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Vol. LXIII, No. 19
September 16, 2011
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NIAMS Celebrates 25th Anniversary

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a scientific symposium, Improving Lives Through Discovery, at Lipsett Amphitheater. The occasion brought together more than 300 friends of the institute— including patients, researchers, clinicians and advocates, with current and former staff—to take stock of what NIAMS has accomplished to date and what it can accomplish in the next quarter century.

Dr. Ronald DePinho Dr. Ronald DePinho

Hundreds of researchers, health care providers and patients from across the U.S. came to NIH for NIAMS’s 25th anniversary scientific symposium held in Lipsett Amphitheater.

NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz discusses the institute’s many partners.

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and Research!America chairman John Edward Porter joined NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz in delivering introductory talks. Collins praised NIAMS for tackling the nation’s “common, chronic, crippling and costly” diseases by anticipating where scientific opportunities lay, exploiting them and shepherding research toward meaningful results.

Porter is a former Illinois representative in the U.S. House of Representatives for two decades and former chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services, and education. He encouraged the bench scientists and clinicians in attendance to create opportunities to share stories of medical research and breakthroughs with the public and Congress.

The agenda included scientific sessions featuring outstanding senior and early-career investigators, followed by patient perspectives on how peoples’ lives have been affected by NIAMS-supported research.

The program highlighted an array of advances made by NIAMS extramural and intramural researchers. Topics included progress in muscular dystrophies, Marfan syndrome, JAK inhibitors, lupus, osteoporosis and the genomics of inflammation.

In one panel, National Marfan Foundation co-founder and chair emeritus Priscilla Ciccariello, who has lost her husband, eldest son and a grandson to complications of Marfan syndrome, described how new surgeries and other treatment advances have given a more hopeful future to her surviving two sons as well as the many others living with the disorder.

In another panel, George Beach, an artist and former NIAMS advisory council member who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 44 years ago, shared how new biologic treatments gave a second act to his career. After 25 years of being unable to paint, in 2001, his “biologics kicked in” and his “brushes came alive again,” inspiring him to create his award-winning painting Indivisible, about the World Trade Center tragedy.

Mentorship and collegiality were other themes of the day. Many of the scientific speakers shared how they trained, with NIH support, in their respective fields and how that experience has shaped how they now encourage and support their own junior staff. Orthopaedic surgeon and long-time NIAMS grantee Dr. Cato Laurencin described how receiving the 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence, given to science mentors, prompted him to reflect on how NIAMS’s work on the “people side” of science contributed to his achievement.

It simply “brings people who are bold and smart together in different ways,” he said, “which allows them to explore their passions.” Today, Laurencin said, “My passion is not only science work, but mentoring.” Dr. Helen Lu of Columbia University preceded him at the podium, sharing her research and her gratitiude for the opportunities she gained by training with Laurencin.

Throughout the symposium, Katz emphasized the role of NIAMS’s many partners who make its work possible, including patients, the public and the professional and advocacy groups that make up the NIAMS Coalition. He also noted that most of the work honored by the symposium is the result of trans-NIH partnerships, saying, “These collaborations are really how NIH works, and how NIH works best.”

Celebrations continued into the evening with a dinner program—“Bringing Medicine and Science to the Public”—featuring a conversation with special guest and National Public Radio talk show host Diane Rehm. She shared with Katz and the audience her candid opinions on medical science and its relationship with the public and Congress through her unique vantage point as a prominent public radio host and as a patient living with the voice disorder spasmodic dysphonia.NIHRecord Icon


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