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Environmental Factor, March 2013

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Miller hands over the reins at the NIEHS Clinical Research Program

By Robin Arnette

Frederick Miller, M.D., Ph.D.

An Ohio native, Miller received his M.D. and Ph.D. after completing the Medical Scientist Training Program at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Stavros Garantziotis, M.D.

Garantziotis earned his M.D. at the University of Freiburg in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

When Frederick Miller, M.D., Ph.D., became acting clinical director in October 2011, his goal was to maintain and improve the NIEHS Clinical Research Program (CRP) until a permanent director took over. During the year and a half he spent in the position, Miller met his objectives by furthering the mission of the CRP and laying the groundwork for its continued growth.

One of the things he accomplished was strengthening ties between the clinical researchers and support staff here in Research Triangle Park (RTP) and those in Bethesda, Md. When the NIEHS Clinical Research Unit (CRU) opened its doors in July 2009, the North Carolina clinicians were focused on getting their research projects going and generating data. They knew their fellow scientists to the north but, because of the geographical distance, the two groups didn’t interact on a regular basis.

CRP retreat builds solidarity

Miller changed all that by instituting the first annual CRP retreat. Held April 2012 at the Radisson Governors Inn in RTP, the researchers and support staff personally exchanged ideas and suggestions for improvements, all the while getting to know each other better.

“The spirit of teamwork had always been with CRP staff, but this gathering really reinforced that bond,” Miller said, as he fondly remembered the retreat. “It made us realize we’re all moving toward the same goal, which is to improve our understanding of how the environment impacts human health.”

Miller hopes the annual CRP retreats will alternate between both locations, with the next one being held in Bethesda. The 2013 Maryland meeting will allow CRU staff to see the inner workings of NIEHS at the NIH Clinical Center.

Miller also developed a quarterly CRP meeting, which keeps everyone abreast of what’s going on in each group, as well as providing a fertile environment for new ideas and collaborative projects. To better focus the program’s efforts, Miller created three working groups — research, administration, and protocol workflow — to more effectively manage the CRP’s intellectual and financial resources.

A smooth transition to new leadership

CRU Medical Director Stavros Garantziotis, M.D., will now serve as acting clinical director. Garantziotis said Miller’s efforts in helping integrate the CRP were invaluable, and believes because of his leadership, the group is poised to make greater progress in the future.

“During Dr. Miller’s tenure, the NIEHS CRP published several papers that chip away at the hidden causes of environment-related conditions, such as autoimmunity, asthma, and cancer,” Garantziotis said. “Dr. Miller supported our operations masterfully, and I hope to continue this trajectory during my tenure.”

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