NIH Logo
November 30, 2018
Tumminia Named NEI Deputy Director

Dr. Bruce Tromberg will be the new director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, starting in 2019.
Dr. Santa Tumminia

Dr. Santa Tumminia was appointed deputy director of the National Eye Institute on Nov. 12.

“Dr. Tumminia brings to the deputy post a deep understanding of vision research and a wealth of experience managing science programs at the national level,” said NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving. “The NEI has already benefitted greatly from her steadfast dedication to supporting the highest quality science.”

Tumminia earned her Ph.D. in biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 1991, she joined NEI as a senior staff fellow in the Laboratory of Mechanisms of Ocular Diseases. She then spent 5 years with the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the largest private funding source for retinal degeneration research, where she oversaw a $12 million vision research grant portfolio.

After returning to NIH in 2003, she served as a special assistant to the NEI director and was promoted in 2013 to associate director for science strategic initiatives and programs. She provides ongoing oversight of key NEI biomedical initiatives such as eyeGENE, a pioneering public-private genomic medicine initiative that ties advances in ophthalmic disease gene identification and disease phenotype to clinical care.

A long-time mentor to NIH staff in administra­tive, scientific and clinical careers, Tumminia was honored with an NIH Director’s Award for mentorship in 2018. She also served on numerous trans-NIH committees, including the NIH-wide strategic plan working group.

Ziegler Retires from NCI

After nearly 40 years at NCI, Dr. Regina G. Ziegler retired recently.
After nearly 40 years at NCI, Dr. Regina G. Ziegler retired recently.

Dr. Regina G. Ziegler retired in October after nearly 40 years of service to the National Cancer Institute. She is widely recognized for her expertise in nutritional epidemiology, incorporating circu­lating biomarkers into epidemiologic studies and facilitating the development of assays needed by cancer epidemiologists.

Ziegler received a B.A. from Swarthmore College, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.P.H. from Harvard School of Public Health. After graduate school, she taught international nutrition and global food resources courses at Yale, Harvard and Tufts universi­ties. She joined NCI in 1979, was tenured in 1987, and has served most recently as a senior investigator in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program.

Throughout her career, Ziegler’s research has focused broadly on dietary, nutritional, anthro­pometric and hormonal determinants of cancer risk. Her early work helped characterize the role of vegetables and fruits, individual carotenoids, folate and one-carbon metabolism in cancer etiology. In addition, she has conducted a number of breast cancer studies with emphasis on anthropometry, diet and endogenous hormones and growth factors.

For example, she helped design and direct a large, population-based case-control study of breast cancer in Asian-American women to elucidate the modifiable exposures, related to lifestyle and/or environment, that explained the 6-fold difference in breast cancer incidence between Asia and the West. More recently, she collaboratively developed an international pooled analysis of circulating vitamin D concentrations in relation to risk of colorectal and breast cancer.

Ziegler has applied her training in chemistry and biochemistry to the development of new and improved methods for measuring various hormones and nutrients in epidemiologic studies. Recently, she played a critical role in the successful development of a sensitive assay for assessment of estrogen metabolites and a validated assay for concurrent measurement of the major steroid hormones.

Ziegler is a fellow of the American Society for Nutrition and helped establish its nutritional epi­demiology research interest section. She currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and the Nutrition Action Healthletter and previously served on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. She received an NIH Merit Award for her research on the role of vegeta­bles, fruits and micronutrients in the etiology of a variety of cancers.

NIDDK Director Honored for Commitment to Health Equity

Dr. Griffin Rodgers (r) with Dr. M. Roy Wilson, immediate past chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges, at the association’s annual awards ceremony
Dr. Griffin Rodgers (r) with Dr. M. Roy Wilson, immediate past chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges, at the association’s annual awards ceremony

Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, received the 2018 Herbert W. Nickens Award in November from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Named in honor of the late Dr. Herbert W. Nickens, founder and past vice president of AAMC’s diversity policy and programs unit, the award was established by the AAMC to continue advancing Nickens’ concerns about the educational, societal and health care needs of minorities. Rodgers received the honor for his record of encouraging health equity, while also creating opportunities for underrepresented minorities within the biomedical workforce.

Among his other accomplishments, Rodgers collaborated in developing the first FDA-approved treatment for sickle cell disease. He also hosts NIDDK’s Healthy Moments, a radio program airing health messages on more than 50 stations across the country. Now in its 10th year, Healthy Moments reaches more than 60 million people annually.

“Everyone deserves access to quality medical care and the opportunity to live a long, healthy life,” Rodgers said. “Health equity doesn’t just apply to people with diseases. It’s also important to have diversity in health care providers and researchers. I accept this honor on behalf of the entire NIDDK family, as the institute joins me in working toward health equity for all.”—January Payne

NEIís Datiles Retires

Dr. Manuel Datiles (fourth from l) with (from l) his sister Therese Datiles, daughter Jeanne Michelle Datiles, wife Jacqueline Datiles, NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving and Dr. Rachel Bishop, chief of the NEI consult services section
Dr. Manuel Datiles (fourth from l) with (from l) his sister Therese Datiles, daughter Jeanne Michelle Datiles, wife Jacqueline Datiles, NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving and Dr. Rachel Bishop, chief of the NEI consult services section

Senior investigator and medical officer Dr. Manuel “Manny” Datiles III of NEI retired in September. Institute staff recently gathered to celebrate his career and wish him well in his next phase of life.

“It is not what you have that counts; it is what you do with what you have that counts!” said Datiles.

He first came to NEI in 1979 as a research fellow in the Laboratory of Vision Research after his ophthalmology training. In the lab, he worked with the late Dr. Jin Kinoshita to demonstrate that aldose reductase inhibitor (ARI) drugs could prevent cataracts in animal models. ARIs are now used to prevent cataracts in diabetic dogs. He also co-discovered a novel lens protein in guinea pigs, the zeta-crystallin, with NEI protein chemist Dr. Sam Zigler.

He left for eye surgical training at Johns Hopkins Hospital and returned to NEI to become the primary cornea and lens clinical investigator at the institute. In his nearly 40-year career at NEI, he worked to find the causes and find possible cures for blinding cataracts.

As NEI’s anterior segment surgeon and later as part of the institute’s consult services section, he established cataract and corneal surgery at NEI and performed hundreds of eye surgeries under various NIH protocols.

In collaboration with NASA physicist Rafat Ansari, Datiles co-developed a special clinical device based on a quasi-elastic light-scattering technique and used it to show that oxidation-caused loss of a lens protein, alpha-crystallin, a molecular chaperone, leads to the formation of human age-related cataracts. This finding will help hasten the develop­ment of non-surgical anti-cataract drug treatment.

Datiles also helped care for hundreds of NCI and NHLBI cancer patients who received stem cell transplants. He led a clinical trial of blood serum eye drops for patients who developed severe dry eye as a consequence of therapy.

Datiles published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and received awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University, NEI, NIH, HHS and the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Datiles plans to continue working at NEI as a special volunteer and NIH IRB member, teach at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he is an adjunct associate professor, and dedicate more time to church, family, music and the arts.

NEIís Hikosaka Receives Neuroscience Prize

Dr. Okihide Hikosaka
Dr. Okihide Hikosaka


Dr. Okihide Hikosaka, senior investigator in the Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research at the National Eye Institute, is a recipient of the 2018 Gruber Prize in Neuroscience. The prize is awarded each year by the Gruber Foundation to a scientist or scientists whose work has significantly impacted the neurosci­ence field. The prize was presented at a ceremony on Nov. 4 during the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Since first arriving at NIH in 1979 as a postdoctoral fellow, Hikosaka has studied how evolution­arily ancient regions of the brain known as the basal ganglia process visual information. His research has revealed how the basal ganglia control eye movements (saccades). More recently, his work has focused on how neuro­nal pathways in the basal ganglia encode long-term memories about emotional values of visual objects.

Hikosaka shares this year’s prize with Dr. Ann Graybiel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. Wolfram Schultz, University of Cambridge, who have also made seminal discoveries about the structure and function of the basal ganglia.

NLM Director Brennan Honored

Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan
Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan

NLM director Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan was presented the 2018 Morris F. Collen Award of Excellence on Nov. 4 at the American Medical Informatics Association’s 2018 annual symposium in San Francisco.

In honor of Morris F. Collen, a pioneer in the field of medical informatics, the award is considered the highest honor in informatics. The recipient is chosen by the American College of Medical Informatics (ACMI), an elected body of fellows within AMIA, the leading association for informatics professionals.

“ACMI is honored to recognize Dr. Brennan for her significant accomplishments,” said ACMI president Dr. Christopher Chute. “We are grateful for her leadership at the National Library of Medicine and her commitment to AMIA’s mission.”

AMIA cited Brennan’s ability to use technology to improve the safety and effectiveness of health service delivery systems; her impact on development of technologies for in-home management of chronic illness, including heart disease and AIDS; her leadership in ensuring federal requirements that electronic health records systems safely and effectively include patient-generated and patient-sourced data; and her ongoing efforts at NLM to emphasize data science as a key component in informatics.

Dr. Douglas Fridsma, AMIA president and CEO, said, “Patti is a true pioneer. Her expertise is known throughout informatics and nursing, but what everyone should remember her for is her core mission to always put patients first. There is truly no one more deserving of this prestigious award.”
Former NIH Senior Advisor, IC Director Vaitukaitis Remembered

Dr. Michael A. Dyer
Dr. Judith Vaitukaitis


Dr. Judith Vaitukaitis, 78, an accomplished reproductive neuroendo­crinologist and clinical researcher, died Oct. 19 at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut.

She retired from NIH in 2005 as a senior advisor to the NIH director on scientific infrastructure and resources. Prior to her appointment to this position, she served as director of the former National Center for Research Resources from 1993 to 2005, where she also held positions as the center’s deputy director and director of the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) program.

Prior to joining NCRR, Vaitukaitis was professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), where she also directed the GCRC and headed the section on endocrinology and metabolism at Boston City Hospital.

Vaitukaitis began her tenure at NIH in 1970 as a postdoctoral researcher, studying human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), first at NCI and then as a senior investigator in NICHD’s Reproduction Research Branch. There, she and colleagues were interested in accurately detecting elevated hCG levels to find cancer and recognized that because hCG is secreted during pregnancy as well, a sensitive hCG assay might also detect early-stage pregnancy. They published a landmark paper in 1972 that described the assay; the first home pregnancy tests, marketed to consumers in 1978, were based on their method.

Vaitukaitis received her B.S. in chemistry and biology from Tufts University in 1962 and earned her M.D. in 1966 from BUSM. She completed her residency at Cornell Medical Services, Bellevue Memorial Hospital, New York City.

Born in Hartford, she grew up in nearby Windsor Locks. She was an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and the New York Giants. In her spare time, she enjoyed golf with her friends.

back to top of page