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Vol. LXIII, No. 23
November 11, 2011

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Porter Named NICHD Clinical Director
Dr. Forbes D. Porter

Dr. Forbes D. Porter has been appointed clinical director at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“Dr. Porter is an accomplished scientist, a model clinician and a skilled administrator,” said NICHD director Dr. Alan Guttmacher. “His leadership and guidance will be strong assets in carrying out the NICHD’s mission and in helping to realize its scientific vision.”

The clinical research program currently includes more than 100 protocols focusing on adult, pediatric and reproductive endocrinology, human genetics, growth and development, national and international health and women’s health.

“I am honored to have been chosen to direct the NICHD’s distinguished clinical research program,” Porter said. “I will do all that I can to assist institute scientists in their quest to improve the public’s health through their research efforts.”

Porter has served as acting clinical director since April 2010. He is currently head of the section on molecular dysmorphology. His work has focused on understanding two rare genetic disorders involving cholesterol, Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome and Niemann-Pick disease type C. Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome results from a defect in the ability to manufacture cholesterol. Individuals with the condition may have intellectual disability, smaller than normal head size and certain physical malformations. Severe cases may be life-threatening. Niemann-Pick disease type C results from a failure of cells to break down and use cholesterol. The accumulation of cholesterol results in damage to the nervous system, and, eventually, death.

Porter came to NIH in 1993 as a senior staff fellow to investigate homeobox genes—genes that determine when groups of other genes are expressed during embryonic development. In 1996, he established his own laboratory, where he began work on disorders involving cholesterol.

Recently, he became acting head of NICHD’s Program in Developmental Endocrinology and Genetics, replacing Dr. Constantine Stratakis, who stepped down to become NICHD’s scientific director.

Porter received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Washington University in St. Louis in 1989, and subsequently trained in pediatrics and clinical genetics at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

NIDCD Advisory Council Welcomes Six

The National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Advisory Council recently added six new members to its roster.

Patricia Kehn is executive director of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences. As vice-president of L&L Management Services, Inc., an association management company based in Minneapolis, she also serves as managing officer for the American Society of Neuroimaging, the American Society of Neurorehabilitation, the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the Organization for Human Brain Mapping.

Dr. Paul Manis is a professor and director in the department of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His primary scientific interest is in the mechanisms of neural information processing in sensory systems.

Dr. Charlotte Mistretta is associate dean for research and Ph.D. training at the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry. She also serves as program director in oral health sciences and as a professor in the department of biological and materials sciences.

Dr. Tommie Robinson is director of the Scottish Rite Center for Childhood Language Disorders in Washington, D.C., and an associate professor of pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He specializes in communication disorders in children, with a focus on children who stutter.

Dr. James Schwob is the George A. Bates professor of histology and chair of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine. He has worked with graduate and post-graduate trainees, many of them supported by NIDCD.

Dr. Robert Shannon is director of the division of communication and auditory neuroscience, head of the auditory implant research laboratory and scientific director of the auditory brainstem implant project at the House Research Institute in Los Angeles. He is also a research professor in the biomedical engineering department and adjunct professor of the neurosciences program at the University of Southern California.

Photo of Christine Major, director of the NIH Office of Human Resources

Major Receives Densler Award

Christine Major, director of the NIH Office of Human Resources, was recently honored with the Frank H. Densler Award during the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) eastern region conference in Glen Falls, N.Y. The award, the organization’s highest, is presented annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to the goals, purposes and objectives of IPMA-HR eastern region and the field of public human resource administration. Major has been a member and leader in IPMA-HR for over a decade. She has served in nearly every leadership role in the region, including president of the Montgomery County chapter and the eastern region, and currently serves at the national level as an executive council member. Major has more than 25 years of experience in the human resource field at NIH.

NIDDK Scientific Director Levin Retires
By Rachel Greenberg

Photo of Dr. Ira Levin

NIDDK scientific director Dr. Ira Levin (l) is honored by NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers (at lectern) at a celebration in honor of Levin’s retirement from NIH after 48 years of government service.

Photo: Bill Branson

When Dr. Ira Levin, a world leader in vibrational spectroscopy and NIDDK scientific director since 2009, retired from NIH recently, he left a huge mark, both on his field and on NIH. In nearly 48 years at NIH, Levin’s career included 235 publications, 135 published meeting abstracts and 20 awards and honors, including the Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award, the top award in the field.

“For the past 48 years, Ira’s work has focused on developing new and innovative spectroscopic methods and their applications to a wide range of problems,” said Dr. William Eaton, chief of NIDDK's Laboratory of Chemical Physics. “From his early work initiating the field of infrared imaging, to using both infrared and Raman measurements to characterize the structure of lipid bilayer systems, and to his latest work applying vibrational spectroscopic imaging to medical diagnostics, Ira has been the acknowledged leader and among the most cited spectroscopists of his generation.”

Levin’s scientific career was matched, if not exceeded, by the strong relationships and accolades that marked his administrative roles at NIDDK. Levin’s colleagues described their mentor as the “captain of their ship,” saying he will be much missed.

“Ira is the epitome of modest and unpretentious,” said NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers. “When he popped in on scientists and staff he was a colleague and mentor—not the ‘scientific director.’ I will miss Ira’s gracious guidance and insights, his love for science and his support for the people behind the science.”

“If NIDDK had an award for ‘mensch laureate,’ Ira would be the leading candidate for that award,” said Dr. James Balow, NIDDK clinical director. Balow will serve as acting scientific director until a new SD is named.

Since the mid-1990s, Levin held several management positions with the NIDDK Division of Intramural Research while continuing to lead the molecular biophysics section of the Laboratory of Chemical Physics until 2009.

“The same talents you hone over the years as a scientist work well for an administrator,” said Levin. “I’d listen carefully, go to meetings, hear others’ ideas and then flesh out new thoughts.”

Balow explained his colleague’s administrative success otherwise. “I’m convinced that Ira’s mastery of fine spectral signal discrimination formed the underpinnings and created the model for his success,” said Balow. “Ira could detect the key elements resounding from the chorus of requests and competing interests of his constituents in NIDDK. He was a master at separating the wheat from the chaff, the frivolous from the important.”

Levin’s ability to distribute resources fairly in the face of shrinking budgets earned the respect of his colleagues and supervisors alike.

“In his unswerving dedication and commitment to NIDDK, Ira exhibited a deep understanding of the concept of the common good,” said Balow. “His decisions were based on what was good for NIDDK as a whole, and ultimately, the good of the public, which entrusts us with its treasure chest of support.”

Reflecting on his career at NIDDK, Levin said he was most proud of his colleagues’ passion and intellect, their readiness to exchange ideas and the outstanding ratings NIDDK received from the board of scientific counselors. Of himself, he said, “As administrator, you want to carry on your most creative, innovative and strongest research. Maintain the enthusiasm of the enterprise and do it all by remaining invisible.”

Fortunately for NIH and the field of spectroscopy, Levin’s influence was anything but invisible.

Clark Named Chief PHS Veterinary Officer
Photo of Capt. Terri Clark

Capt. Terri Clark, who directs NIH’s Office of Animal Care and Use, was recently named chief professional officer for the veterinary category by U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin.

As chief veterinary officer, Clark will lead PHS veterinary professional affairs and advise the Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Health and Human Services on the recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention and career development of corps veterinarians.

She transferred to PHS in July 2000 after spending more than 11 years in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and spent a year and a half at NINDS. She moved to OACU in March 2002.

Clark received her B.S. in animal and dairy science in 1982 and her doctorate of veterinary medicine in 1988 from Auburn University.

Neva, Renowned Parasitologist, Dies
Photo of Dr. Franklin A. Neva

Dr. Franklin A. Neva, a noted virologist, parasitologist, clinician and former chief of NIAID’s Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases (LPD), died Oct. 16 at age 89.

“Frank Neva was an exceptional scientist and clinician who established a pioneering biomedical research program focused on the interactions between humans and parasites,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “He built the NIAID Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases into a world-class team, hiring and training future leaders in clinical parasitology for more than 30 years. He was widely admired as a person, mentor, clinician and scientist and he will be greatly missed.”

Neva earned his M.D. in 1946 from the University of Minnesota Medical School, having enrolled in the Navy’s accelerated wartime training program. In 1947, he began his research career, studying typhoid fever and schistosomiasis at a Navy research unit in Cairo, Egypt. He then spent 3 years at Harvard University, where he first described “Boston exanthema disease,” an echovirus infection in children characterized by mild fever and widespread rash. After an academic appointment in the lab of Dr. Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh, Neva returned to Harvard to work in the newly created department of tropical public health, where in 1962 he and Dr. Thomas Weller co-discovered the rubella virus, the cause of German measles. An independent group at Walter Reed Army Institute for Research also isolated the virus around the same time.

Neva was recruited to NIAID in 1969 to become chief of the LPD. He helped unite research sections scattered from Hawaii to Georgia to Bethesda and from the beginning emphasized research on the biology of parasites as well as on the human immune responses to parasitic infections. In 1971, he hired Dr. Louis Miller, who established a highly productive malaria research laboratory and later succeeded Neva as chief of LPD.

“Frank was brought to NIH to revitalize the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases and he did just that,” said Miller, who currently is a section chief in NIAID’s Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research. “He knew how to bring out the best in his staff and was deeply respected by all of us.”

Neva hired many future NIH leaders of tropical disease research, including Drs. Tom Wellems, Tom Nutman, David Sacks, Ted Nash and Alan Sher. In doing so, he shepherded parasitology research at NIH from a small area of focus to a program that is now spread among four different NIAID laboratory groups and involves approximately 400 NIAID scientific staff at laboratories in Bethesda and abroad.

Neva also established a clinical service for parasitic infections at NIH, which treats patients from developing countries as well as U.S. citizens whose cases are of scientific interest. He mentored many LPD trainees who subsequently rose to leadership positions in universities, government agencies and international health organizations.

“Frank made major contributions to the study of malaria, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and strongyloidiasis,” said Nash, an LPD section chief and Neva’s first research fellow. “His great love was clinical parasitology. There was no one better clinically. I most appreciated his integrity, humility and unselfishness—traits he used to make considered decisions for the benefit of his staff.”

Among his many honors, Neva was the first member of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene to receive its Ben Kean Medal, an award that recognized his dedication to clinical tropical medicine and his impact on the training of students, fellows and practitioners of tropical medicine. He also received the Joseph E. Smadel Lectureship from the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award for his exemplary leadership and public service.

Neva was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years and is survived by three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

New Members Join NIDA Council
NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow (fourth from l) welcomes new members of the NIDA council (from l) Dr. Linda Mayes, Dr. Nabila El-Bassel, Dr. Elizabeth Howell, Dr. Kirk Thomas and Dr. Marina Picciotto.
NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow (fourth from l) welcomes new members of the NIDA council (from l) Dr. Linda Mayes, Dr. Nabila El-Bassel, Dr. Elizabeth Howell, Dr. Kirk Thomas and Dr. Marina Picciotto.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently welcomed five new members to its advisory council.

Dr. Linda Mayes is the Arnold Gesell professor of child psychiatry, pediatrics and psychology at the Yale Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine. She is also special advisor to the school’s dean.

Dr. Nabila El-Bassel is professor at Columbia University School of Social Work and director of the social intervention group. She also directs the Columbia University Global Health Research Center of Central Asia, a team of faculty, scientists, researchers and students in both New York and Central Asia.

Dr. Elizabeth Howell is associate professor of psychiatry (clinical) at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She has an inpatient and outpatient practice at the university’s Neuropsychiatric Institute.

Dr. Kirk Thomas is retired commissioner of the department of mental health and addiction services in Hartford, Conn. He is a nationally recognized health care executive with over 30 years of leadership in large public and private substance abuse and mental health care systems.

Dr. Marina Picciotto is the Charles B.G. Murphy professor of psychiatry in the department of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. She is also associate director of the M.D. and Ph.D. program at Yale.

NIEHS Names Zeldin Scientific Director
Dr. Darryl Zeldin
Dr. Darryl Zeldin recently became the new scientific director at NIEHS.

Dr. Darryl Zeldin became the new scientific director at NIEHS on Oct. 23. He leads a $114 million biomedical research program focused on discovering how the environment influences human health and disease.

“I can think of no one better suited for this position,” said NIEHS/NTP director Dr. Linda Birnbaum. “Darryl is passionate about science, understands the mission of the institute and has extensive laboratory and clinical research experience. He has already proven himself to be a leader by establishing our world-class clinical research program.”

Zeldin has served as the institute’s acting clinical director since 2007, in addition to leading two research groups within the Laboratory of Respiratory Biology, focusing on both basic and clinical translational research.

Zeldin is trained in internal medicine with a subspecialty in pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has spent most of his career at NIEHS, arriving in 1994 as a tenure-track investigator before being promoted to a tenured senior investigator in 2001. He has served in several leadership roles, including representing his fellow scientists as president of the NIEHS Assembly of Scientists and participating in developing strategic research plans for the division and for NIEHS.

As scientific director, Zeldin will oversee intramural research programs with approximately 950 employees working in 12 different laboratories and branches and 8 core facilities.

“I am both honored and humbled to be selected to lead such an outstanding group of scientists,” he said. “I believe the work we do here at NIEHS is pivotal to improving the overall health of our nation. I’m looking forward to building upon our existing research strengths by using emerging technologies and effective scientific collaboration to develop a cutting-edge research program.”

Zeldin also said one of his highest priorities will be to recruit and train the next generation of leaders in the field of environmental health sciences. “I will work hard to recruit outstanding tenure-track scientists and to expand our training programs,” he said. “The future of our country depends on it.”

Zeldin earned a B.A. in chemistry from Boston University in 1982 and an M.D. from Indiana University School of Medicine in 1986. He completed a residency in internal medicine at Duke University in 1989 and a fellowship in pulmonary/critical care medicine at Vanderbilt University in 1993. Zeldin is internationally recognized for his contributions to the fields of environmental health, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease.

He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and a fellow in the American College of Chest Physicians and the American Heart Association. He has served on NIH and foundation study sections and is a member of the editorial boards of several scientific journals. He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles in leading biomedical journals, as well as numerous reviews and book chapters. Zeldin is on staff at Duke University Medical Center, where he serves as an attending physician on the pulmonary consult service and the medical intensive care unit.

NICHD Scientist Weisberg Mourned
Dr. Robert Weisberg

Dr. Robert Weisberg, a scientist at NIH for over 40 years, passed away suddenly on Sept. 1. He was formerly head of the section on microbial genetics in the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics (LMG), NICHD.

Weisberg was among the first scientists who approached the biology of bacteriophage lambda, which later developed into a model system that laid the groundwork for much of our understanding of fundamental principles of gene regulation and DNA recombination. He dissected the mechanism of site-specific recombination that allows the integration of phage DNA into the host chromosome. More recently, he uncovered a novel mechanism of gene regulation via RNA-protein interaction.

“Bob was a brilliant scholar with a deep and abiding interest in science. These were the tools he brought so effectively to bear on biology’s most intriguing problems,” said Dr. Philip Leder, an eminent geneticist and former chief of LMG. “We were fortunate to have brought him to NIH and we will miss him sorely.”

“The keenest joy of scientific research comes when one’s guesses prove correct,” Weisberg wrote for his Harvard class 20th reunion book. Dr. Igor Dawid, who succeeded Leder as head of LMG, said, “Bob focused his research on what interested him and did not follow fashionable trends.” Dawid pointed out that Weisberg did his research at a time when intellectual pursuit was the basis of science; NIH gave him an opportunity to follow his interests and this effort produced important results.

Weisberg was born in Bayonne, N.J., in 1937, and received his A.B. at Harvard in 1958. He liked to recall that it was Nobel laureate Dr. James D. Watson who, to the utter disappointment of Weisberg’s mother, diverted him from a medical career into the field of virology. Weisberg received his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology, and after a postdoctoral training in Europe, founded his own laboratory at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. He moved to NIH in 1969. Weisberg retired in 2008, but continued to be an active member of the NIH community as scientist emeritus at NCI’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

Weisberg’s vibrant personality, sound judgment, sense of humor, his noble and kind nature made him an unforgettable colleague and mentor. For many years, he organized the Lambda Lunch seminar series, a prokaryotic interest group. Weisberg’s long-term colleague at LMG, Dr. Michael Cashel, admired Weisberg’s attitude when giving talks: “Bob thought that it was more important to make sure that everybody understood the details than to finish the seminar.”

Weisberg was able to find time for his broad interests: grandchildren, pigs, travels, books, concerts, theaters, movies, museums, mushroom hunting, fishing, boating and solving crossword puzzles.

A celebration of Weisberg’s work and life will be held on Friday, Nov. 18 in Bldg. 60 at 1:30 p.m., with presentations starting at 2 p.m.—Natalia Komissarova

NINDS Receives Ethics Award
NINDS Receives Ethics Award

NINDS recently received the 2011 Program Excellence and Innovation Award at the 18th National Government Ethics Conference in Orlando. Sponsored by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), the award recognizes executive branch agencies that demonstrate ethics program success. Shown at right, NINDS ethics specialists Ayo Larmie (l) and Christine Galvin-Combet (r) were on hand to accept the award from Don Fox, acting OGE director. Recipients have a strong commitment to excellence in ethics program management, employ innovative approaches to educate federal employees on the Standards of Ethical Conduct, use model practices to encourage understanding and awareness of ethical behaviors and create a stronger ethical culture as a result of these efforts. In addition to NINDS, three other NIH institutes—NINR, NIMH and NIEHS—were recognized for program excellence and innovation. Themed “Organizational Integrity: A Shared Responsibility,” the conference featured dozens of informative, interactive sessions presented by speakers including Holli Beckerman Jaffe, senior policy officer in the NIH Ethics Office, and Gretchen Weaver, senior NIH ethics counsel in the Office of General Counsel.

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