Obituaries 2018


Novera Herbert Spector (died on November 15, 2017, at 98) worked in NINDS’s Division of Fundamental Neurosciences from 1978 to 1995 and is credited with coining the word “neuroimmunomodulation.” His early research focused on the roles of the central nervous system (especially the hypothalamus) in drug addiction and in control loops affecting temperature and body-mass regulation. Starting in the mid–1970s, his research increasingly dealt with the influences of the nervous system on the immune system. He participated in founding the International Society for Neuroimmunomodulation. He used his NIH position to encourage this then-nascent field of nervous system–immune interactions, for which he received the NIH Director’s Award in 1990.

IN 2018

Alfred W. Alberts (died on June 16, 2018, at 87) discovered a chemical compound that led to the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin in the late 1970s when he was working for Merck. He worked as a lab technician at NIH (1959–1966) for biochemist P. Roy Vagelos, who later left NIH for Merck; Alberts followed. Before coming to NIH, Alberts was taught by Earl Stadtman at the University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland).

Valery Bliskovsky (died on November 13, 2018, at 55) was a staff scientist in the Genomics Core of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research (CCR). He began his NIH career in 1994 as a visiting fellow in NCI’s Laboratory of Biological Chemistry and then moved in 1996 to the Laboratory of Genetics, which later became a part of the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics. In 2012, with close cooperation with the CCR Genomic Core Facility and the Office of Science and Technology Resources, he initiated next-generation sequencing (NGS) operations aimed at bringing NGS capabilities to principal investigators of the CCR and NIH. In April 2015, he officially transitioned from the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genomics into the CCR Genomics Core and Genetics Branch.

Monique Dubois-Dalcq (died on October 9, 2018, at age 79) was chief of NINDS’s Laboratory of Viral and Molecular Pathogenesis. She joined NIH in 1972 as postdoctoral fellow, held many positions in NINDS, and retired in 1994 to become professor and chief of the unit on neurovirology and regeneration in the nervous system at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

Stanley Falkow (died on May 5, 2018, at 84), a professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine (Stanford, California), is considered to be the father of the field of bacterial pathogenicity. He discovered the molecular nature of antibiotic resistance and played a key role in the development of DNA cloning. He spent summers at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana. He received many awards for his work including the Lasker in 2008.

Elizabeth Fee (died on October 17, 2018, at 72) dedicated 22 years to NIH, first as chief of NLM’s History of Medicine Division (1995–2011) and then as NLM senior historian. She retired from NLM in 2018 to become an independent researcher, continuing her world-renowned scholarly research in the history of medicine and public health. Among her most notable achievements at NLM were attracting scholars worldwide to use the collections of the library for research and teaching, and building an award-winning exhibition program that continues to feature the NLM’s collections and introduce them to new audiences worldwide.

James R. Ganaway (died on October 4, 2018, at 91), who retired after 33 years of federal service in 1984, was NIH’s principal expert on naturally occurring infectious diseases of laboratory animals. Ganaway’s NIH career began in 1961 when he became chief of the microbiology unit, comparative pathology section, Veterinary Resources Branch, Division of Research Services. He was also a veterinary director in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Cornelis P.J. (Neil) Glaudemans (died on February 1, 2018, at 85), whose work led to a single-shot shigella vaccine, retired from NIH in 1998 after having worked for more than 30 years in NIDDK, where he was chief of its Laboratory of Chemistry. He came to NIH in 1962 as a postdoctoral associate, left in 1965 for faculty positions elsewhere, and then returned to NIH and collaborated with Michael Potter in NCI in work on the molecular interaction of myeloma monoclonal antibodies with bacterial antigens.

Alexander Gorbach (died on May 11, 2018, at 69) was an NIBIB staff scientist and chief of the infrared imaging and thermometry unit, an NIH Biomedical Engineering and Physical Science (BEPS) shared resource. He provided state-of-the-art expertise and specialized instrumentation for patient monitoring during surgeries. His innovative research included techniques for monitoring tissue perfusion, oxygen content, and temperature as well as wireless electronic sensors and applications of mobile-phone technology. His study subjects ranged from single cells to intact humans, using various tools including infrared imaging, near-infrared hyperspectral and multispectral functional imaging, laser-speckle imaging, infrared microscopy, and microwave thermometric mapping. These imaging methods do not require artificial contrast substances and so adapt well to clinical research. He described these methods as “infrared photography.” He joined NIH in 1989, first as a visiting research fellow and guest researcher at NIDDK. He transitioned into a role as a special expert in surgical neurology at NINDS and staff scientist at the Clinical Center. With the founding of NIBIB’s intramural program in 2003, Gorbach launched his 15-year leadership of the BEPS infrared and thermometry unit, conducting research in remote sensing and in vivo functional imaging.

Margaret Heckler (died on August 6, 2018, at 87) was a former Secretary of Health and Human Services (1983–1985). In 1985, she created the Task Force on Black and Minority Health, charging it with researching and analyzing “the impact of a broad range of behavioral, societal and health-care issues on the current departmental program areas.” The Heckler Report revealed a large “disparity in the burden of death and illness experience” across the American people, especially among black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian populations. In response to the report’s findings, HHS established the Office of Minority Health in 1987. Before her time at HHS, Heckler served eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the former 10th congressional district in southeastern Massachusetts. After her time at HHS, she served as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland from 1985 to 1989.

James F. Holland (died on March 22, 2018, at 92) was a renowned cancer expert and was considered a founding father of cancer chemotherapy. He helped pioneer a lifesaving drug treatment for pediatric leukemia patients. He was among the first group of research physicians recruited to the NIH Clinical Center, serving as a senior surgeon at NCI from 1953 to 1954. In that year, he initiated a clinical trial to compare continuous or intermittent treatment with two chemotherapy agents for acute leukemia in children: methotrexate and 6-mercaptopurine. After he left NIH for Roswell Park Memorial Institute (Buffalo, New York), he continued to collaborate with NCI on that clinical trial. In 1972, He and his NIH collaborators shared the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award for “his outstanding contribution to the concept and application of combination therapy in the treatment of acute leukemia in children.” He was the father of Steven Holland, current NIAID scientific director, and the father-in-law of Maryland Pao, current NIMH clinical director.

Pamela Jenkins (died on February 15, 2018) joined NIH in 1990 as a telephone operator and later became a quality-assurance specialist in the Division of Amenities and Transportation Services, Office of Research Services.

Stephen I. Katz (died on December 20, 2018, at 77), the director of NIAMS since 1995, joined NIH in 1974 as a senior investigator in NCI’s Dermatology Branch initiating a highly productive research program in the immunology of skin diseases. His work both as director of NIAMS and as an eminent scientist in the NCI intramural research program embodied integrity, excellence, and teamwork. A committed mentor, he trained a large number of outstanding immunodermatologists who went on to lead high-quality, independent research programs in the United States, Japan, Korea, and Europe.

Theodor Kolobow (died on March 24, 2018, at 87) was a scientist in NHLBI who made important contributions to the field of cardiovascular and pulmonary research including advancements in the development of artificial organs, and the pathophysiology of acute lung injury. In 1962, he joined NIH as staff associate in the Laboratory of Technical Development at the National Heart and Lung Institute, and was soon promoted to Section Chief of Pulmonary and Cardiac Assist Devices. During his career, he was actively involved in the innovation and development of new dialysis machines, cuffless endotracheal tubes, and devices to prop open right-sided heart valves, thereby preventing left heart distention during percutaneous cardiopulmonary bypass. He designed special low-resistance endotracheal tubes to limit the necessary ventilatory pressure in addition to endotracheal tubes that would help to limit bacterial colonization and methods for preventing ventilator-associated pneumonias.

Charles E. Land (died on January 25, 2018, at 87) was an internationally acclaimed statistical expert on radiation-risk assessment. He spent 34 years at NIH and retired in August 2009 from his position as principal investigator in the Radiation Epidemiology Branch in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. In a series of seminal investigations, he and colleagues clarified the pattern of breast-cancer risk associated with radiation exposure. These studies provided new mechanistic insights into breast carcinogenesis while serving as the prototype for epidemiologic studies of other radiogenic cancers. His work on the probability of causation was critical for the U.S. workers radiation-compensation program. The statistical models that he developed formed the basis for the online Interactive RadioEpidemiological Program, which is still in use today. Land was also instrumental in elucidating the cancer risk after radioactive fallout from the U.S. nuclear-weapons testing program. In addition, he analyzed data for studies of global and other radioactive fallout scenarios and initiated a study of thyroid nodules among residents in radiation-contaminated Kazakhstan.

Roger B. Mack (died on April 13, 2018, at 76) worked in the Clinical Center for 34 years, first in the inhalation-therapy section of the anesthesiology department and later as chief of what is now called respiratory therapy. In the early 1980s, he left clinical care for administration. He retired in April 2000 as a hospital administrative officer.

Bonnie Mathieson (died on January 8, 2018, at 72), who had a long and distinguished career at NIH spanning 43 years, retired in December 2017. She came to NIH in 1975 as an investigator at NCI and made seminal contributions to the field of basic T-cell immunology. She later became a program officer in the Vaccine Branch of NIAID’s Division of AIDS, where her immunology expertise was vital to NIH’s mission of developing and testing an HIV vaccine. She most recently served as a health-scientist administrator in the NIH Office of AIDS Research (OAR). During her tenure as the lead for HIV and AIDS vaccines at OAR, she was instrumental in advancing the NIH AIDS vaccine program in countless ways. She lent her expertise, wisdom, advice, and support to numerous vaccine trials and helped develop a vaccine scholars program to train the next generation of scientists.

Henry Metzger (died on November 20, 2018, at 86) was inducted into the Public Health Service in 1959, serving at the NIH. Except for two years as a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow with S.J. Singer at the University of California’s San Diego campus in San Diego, he spent his entire career at NIH pursuing basic research in molecular aspects of the immune system and in administration. He served for 10 years as the first scientific director of the newly created NIAMS. After he retired and became scientist emeritus in 2002, he remained an advisor to the NIH Board of Scientific Directors and was a liaison to the National Academy of Sciences on the important topic of “dual use research of concern.” He also was intimately involved in the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences for more than 40 years, serving in various capacities and passionately advocating for continued education and cultural events, such as NIH’s classical music offerings. Similarly, he was a longstanding member of the NIH Catalyst editorial board and the Office of NIH History advisory committee.

Jun-mo Nam (died on January 4, 2018, at 85), formerly a biostatistician in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, came to NCI in 1969. He retired after a 43-year career but regularly came to the office as a special volunteer until June 2017. His publications in biostatistical methods addressed efficient statistical inference, optimal study design, measurement agreement, sample-size calculations, and statistical genetics.

Vera Marie Nikodem (died on May 17, 2018, at 78) began her 30-year career as a molecular biologist at the NIH in 1978, culminating as a section chief at NIDDK. She worked extensively with the late Ed Rall on the mechanism of action of thyroid hormone as well as her own research on various important signaling pathways. She retired in 2008.

Sang-A Park (died on January 22, 2018, at 27), a native of South Korea, came to NIH in 2016 as a visiting postdoctoral fellow in NIDCR’s mucosal immunology section. Her field of study was transforming growth factor–beta signaling and its crosstalk with other pathways in breast-cancer stem cells post-chemotherapy.

Alan S. Rabson (died on July 4, 2018, at 92) came to the NIH in 1955 as a resident in pathologic anatomy in the NIH Clinical Center, along with his late wife, Ruth L. Kirschstein (who served as director of NIGMS, deputy director of NIH in the 1990s, and acting director of NIH in 1993 and in 2000–2002). He joined the NCI a year later, where he pursued research in cancer-causing viruses. In 1975, he became the director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Biology, Diagnosis, and Centers, where he served until his appointment as Deputy Director of NCI in 1995. He remained in this position until 2015, which included serving for a time as acting NCI director, and then became a scientist emeritus. During his more than six decades as a pathologist, cancer researcher, administrator, and clinical advisor, he made numerous discoveries in virology, won countless awards, and was known for his role as a wise and generous mentor to several generations of our colleagues and scientific leaders. (See article.)

Wilfred Rall (died on April 1, 2018, at 95), a pioneer in the field of computational neuroscience, spent most of his career at the NIH until his retirement in 1994. His work in establishing the integrative functions of neuronal dendrites provided a foundation for neurobiology in general and computational neuroscience in particular. Over his long life, he enjoyed watching the experimental confirmation of much of his theoretical research and the development of further research and knowledge based upon it.

Geoffrey Spencer (died on October 27, 2018, at 46) was an accomplished and colorful NIH communications professional. He began his NIH career in 1999 as a public-affairs assistant at NHGRI, where he was the primary media-relations contact for the institute and its director at the time, Francis Collins. Eventually becoming the associate director of communications for the Division of Extramural Research, he was responsible for promoting more than 20 projects that followed the completion of the Human Genome Project, including the Cancer Genome Atlas, the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, the 1000 Genomes Project, the NHGRI Large-Scale Genome Sequencing Program, and the Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology Program. He joined the NCATS Communications Branch in 2012. His primary responsibilities included but were not limited to helping lead and organize the annual Rare Disease Day at NIH as well as the production of NCATS’s rare-disease patient videos and serving as the day-to-day point of contact for the center’s intramural, rare-disease, tissue-chip, and other programs. In this role, he also produced content for news releases, social media, and the NCATS website.

Judith Vaitukaitis (died on October 19, 2018, at 78) was an accomplished reproductive neuroendocrinologist and clinical researcher. She began her tenure at NIH in 1970 as a postdoctoral researcher, studying human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), first at NCI and then as a senior investigator in NICHD’s Reproduction Research Branch. There, she and colleagues were interested in accurately detecting elevated hCG concentrations to find cancer. They recognized that because hCG is secreted during pregnancy as well, a sensitive hCG assay might also detect early-stage pregnancy. They published a landmark paper in 1972 that described the assay; the first home pregnancy tests, marketed to consumers in 1978, were based on their method. She served as director of the former National Center for Research Resources from 1993 to 2005, where she also held positions as the center’s deputy director and director of the General Clinical Research Center program. She retired from NIH in 2005 as a senior advisor to the NIH director on scientific infrastructure and resources.

Martha Vaughan (died on September 10, 2018, at 92) was a scientist emerita in NHLBI’s Laboratory of Metabolic Regulation and former chief of NHLBI’s Laboratory of Cellular Metabolism. She came to NIH in 1952 to work with Christian Anfinsen, who studied the essential building blocks for making proteins and later earned a Nobel Prize for this work. In the 1950s, she conducted some of the earliest work on insulin signaling, which ultimately helped reveal the insulin receptor. She also made seminal advances in our understanding of how cells respond to hormones and other cues through the action of G protein–coupled receptors. Her husband was Jack Orloff, who was the scientific director in NHLBI from 1974 to 1988.

Elliot Vesell (died on July 23, 2018, at 84) served as a clinical associate at what was then the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases from 1963 to 1965 and was head of the section on pharmacogenetics at the National Heart Institute from 1965 to 1968. In 1968, he became the founding chair of pharmacology at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center (Hershey, Pennsylvania), where he served as chair for 32 years.

Alfred Yergey (died on May 27, 2018, at 76) was a scientist emeritus in NICHD and former head of the NICHD Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Core Facility. Among major research breakthroughs was his contribution to the protein characterization in Niemann-Pick disease–type C, and a key step he identified in the Legionnaires’ disease infection process. He developed methods for whole-body calcium-isotope distribution, crucial for dietary absorption studies; provided the first quantification of acetylcholine as an intact molecule via liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS); determined the cortisol endogenous-production rate via LC-MS; and characterized countless proteins and peptides. He arrived at NICHD in 1977 and became a section head in 1986. He retired in 2012 but remained active in the NICHD Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Core Facility and continued to make significant contributions to Niemann-Pick disease.