Twenty-two NIEHS staff and contractors were selected for this year’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Awards. NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., expressed her pleasure at the exceptional number of NIEHS scientists and staff recognized this year. “I’m thrilled that the excellence of so many of our folks here [in North Carolina] was recognized,” she said. “These awards are truly a mark of distinction, signifying superior accomplishment and leadership.”
NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., presents the awards for outstanding support of the NIH mission in four main areas — Scientific-Medical, Administrative, Technical-Clerical-Support, and Common Fund Leadership. Other awards given out include the Ruth L. Kirschstein Mentoring Awards, and Alan S. Rabson Award for Clinical Care.
Another award-winning mentor
NIEHS staff and contractors were named in three of the categories, and for the second year in a row, an NIEHS researcher earned a Ruth L. Kirschstein Mentoring Award. The award named Raja Jothi, Ph.D., “for exemplary performance while demonstrating significant leadership, skill, and ability in serving as a mentor.”
“You will see few who are his equal,” wrote Trevor Archer, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory (ESCBL), which includes Jothi’s Systems Biology Group. “He truly cares about his trainees’ personal and career development and believes that it is his responsibility as a mentor to give them every opportunity to be successful.” Jothi also is active in supporting outreach and mentoring across NIEHS and NIH.
Jothi said he is inspired by the opportunity to help shape the course of someone’s future. He had high praise for his own mentor, Balaji Raghavachari, Ph.D., at the University of Texas at Dallas. “He helped me discover my true potential,” Jothi said. “If it weren't for him, I wouldn’t be who or where I am today.”
Jothi follows Sam Wilson, Ph.D., head of the DNA Repair and Nucleic Acid Enzymology Group, also part of ESCBL, who received the Kirschstein award last year.
That lab had yet another winner this year — in the Technical-Clerical-Support Category, administrative specialist Kathleen Ochoa was recognized “for exemplary performance and leadership in the administrative office of the Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory.”
In the Administrative Category, the NIH Review Policy Committee, Reviewer Guidance Working Group, which included RoseAnne McGee, scientific review officer in the Division of Extramural Research and Training, was selected “in recognition of outstanding leadership and creativity in designing, launching, and maintaining the new Guidance for Reviewers website.”
The remaining 19 NIEHS awards were made in the Scientific-Medical Category.
Allen Wilcox, Ph.D., from the Division of Intramural Research, was honored “for pioneering epidemiologic research in human reproduction that has defined the field and led to improved understanding of fertility and pregnancy.
The National Children’s Study, Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program Working Group, included David Balshaw, Ph.D., Kimberly Gray, Ph.D., and Claudia Thompson, Ph.D., all from the Division of Extramural Research and Training. The working group was recognized “for catalyzing the advancement of pediatric and environmental health research through development of the [Fiscal Year] 2016 plan to redirect the National Children's Study efforts.”
The NIH Disaster Research Response Group included a cross-divisional group of 13 staff and contractors from NIEHS, including April Bennett and Betsy Eagin, contractors in the Office of the Director; Stavros Garantziotis, M.D.; Richard Kwok, Ph.D.; Joan Packenham, Ph.D.; and contractor Steven Ramsey, from the Division of Intramural Research; and David Balshaw, Ph.D.; Chip Hughes; Scott Masten, Ph.D.; Liam O’Fallon; Les Reinlib, Ph.D.; Jim Remington; and Claudia Thompson, Ph.D., from the Division of Extramural Research and Training. They were honored “for outstanding contributions to the development of an innovative research program to address human health effects of natural and man-made disasters.”
The NIH Strategic Plan Working Group, which included Sheila Newton and Kimberly Thigpen Tart, J.D., from the NIEHS Office of the Deputy Director, was recognized “for significant contributions toward developing an NIH-wide Strategic Plan.”
The awards will be presented in a July 19 ceremony at the Natcher Conference Center on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The event will be webcast, so colleagues in North Carolina and elsewhere may view it.
Congratulations to all the awardees and thank you on behalf of the institute for your exceptional efforts.