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CSR's Monsees Retires After 24 Years at NIH

By Don Luckett

"I was always a cynic," said Dr. David Monsees. But something happened during his 24 years at NIH. He became a believer. "NIH has been good to me," he said, as he retired from the Center for Scientific Review. "I found my niche." He was the scientific review administrator for the epidemiology and disease control study section 2.

Dr. David Monsees

In many respects, Monsees' cynicism was a productive force in his career. It deepened his early interest in science. While in a summer research program for high school students at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, he conducted a genetic study that produced unexpected data. "I immediately started worrying about investigator bias," he said. Once he started, it was hard to stop. "You begin to question what is really real, and then you see different parallel realities for the same behaviors and actions."

Monsees' interest in social surveys grew at the University of Chicago, where he earned a B.A. in psychology in 1964 and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in sociology in 1967 and 1970. His dissertation focused on husband and wife communication on family planning in an impoverished Columbian village.

He then went to the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he was an assistant professor of sociology. In 1974, he accepted a similar position at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Monsees became further fascinated at how the interpretation of scientific data can be influenced by the philosophical approach of the investigator. "Any set of data when sufficiently badgered can be beaten into submission," he quoted Dr. Roland Tharp, who critiqued early sociological studies of marital satisfaction.

In 1975, Monsees became the director of data utilization for a company under contract to the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He freelanced with NCI, reviewing research methods of cancer control contracts. A year later, he went to the Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise, Idaho. As director of research there, he conducted studies funded by NCI on psychosocial rehabilitation of cancer patients.

Monsees began to focus more on statistics and survey research methods. In 1978, he joined NCI as program director for statistical and evaluation projects in the Training Rehabilitation and Continuing Care Branch, and then for the Behavioral Medicine Branch, where he directed the early smoking cessation and hospice projects.

In 1980, he began a 6-year tenure in the Scientific Review Program at NICHD, before moving to NHLBI. After a brief term as executive secretary of NHLBI's advisory council, he became the SRA for the institute's clinical trials review committee. In 1996, he joined the NIH Office of Management Assessment, where he investigated allegations that grant funds were misused.

In 1998, he joined CSR. He explained that the years coordinating peer reviews have been his most satisfying. "If you've got a good, tough, fair review that nobody can shoot holes in...you've got a chance to really make a difference." He also enjoyed the independence he had as an SRA and the personal relationships he developed.

Monsees found additional satisfaction serving as a member of the STEP committee from 1985 to 1989, when he directed a module on creative problem solving. He also served on the NIH oversight board for day care and helped revise use agreements for the NIH day care centers.

At his retirement lunch, it was evident that many enjoyed working with him. Past and present coworkers stood and spoke up: "I feel like I've known you forever," though it had only been a few months. "Many SRAs will never be forgotten, but David will be remembered with pleasure." "You made all our lives richer." A similar thing happened when his reviewers feted him at a retirement dinner.

Monsees now plans to devote more time to his passion for archaeology. He is taking a course this summer on magnetometry, which will allow him to image archaeological sites using magnetic waves. He has already received requests for assistance from archaeologists in Italy, Turkey and Romania as well as in New York and Texas.

When he talked about his plans to enjoy life, he encouraged his coworkers not to wait for retirement. "Enjoy what you do," he said. "And if you're not enjoying what you do — life is short — think of something else."

CSR's Jeanne Ketley Retires

By Don Luckett

Lights flashed, sirens wailed as a fire engine pulled in front of the Rockledge II Bldg. The message for Dr. Jeanne Ketley was clear: Be careful what you wish for when you have friends at the Center for Scientific Review. The fire truck took her in a blaze of glory to her retirement lunch at a Rockville restaurant. It was a fitting tribute to her spirited, 28-year career in the government. She was chief of the cardiovascular science initial review group at CSR.

Dr. Jeanne Ketley

A rush of adrenaline also characterized her early academic career. Ketley worked in Dr. Robert Holley's lab at Cornell University when he conducted his Nobel Prize-winning research. "Working with Robert Holley was a truly exciting experience," she said. "He was the first to determine the nucleotide sequence of a nucleic acid." Nucleotides form the building blocks of life: DNA and RNA. Holley sequenced the 78 nucleotides of a transfer RNA, alanine t-RNA. Ketley remembers him fiddling with an elastic tape filled with letters representing the nucleotide sequence he determined. Arranging the tape according to the known complementary sequence of these nucleotides, he deduced the cloverleaf secondary structure of t-RNA. After completing studies that helped verify this discovery in 1967, Ketley received an M.S. degree in biochemistry.

She then went to Johns Hopkins University and studied the mechanism of enzyme action. Ketley advanced with a goal-oriented approach. Timing was critical, since she was 8 months pregnant when she defended her dissertation. In 1973, she received her Ph.D. in biochemistry and gave birth to her son.

A fellowship brought her to the National Institute of Dental Research, where she studied the structure of collagen in developing muscle. In 1974, she became a staff fellow at the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism and Digestive Diseases (now the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases). There, she characterized the binding and catalytic properties of liver enzymes: homogeneous glutathione S-transferases. Four years later, she became a senior staff fellow at the National Institute on Aging, studying the regulatory effects of hormones on smooth muscle enzymes.

A fire truck transported Ketley in a blaze of glory to her retirement lunch.

With an eye on becoming an NIH administrator, she went to the Food and Drug Administration in 1977. She was a review chemist in its Bureau of Foods, evaluating drug residue data submitted in applications for new animal drugs. Two years later, she returned to NIH and settled at the Division of Research Grants (now CSR). She oversaw the physical biochemistry study section. Six years later, she was named chief of the special review section. In 1989, she became chief of the physiological sciences review section. After a brief term as chief of the clinical sciences review section, she became chief of the cardiovascular sciences IRG in 1995. She also served as scientific review administrator of its pharmacology study section.

Ketley received seven Public Health Service awards, including NIH and CSR Directors' awards. She was honored for excellence in managing many responsibilities and tackling special projects. For instance, she helped develop policies with the DRG clinical research study group and helped create the PHS Consultant File for identifying reviewers.

CSR director Dr. Ellie Ehrenfeld praised Ketley for "her astute common sense and no-nonsense leadership. CSR, NIH and the cardiovascular sciences research community will be sorry to lose her."

A key part of Ketley's success as a leader has been her disarming smile. "I'm a positive person," she explained. "You cannot expect everything to work extremely well. You should take joy in the fact that some things do work well...[and] keep focused on why you are here." She was also an effective leader because she enjoyed working where she did. At her retirement lunch, she described three joys she found at CSR: being part of the human side of science and seeing individual scientists succeed, listening to science being evaluated and discussed, and working with a diverse and fascinating group of individuals.

Now that her wish to ride a fire engine has come true, what will she wish for next? Ketley plans to start her own business and hopes to help her son's dance group apply for grants. She also hopes to ease her partner's teaching burden so they can vacation and enjoy her retirement together. Ketley has not wasted any time getting started. She took a spring-break cruise to the Caribbean the day after her retirement.


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