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Search Opens for Extramural Director

By Eddy Ball
October 2009

Robert Croyle
The person who holds this position "also has to be a visible face of the Institute," said Search Committee Chair Robert Croyle.
(Photo courtesy of NIH)

During an open-discussion meeting on September 17, the NIEHS launched another "wide open" search for a key member of the Institute's leadership team — the head of the NIEHS extramural program. The search committee (see text box), chaired by Robert T. Croyle, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, attended the meeting to discuss the recruitment process and listen to comments from employees, most of them veteran members of the DERT staff.

The director of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) will oversee the Institute's Extramural Research Program, which is organized into seven branches and centers and is composed of 56 full-time federal employees. Each year, DERT is responsible for awarding approximately 874 research grants for a total of $388 million.

The deadline for job applications is January 15, 2009. Interested individuals should contact Stephanie Jones( in the Office of Human Resources. The announcement will be posted online at the NIEHS Web site ( and will be broadly advertised in journals and trade publications.

NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., opened the meeting by saying she considers the DERT director "one of the top five leadership positions" at NIEHS. She explained that she wants "someone who has a national and international reputation as a science leader, but is also an experienced manager [with outstanding leadership skills] and knows something about the extramural program." As she did with the search for a scientific director, she took the occasion to "urge everyone to encourage qualified applicants to apply."

Birnbaum also discussed "our whole new procedure" for recruiting candidates for key leadership positions. "When we're hiring for these very, very important positions at the top leadership level," she explained, "I want to get as much input from everybody and afford you numerous opportunities to do that."

Many of the DERT staff in the audience took Birnbaum up on her offer to provide input and suggestions about the kind of person NIEHS needs as director of DERT. Several speakers offered their thoughts about what they would like to see in the new director:

  • A leader who can work effectively in the small-team atmosphere among staff in the NIEHS DERT program, who work closely together on one floor with open-door access to their colleagues.
  • Someone who can lead by example.
  • A quick learner with long-term vision capable of understanding the potential of early-stage research areas.
  • An approachable manager with real people skills.

The committee members expressed their appreciation for employee input at the meeting. Croyle reiterated Birnbaum's call for help reaching potential candidates. "Everybody is encouraged, as the official announcements and deadlines [for the search] go out, to post on listserves [and] send it to people you think would be good," Croyle told his audience. "The search committee really depends on the whole group to help get the word out and encourage people you know and respect to apply so that we get the strongest possible applicant pool."

Members of the Search Committee

As Birnbaum introduced the members of the search committee, she commented on the individual strengths and perspectives they bring to the effort:

  • Robert Croyle, Ph.D., Search Committee Chair
    Director of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute
  • Alicia Dombroski, Ph.D.
    Director, Division of Extramural Activities, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
  • Grantee Joseph Graziano, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean for Research, Columbia University
  • Grantee David Christiani, M.D.
    Professor, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Principal Investigator Robert Sills, D.V.M., Ph.D.
    NIEHS, National Toxicology Program
  • Principal Investigator Claire Weinberg, Ph.D.
    Head of the NIEHS Biostatistics Branch
  • Principal Investigator Steven Kleeberger, Ph.D.
    NIEHS Acting Deputy Director
  • Diane Forsythe, DMV, DACLAM
    Chief of the NIEHS Comparative Medicine Branch

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