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DERT director finalists visit NIEHS

By Eddy Ball
September 2010

NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., taking notes
Birnbaum, above, took extensive notes during the series of talks and facilitated the question-and-answer sessions as NIEHS employees queried candidates about a variety of topics. (Photo courtesy of John Maruca)

DERT director candidate, Gwen Collman, Ph.D.
Collman gestured as she listed a number of outstanding researchers and partners who collectively empower the extramural program at NIEHS. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

DERT director candidate, Sudhir Srivastava, Ph.D.
Srivastava is an accomplished cancer researcher and editor of the journals Disease Markers and Cancer Biomarkers, but he told the audience, "I'm still a student." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

DERT director candidate, Rudolph Parrish, Ph.D.
Parrish underscored the enormous importance of DERT and his passion, perseverance, and vision in the pursuit of quality science that will make a difference in public health. He said his motto is to "model like a scientist, but test like an engineer." (Photo courtesy of John Maruca)

Program Analyst Liam O'Fallon
DERT staff, such as Program Analyst Liam O'Fallon, above, were on hand to experience how those who would lead handle themselves in the public venue. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Diane Forsythe, D.V.M.
The series was also well attended by employees from other divisions, including Comparative Medicine Branch Chief Diane Forsythe, D.V.M., above. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

During a very busy week Aug. 16-20, employees had an opportunity to hear from the finalists for the position of director of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT). The talks, hosted by NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., gave the finalists an opportunity to showcase their qualifications for heading what is, in terms of budget, the largest division at the Institute.

The candidates spent a full day at NIEHS, presenting their seminars and meeting with various NIEHS leadership, staff, trainee, and constituency groups. Employees took to heart Birnbaum's invitations to attend the talks in Rodbell Auditorium Aug. 16, 18, and 20.

The finalists, all of them distinguished senior science administrators with ties to NIH, discussed their areas of expertise, trying to demonstrate, as well as describe, the strengths they could bring to this key leadership position at NIEHS. DERT is organized into seven branches and centers and is composed of 60 full-time federal employees. Each year, the extramural program is responsible for awarding approximately 874 research grants for a total of approximately $388 million.

The candidates and their topics

• Aug. 16 - Gwen Collman, Ph.D., interim director of the NIEHS DERT, gave a talk titled "The Power of the NIEHS Extramural Program." Collman used her home-court advantage as she addressed the many aspects of power enjoyed by the current NIEHS extramural effort with a catalogue of the program's accomplishments, including its extensive grantee base, its impact on the direction of scientific research, and its network of partners worldwide.

• Aug. 18 - Sudhir Srivastava, Ph.D., chief of the Cancer Biomarkers Research Group at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), described his experiences in a talk on "Working Across Boundaries: Making Collaboration Work in Translational Research." Srivastava shared lessons he learned coordinating the NCI Early Detection Research Network to launch a presentation on strategies for integrating partners and interest groups in a wide-ranging collaborative effort with translational impact.

• Aug. 20 - Rudolph Parrish, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics at the University of Louisville School of Public Health, explored the "Era of Complexity in the Environmental Health Sciences: Perspective on Extramural Research and Training." Parrish drew upon his extensive experience in clinical trials as he addressed the potential of and challenges facing the extramural program at NIEHS, ranging from predictive toxicology to research into the health effects of endocrine disrupting compounds.

Ken Korach, Ph.D., right, and Walter Rogan, M.D., center
Division of Intramural Research Principal Investigators Ken Korach, Ph.D., right, and Walter Rogan, M.D., center, attended the series. Korach asked questions of two of the speakers. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

DERT Acting Deputy Director Pat Mastin, Ph.D.
DERT Acting Deputy Director Pat Mastin, Ph.D., waited at the audience microphone after asking Parrish about applications of genome-wide association studies in environmental health research. (Photo courtesy of John Maruca)



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