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DERT Celebrates the Completion of ARRA Work

By Robin Arnette
November 2009

A smiling woman speaks to a room full of seated happy people
Birnbaum addressed DERT staff members at the celebration. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Image of stainless steel coffee mug (left) and water bottle
Each gift bag contained a coffee mug (left) and a BPA-free water bottle (right).
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Two smiling women in front of a group. One is pulling an object out of a gift bag.
Birnbaum congratulated Collman and the rest of DERT for a job well done. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Two women hand out gift bags to a group of people
Collman led the way as she and Roque passed out the gift bags. Kathy Ahlmark thanked Collman for her gifts. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

A smiling woman holds up a stainless steel coffee mug as the woman next to her checks her cell phone
Martha Barnes (left) and Sharon Beard (center) showed off their gifts while contractor Deborah Weinstock (right) checked her blackberry.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Employees in the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) ( do an exceptional job of funding and managing environmental health sciences research grants to investigators throughout the country. These grantees, representing a variety of organizations, agencies and universities, examine everything from basic research to clinical studies involving human subjects. Recently, DERT staff took on an added responsibility - funding additional grants paid for through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

Although everyone was happy to help the nation create thousands of new jobs, doing so required many long hours of hard work. Because DERT was successful in awarding all of the grants by the end of the fiscal year, staff members met in the Keystone building on October 7 to celebrate the accomplishment. NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. (, commended the men and women of DERT for their dedication to furthering environmental health sciences research. "I wanted to make sure that you understood what a fabulous job you've done," Birnbaum said. "It's absolutely incredible that we've processed as many awards as we normally do in a whole year or more in a few months. I wanted to say thank you and to keep on doing the great job that you do."

Birnbaum, along with DERT Interim Director Gwen Collman, Ph.D., and Office of Management Administrative Officer Margarita Roque, passed out gift bags containing BPA-free water bottles and coffee mugs to each DERT employee. Staff members also enjoyed light refreshments that included soft drinks, sandwich platters, meatballs, chips, and several desserts.

Michael Humble, Ph.D., a health science administrator for the Cellular, Organ & Systems Pathobiology Branch ( said, "It [ARRA] was a lot of work, but I think we did a good job and hopefully we will have advanced some good science and created some jobs."

William Suk, Ph.D., director of the Center for Risk and Integrated Sciences (CRIS) ( and a fellow DERT colleague, echoed Humble's sentiments. "People worked late, worked weekends and didn't take vacations," he said, "but it was worth it because ARRA will benefit the nation."

Birnbaum couldn't stay for the entire ceremony because she had to catch a plane to Bethesda to attend meetings at NIH, but before she left, she acknowledged Collman's outstanding leadership in helping steer DERT through a challenging, but rewarding period. Collman declared, "For the last six months, the DERT staff went above and beyond in every conceivable way to complete ARRA award funding to many grantees who are doing exciting science. The money will create or expand well over 600 jobs across the country, and that is certainly something to celebrate."

Three seated women hold and inspect stainless water bottles they received as gifts
Laura McGrew (left), Wanda Boggs (center) and Barbara Gittleman (right) admired their new water bottles.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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