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Vol. LXI, No. 21
October 16, 2009
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Milestones

Collins Named NIMH Associate Director for Special Populations

Dr. Pamela Collin
Dr. Pamela Collins

Photo: Leo Sorel

Dr. Pamela Collins recently joined NIMH as associate director for special populations and director of the Offices for Special Populations, Rural Mental Health Research, and Global Mental Health.

As an assistant professor in the departments of epidemiology and psychiatry at Columbia University, she conducted research on the mental health aspects of the AIDS epidemic and worked to ensure access to HIV prevention and care for people with severe mental illness as well as access to mental health care services for people with HIV domestically and internationally. Under Collins, NIMH will increase its focus on disparities in mental health both inside and outside of the United States.

In this country, her studies have addressed the HIV prevention needs of women with severe mental illness and the contribution of social stigma related to mental illness and ethnicity to women’s HIV risk. Internationally, she has trained health care providers in mental health, HIV/AIDS transmission, prevention and counseling in Argentina, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa.

Collins received her M.D. from Cornell University Medical College and an M.P.H. from Columbia University School of Public Health. She retains her faculty appointments at Columbia, where she is an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry.

Stratakis Wins Oppenheimer Award
Dr. Constantine Stratakis

NICHD acting scientific director Dr. Constantine Stratakis has received the Endocrine Society’s Ernst Oppenheimer Award for his contributions to the field of endocrine genetics. The award citation recognized Stratakis for identifying the gene for Carney complex, a genetic disorder resulting in tumors in the heart, and, frequently in other organs, such as the adrenal glands, the thyroid and skin. As director of NICHD’s Program on Developmental Endocrinology and Genetics, he worked to classify and characterize a variety of tumors of the adrenal and pituitary glands. This work led to testing methods for Carney complex and its associated condition, primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease as well as Cushing’s disease, a disorder of the pituitary glands. More recently, he and his coworkers determined that mutations in genes known as phosphodiesterase 11A and 8B are involved with the formation of tumors of the adrenal glands and testes. Stratakis and his colleagues recently also identified the molecular causes of other endocrine tumors (paragangliomas) associated with sarcomas of the gastrointestinal tract (GISTs).

NCI’s Waldmann Wins ‘Sammie’ Award
NCI’s Dr. Thomas Waldmann (c) is flanked at the ceremony by HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr (r) and Dr. Jerry Ice, president and CEO, the Graduate School.

Photo: Sam Kittner/kittner.com

Dr. Thomas A. Waldmann, chief of NCI’s Metabolism Branch and a 52-year NIH veteran, was awarded a Service to America Medal (Sammie) by the Partnership for Public Service on Sept. 23. He received the organization’s Career Achievement Medal, which recognizes a federal employee for significant accomplishments throughout a lifetime of achievement in public service. The medal is accompanied by a $10,000 award.

Waldmann has made discoveries that have led to effective treatments for previously fatal forms of T-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple sclerosis.

Described by his peers as a “renaissance scientist,” Waldmann’s work extends from the study of the immune system to innovative clinical trials of immunotherapeutic agents.

“Tom is an icon—he’s dedicated to making science discoveries and moving them to the clinic where they can benefit people,” said Waldmann’s NIH colleague, Dr. Robert Wiltrout, who directs NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. “People like Tom are extremely rare. He has contributed to actually curing people. Some of his discoveries have implications way beyond cancer. There are many things that come out of the science of what he does.”

Waldmann has also been a pioneer in the field of cytokines—the molecules that control human immune responses—and developed the groundbreaking treatment Zenapax, which has been associated with complete remission in over 60 percent of patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma who otherwise did not respond to treatment.

Zenapax has also contributed to reducing the body’s rejection of renal transplants, a discovery that benefits the survival rate of patients. He also found Zenapax therapy useful against autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, where he and his coworkers achieved a 78 percent reduction in new brain lesions.

Over the past decade, Waldmann also co-discovered the cytokine IL-15, which represents a major advance in the prevention and treatment of cancer and AIDS.

“Carrying out clinical studies is a real challenge and it has become more so in the past years,” said Dr. Stephen Katz, director of NIAMS. “The challenge to get the product to meet quality control standards is extremely hard, but Tom has been unwavering in his commitment to doing so. He did it all himself, he went to all the meetings himself and made sure it got done. He paved the way for others.”

In 1955, Waldmann came to NIH after graduating from Harvard Medical School. “I thought I was going to be here for 2 years, but I became so excited with the opportunities to do research and the ability to develop our own drugs and produce these in a way that can be administered to people and be able to do my own clinical trials to treat patients,” he said. “It was not matched, not in industry, not in academia.”

His colleagues agree. “NIH is an extraordinarily exciting place,” said Dr. Robert Nussenblatt, acting scientific director at NCCAM. “Tom is so creative and he needed an environment where ideas, enthusiasm, idealism, interaction are the currency—that’s NIH.”

“He has chosen to stay in public service because he is a man who is committed to taking science to the betterment of humanity and there is no better place to do that than NIH,” said Katz.

Waldmann adds, “One could be a successful scientist on the outside, but it would be very difficult to do what we do outside of government.”

Klein Named Associate Director Of NCI Division
Dr. William Klein
Dr. William Klein

Dr. William Klein has been named an associate director in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, NCI. He will direct the Behavioral Research Program, which includes the Office of the Associate Director and five branches (Applied Cancer Screening Research, Basic and Biobehavioral Research, Health Communication and Informatics Research, Health Promotion Research and Tobacco Control Research).

Klein completed his B.A. in psychology and mathematical methods in the social sciences at Northwestern University (1987) and his M.A. and Ph.D. in social psychology at Princeton University (1991). Since 2002, he has been a member of the graduate faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in the social psychology and biological and health psychology programs. Most recently, he was director of undergraduate studies, an elected member of the department’s executive committee and a 2008 recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award for his undergraduate and graduate teaching in the areas of social psychology, health psychology and decision-making. Prior to 2002, Klein was on the faculty at Colby College.

His research interests fall largely under the areas of self-judgment, risk perception and risk communication. He has been interested in how risk perception biases are related to the processing of health communications, to health decision-making and to health behavior.

NHLBI’s Geller Honored for Statistical Sciences
Dr. Nancy Geller
Dr. Nancy Geller

Dr. Nancy Geller, director of NHLBI’s Office of Biostatistics Research since 1990, was recently honored with the eighth annual Janet L. Norwood Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Statistical Sciences. The award recognizes Geller’s national and international contributions to statistical sciences and acknowledges her many accomplishments during her ongoing tenure at NIH.

As part of the award, she received an honorarium and participated in a distinguished lecture at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, in addition to meeting with students and young faculty.

“This recognition brings to the forefront the continued need for women’s participation in the sciences, on a national and international level,” said NHLBI director Dr. Elizabeth Nabel. “Dr. Geller’s perseverance and dedication in the field of statistical sciences is a testament to the many scientific endeavors she has seen through to fruition. We are fortunate to have her in the NIH community as well as the global scientific community.”

Geller’s office has expanded its expertise from clinical trials to include basic science and genetic studies. Her research interests include clinical trial methodology, especially issues of trial design, monitoring and multiplicity (i.e., endpoints and treatment comparisons). She is a fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA) as well as the organization’s 2010 president-elect and is a former president of the International Society for Clinical Biostatistics. Geller is also a recipient of the American Cancer Society Scholar Award and a long-standing associate editor of Biometrics and an editorial board member of Clinical Trials.

The award’s namesake, Dr. Janet L. Norwood, was first woman commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and a past president of the ASA.

Santangelo Joins NIGMS Genetics Division
Dr. George Santangelo
Dr. George Santangelo

Dr. George Santangelo recently joined NIGMS as a program director in the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology, where he will manage research grants on DNA replication. Before joining NIGMS, he was a professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi. His research focused on the role of nuclear substructure in transcriptional regulation. Santangelo earned a Ph.D. in genetics from Yale University and held postdoctoral appointments at the University of California, Irvine and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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