me to re-stabilize the situation within scientific review in 2011,” he continued. “But instead, I became engaged with the great people at CSR and the important work that needed to be done.”
There was indeed a lot of work. NIH director Dr. Francis Collins praised Nakamura for helping CSR face multiple challenges: “During his tenure, Richard dealt with an historic increase in applications, multiple policy changes and a host of other challenges, including the recovery from the 2013 government shutdown,” he said.
“Richard demonstrated extraordinary leadership abilities, guiding the center forward while earning historically high approval ratings from his staff,” Collins continued. “He implemented improved and more efficient review procedures; advanced studies of NIH peer review including the possible impact of an investigator’s race in review scores; created new venues for employee input; and increased training and diversity of the center’s leadership.”
“I figured there wasn’t a better time to step back and let others lead,” said Nakamura. “I am thus very thankful that Dr. Noni Byrnes agreed to step in as acting CSR director to lead CSR forward until a new director can be named.” Byrnes recently was CSR’s acting deputy director and director of its Division of Basic and Integrative Biological Sciences.
“CSR and NIH peer review still face significant challenges,” Nakamura continued. “The numbers of incoming applications keep going up while paylines remain at historic lows, new policies continue to emerge and the need to assess and advance the quality of NIH reviews remains a pressing one. Fortunately, CSR is a strong organization with a highly qualified staff that’s deeply dedicated to peer review.”
Nakamura came to CSR after a 32-year tenure at the National Institute of Mental Health, where he had served as both scientific director and deputy director as well as acting director from 2001 to 2002. For his extraordinary efforts, he earned the Presidential Rank Award and other leadership awards.
Collins also praised him as “a staunch defender of the quality of NIH-supported research…For example, when NIMH’s basic research funding was questioned by Congress and the media in 1995, Richard coordinated a robust defense that led Sam Donaldson of ABC News’ Prime Time Live to say he thought he was investigating ‘the motherlode of government waste’ but he found NIMH studies were ‘a bargain at twice the price.’”
While Nakamura will now enjoy extended travels and more time with his wife and grandchildren, “he isn’t retiring from his passions that drove his efforts at NIH,” said Collins. “He plans to volunteer at CSR to ensure some of the studies he started will be finished.”
Nakamura also is excited to be free from the fetters of federal employment—he wants to be a vocal advocate for mental health. No one knows what he might say, but it should be interesting given that he has been called one of the most thoughtful leaders among the NIH institute and center directors.Retiree Mishoe Honored with Namesake Fellowship
“The next generation will be the ones to change the world, and I am so excited to be a part of it,” said Dr. Helena Mishoe, describing her feelings about the newly unveiled Radm. Helena O. Mishoe Fellowship for Underrepresented Scientists at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Mishoe, who spent most of her NIH career at NHLBI, retired last December. Known for her dedication to improving health equity among underserved populations, her contributions have improved the lives of people across the globe.
The Mishoe fellowship—which offers opportunities for postbacs from nationally underrepresented backgrounds to receive training in basic, translational and clinical research—is a tribute to everything that Mishoe accomplished at NIH.
For a young Mishoe, the path to NIH was not clear-cut.
She grew up in rural Delaware, where she attended segregated schools until her junior year in high school. Despite the circumstances, her parents instilled in her and her siblings the importance of education and hard work. This foundation drove Mishoe to earn several academic degrees while fueling her commitment to help others pursue an education as well.
Mishoe came to NIH in 1981 as an intramural staff fellow after receiving her Ph.D. in microbiology from Georgetown University School of Medicine. She rose through the research ranks early in her career, conducting independent work on molecular biology and gene expression while mentoring and training junior and senior research staff.
In 1988, she joined the extramural program at NHLBI. There, she began as a program director, providing direction for research programs meant to improve the lives of patients with blood diseases and disorders.
Shortly after arriving at NHLBI, she met and shadowed Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, who reiterated the importance of being a champion for others.
“Her passion and commitment to public service, NIH, her staff and those marginalized due to gender, socio-economic status and race and ethnicity inequities forever changed my life,” said Mishoe. “She took me under her wing and became my role model, mentor, confidante and friend.”
In 1990, Mishoe joined the Commissioned Corps.Her duties as an officer gave her a depth of knowledge of other scientific disciplines and a broad network of individuals she could call on to help solve public health problems over the years.
Mishoe was eventually appointed by the NIH director to serve as NIH representative to the surgeon general’s policy advisory council for a decade.
She returned to school for her master’s in public health in 2001. Upon graduation, she was appointed associate director, overseeing a new office with a dual mission to facilitate and coordinate the NHLBI minority health research and research training activities, as well as overall training and career development.
She spent the rest of her career at NHLBI serving as a senior science executive.
“All the wonderful things that were accomplished during my tenure for established researchers, fellows and trainees simply would not have been possible without my committed and amazing staff who worked with me tirelessly over the years,” she said.
Mishoe received numerous awards, including the Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service Medal and the NIH Ruth Kirschstein Mentoring Award. She says the renaming in her honor of the Biomedical Research Training Program for Underrepresented Groups—which she served as program director and career mentor—is her most meaningful recognition.
“All of the work that I’ve done and want to continue to do is about valuing people and making sure that they not only have opportunities, but are also prepared for those opportunities,” she concluded.
NHLBI’s Wiestner Wins Scholar-Innovator Award
Dr. Adrian Wiestner, senior investigator in NHLBI’s Laboratory of Lymphoid Malignancies, is among winners of the 2018 Harrington Scholar-Innovator Awards. The awards support breakthrough discoveries in diverse research areas including cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and addiction.
Wiestner is an internationally recognized expert in chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. His research team has developed experimental monoclonal antibodies that can be combined with an existing FDAapproved therapeutic antibody to deliver a “one-two punch” against cancer cells, including those that can escape killing by conventional monoclonal antibodies. His research is currently being explored in preclinical models with the hope of eventually moving the studies to human trials at the Clinical Center.
The scholar-innovator awards advance drug discoveries by providing access to financial support and critical expertise in accessing drug development resources. They are administered by the Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals in Cleveland.CELEBRATING ‘EARTH MONTH’
NIH PHS Officers Volunteer at Local Parks
April marked Earth Month to raise awareness of the health of our environment. Earth Day recognition began in 1968 when Morton Hilbert and the Public Health Service organized the Human Ecology Symposium, an environmental conference for students to hear from scientists about the effects of environmental degradation on human health. For the next 2 years, Hilbert and students worked to plan the first Earth Day. In April 1970—along with a federal proclamation from Sen. Gaylord Nelson—the first Earth Day was held.
Now the planet is celebrated throughout the entire month of April. Cleanup events were organized and volunteers were recruited to help clean public land, recreation parks and watersheds. Volunteers removed tires, plastic bottles, cans and other debris from local waterways.
Lt. Santhana Webb and Lt. Theresa Yu of NIH’s PHS communications/visibility subcommittee led groups of officers, civilians and their families to help clean local parks in Virginia and Maryland. The group was part of more than 600 volunteers who gave 1,500 hours of service to collect an estimated 5.1 tons of trash across 8 parks in Fairfax County, Va.
Events increased PHS visibility and encouraged active living and good health.