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Birnbaum Taps Pritchard as Acting Scientific Director

By Eddy Ball
April 2009

Acting Scientific Director John Pritchard, Ph.D.
Acting Scientific Director John Prichard. "I think he's doing it because this is his home," Birnbaum said of Pritchard's decision to accept the appointment. "He cares about NIEHS, just as we all do." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., announced the selection of retired NIEHS Principal Investigator John Pritchard, Ph.D., to serve as acting scientific director during a period of comprehensive national searches to fill key leadership positions at the Institute. Pritchard, who retired in 2008 from his post as chief of the NIEHS Laboratory of Pharmacology and Chemistry, assumed his new duties in March overseeing more than 600 scientists, staff and trainees in nearly sixty Division of Intramural Research (DIR) laboratories.

As well as heading the Laboratory of Pharmacology, during his tenure at NIEHS Pritchard had also served as acting chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Toxicology and director of the Environmental Toxicology Program. In 2004, Pritchard was voted Mentor of the Year as part of the annual DIR Science Day activities.

He has published approximately 100 peer-reviewed articles in leading biomedical journals, as well as more than 15 book chapters. He also served as associate editor of the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology ( Exit NIEHS from 2001 to 2007.

Before joining NIEHS in 1976, Pritchard was an associate professor of Physiology at the Medical University of South Carolina. He received his Ph.D. in physiology from Harvard University in 1970.

One of Birnbaum's first official acts involved launching national searches for several key positions that have been filled with acting personnel for as long as two and one-half years. These include the deputy director, the scientific director, the director of the Division of Extramural Research and Training, and the director of Clinical Research. She is also looking for an ethics officer and someone to fill a diversity and educational position similar to the one held by Director of Education and Biomedical Research Development Marian Johnson-Thompson, Ph.D., prior to her retirement in September 2008.

Birnbaum explained that her goal is a transparent, open and inclusive selection process. The end result, she said, should be a "senior leadership team that will work together - people who are looking at the Institute as a whole and not only at their specific part" to achieve a revitalized NIEHS, which she perceives as "poised at the point of a lot of opportunity."

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