NIH honors nine NIEHS scientists at Director’s Awards ceremony
By Eddy Ball
At its annual Director’s Awards ceremony Nov. 17 in Bethesda, Maryland, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conferred its highest honors on nine outstanding NIEHS scientists (see sidebar). The nine were among some 850 people recognized for contributions in the fields of biomedical research, administration, mentoring, and clinical care that have served to advance the NIH mission.
The winners from NIEHS included eight scientists from three trans-NIH teams working on gene expression, innovative models of human disease, and promotion of diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Veteran lead researcher Samuel Wilson, M.D., was recognized for his years of mentoring.
NIEHS Senior Medical Advisor Aubrey Miller, M.D., represented the institute, and served as the co-presenter, along with NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., for awards given to Wilson, and to Kimberly McAllister, Ph.D., and members of the Epigenomics Road Map team.
Gravitas and levity
Following an introduction by emcee John Burklow, associate director of the NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison, NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., delivered opening remarks. “It’s perfectly fitting today to recognize members of the NIH Ebola response teams,” Collins noted. As with all of the awards, he added, “We’re only scratching the surface [of an organization of outstanding individuals].”
Collins led the audience in a moment of silence to recall those who died Nov. 13 in the terrorist attack in Paris. “We join in solidarity today with all the French people … and all of those victims of terrorism around the world,” he said, as attendees rose in respect.
During his overview of the many exceptional employees receiving the highest honor NIH has to offer, Collins singled out two people for special mention — Clinical Center receptionist Annie Harrison, for her commitment to the provision of exceptional customer service to guests staying at the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge; and Kenneth Stith, in posthumous recognition of extraordinary leadership as the NIH Office of Financial Management director and deputy chief financial officer.
Although he was in some pain and discomfort from emergency back surgery the previous week and unable to stay for the rest of the ceremony, Collins, known for breaking out his guitar and singing a song, quipped, “Any threat of a musical outburst from the NIH director has been removed this year.
(Eddy Ball, Ph.D., is a contract writer with the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)