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Wilson to Focus on Research Full Time

By Eddy Ball
February 2009

Sam Wilson Portrait
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Samuel H. Wilson, M.D., the long-time Deputy Director and recent Acting Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP), announced his decision to step away from his administrative roles at the Institute. In a message to NIEHS employees, Wilson said that he plans to devote more time to his research as a principal investigator and chief of the NIEHS Laboratory of Structural Biology DNA Repair and Nucleic Acid Enzymology Group - a decision made much easier, he said, because of "my complete confidence in the leadership of the incoming director, Dr. Linda Birnbaum."

Wilson, who joined NIEHS in 1996 as deputy director under former Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., assumed his duties as acting head of NIEHS in August 2007, succeeding then Director David Schwartz, M.D. In that role, he provided continuity for the Institute through the transition until Birnbaum took office in January 2009.

Wilson leaves with a legacy of supporting NIEHS programs in environmental genomics and environmental public health. During his tenure, Wilson and his leadership team underscored NIEHS support for basic research in the Institute's Division of Intramural Research and strengthened ties with the NIEHS extramural community through a series of site visits to grantees throughout the United States. He increased the NIEHS commitment to its journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), which recruited a new editor-in-chief during the transition, and reaffirmed institutional support for the environmental justice and community-based participatory research communities.

During the winter of 2007-2008, he and his team increased NIEHS participation in global environmental health and climate change partnerships at the national and international levels. In December 2007, he represented NIEHS leadership at the 20th anniversary of the Superfund Basic Research Program.

With his encouragement, the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training initiated the innovative Partnership for Environmental Public Health program in 2008. Wilson joined leaders of NTP in November 2008 to celebrate the program's 30 years of accomplishments.

When Wilson became acting director, he set the tone for his tenure by telling NIEHS employees, "Just call me Sam," and was known within the Institute for his candor and accessibility. He was a vocal advocate for quality career development opportunities for fellows and junior investigators, as well as a proactive supporter of diversity and accommodation for employees with disabilities.

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