Sunday, October 12, 2008

Radiologist Steps Down as Head of NIH

Elias Zerhouni, M.D. in front of NIH Headquarters.  Photo courtesy of NIH.Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. retires as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the end of this month.

Dr. Zerhouni stands out as being the first radiologist to lead this august organization, and has accomplished quite a bit during his tenure, despite lackluster presidential support. I'm especially proud of his standing up to Bush on stem-cell research.

As reported by Nature News, in his testimony to the Senate in March 2007,
...he said that US science would be better served with access to more stem cell lines. In a competitive world, he told senators, "it is important for us not to fight with one hand tied behind our back here."
The timing of his retirement is interesting, as it takes place about 4 days before the upcoming presidential election. Again from Nature News:
Zerhouni, 57, said that he was leaving before national elections on 4 November so that there would be no question of his lingering into a future administration.

"I felt that it was very important, for the sake of NIH, to not just stay and have the [next president's] transition team think: NIH is taken care of. They have a decent director. Let's focus on other things," he told reporters on a conference call.
I hope that the next president does indeed put a high priority on medical research, and in finding a worthy successor to Dr. Zerhouni.

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