Pavlides Retires After 53-Year NIH Career
On Aug. 31, John Pavlides retired as senior structural engineer in the Technical Support Branch of the Office of Research Facilities’ Division of Technical Resources. He had worked at NIH since 1965.
“I have greatly enjoyed my engineering career at NIH,” said Pavlides. “The work is challenging, the leadership outstanding. My coworkers are a joy to work with.”
Pavlides reviewed construction projects at intramural research facilities on the main campus, Research Triangle Park, N.C., and Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont. Since 2006, his Excel log indicates he interacted on/reviewed more than 5,800 projects.
The Washington, D.C., native graduated from the University of Maryland in 1957. Soon after, he was commissioned ensign in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineering Corps. While in the Navy, Pavlides administered construction projects in Charleston, S.C., and on an island 300 miles off the coast of Brazil.
After an honorable discharge, he took a position at John G. Loehler and Associates, an architecture/engineering firm located in Kensington. In that position, he designed levels of the central tower and flying buttresses for the Washington National Cathedral.
Then he learned that NIH was recruiting and applied and got a job in 1965 as a structural engineer. A year later, Pavlides headed the Engineering Design Branch’s development, estimating and specifications section. In that role, he directed research for flooring and wall finish materials for animal facilities and set NIH standards for metal partitions and for laboratory shelving.
In 1998, he was part of a group that received the NIH Director’s Award for development of national guidelines for biomedical lab facilities. The guidelines have evolved into national and international standards.
On Aug. 23, 2011, a rare earthquake shook NIH’s campus. Pavlides consulted with his colleagues immediately after feeling the tremors. He first went to the parking garage beneath the Clinical Center to inspect columns for damage. Inspections continued across campus for garages and buildings. Luckily, all buildings remained structurally sound.
Pavlides recalls that he met then-NIH director Dr. Bernadine Healy at her departure reception to thank employees. He told her, “It’s good we have never met.” When she asked why, he responded, “I am a structural engineer.
“NIH is a friendly place to be,” Pavlides concluded. “I have a lot of respect for all our people, and appreciate that they informed us, for review, about any item that appeared to them to be a structural safety issue.”
In retirement, he plans to move to Williamsburg, Va., with his wife of 56 years, Connie, who was a Public Health Service officer in the Clinical Center’s nursing department.
NIH CPR Instructor Egebrecht Ends 33-Year Career
During her 33 years at NIH, Juli Egebrecht has touched the hearts of thousands of smart people, and quite a few dummies too. A teacher of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) use to NIH employees since 1985, she will retire this month.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people by doing this work,” said Egebrecht, director of basic life support training at NIH. “I see them out and about and some will say to me, ‘You look so familiar!’ I just have to say ‘...and 1 and 2 and 3’ and it’s a lightbulb moment.”
Anyone with a medical license of any kind—doctors, therapists, nurses, other health care providers—must have active CPR certification. In the early days, Egebrecht recounted, CPR class lasted all day and clinicians were required to take half-day recertification classes annually. “So I really got to know the people here,” she said. Now, all CPR classes last a half day and renewal is required every 2 years.
“I’m a realist. I know why people are here—they have to be here,” said Egebrecht. “But when you think about it, most sudden cardiac arrests occur at home. It may not be your home; it may be a neighbor’s home…And people may call upon you while they’re waiting for the rescue squad to come. Part of my training is to prepare you for those instances as well as working as part of the [medical] co-team.”
It’s hard to know how many lives Egebrecht’s instruction has helped save over the years, but one story stands out in her mind. An NIH doctor administered CPR on a child who nearly drowned at the resort where he was vacationing. The doctor had just taken Egebrecht’s class a few days earlier.
The best part of her job? “It’s the possibility of saving someone’s life, when it comes right down to it.”
Originally from Wisconsin, Egebrecht moved to the Washington area in 1969, the same summer, she noted, that football coach Vince Lombardi left Green Bay for Washington, turning her into a dual Packers and Redskins fan.
Egebrecht started teaching Wednesday night CPR classes at the YMCA in Silver Spring before coming to NIH, where she worked part time on a per diem. This schedule allowed her to stay at home part-time with her daughters, Ronni and Julia. She would later transition to NIH full time.
Egebrecht was grateful to NIH for allowing her to take extended leave in 1996 to fulfill a dream opportunity, serving as an equestrian event judge at the Olympics in Atlanta. She always loved horseback riding and had previous horse trials experience as a jump judge at the local, state and national levels.
Another of Egebrecht’s long-time interests is international travel. Some of her trips to Europe were to visit exchange students her family hosted over the years.
“Knowing those kids and being here at NIH, seeing folks from all over the world come through class, it really expanded the world for me,” she said. “Everybody here is your family and it’s fun meeting branches of the family you didn’t know existed.”
Egebrecht has been busy going through mounds of stuff accumulated from decades of living in the same house with her husband, Ron, who died of cancer 2 years ago. Once retired, she plans to sell the house and move, with her dog Ben, back to the family’s house in Wisconsin. The home, which has been in her family for generations and is used by extended family as a retreat for holidays and vacations, backs onto a spring-fed glacial lake. She also looks forward to getting back to Lambeau Field for some Packers games.
Her children are grown, and she smiled recollecting how her granddaughter Amanda, 20, has visited her at work since she was a baby, coming with her mom, Ronni, who sometimes helped clean the mannequins. Egebrecht proudly gave Amanda her first CPR training card at the age of 10.
Reflecting on her career, Egebrecht is grateful to have spent a lifetime doing work she loved.
“We are one whole human family, and anything we can do to help folks survive, even something as common as a heart attack that goes into cardiac arrest, is something that adds to keeping your family intact.”Alumnus Vesell Mourned
Dr. Elliot Vesell, who served as a clinical associate at what was then the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases from 1963 to 1965, and who was head of the section on pharmacogenetics at the National Heart Institute from 1965 to 1968, died on July 23.
A native of New York City, he attended Harvard College, where he majored in American literature and history and graduated both magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He then went to Harvard Medical School, graduating magna cum laude as well.
Vesell did his postdoctoral training at Rockefeller University with several Nobel Prize winners and at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He then met his late wife, Kristen Peery Vesell, while they were both working at NIH.
In 1968, Vesell became the founding chair of pharmacology at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where he served as chair for 32 years. He served as assistant dean for graduate education for 22 years and was recognized as an emeritus and Evan Pugh professor, the university’s highest honor.
Vesell published more than 350 articles on pharmacogenomics and received many awards and honorary degrees including an honorary degree from both Penn State University and Marburg University in Germany. The genetic codes on the walls of the Penn State Institute for Personalized Medicine represent his genes.
He is survived by two daughters, Liane Vesell of Boca Raton, Fla., and Hilary Vesell of Hershey, Pa.