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August 5, 2015
Statement Regarding the Retirement of NICHD Director Dr. Alan Guttmacher
With joy for him, but wistfulness for us, I announce that Alan Guttmacher, M.D., will be retiring in October from the directorship of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Alan has been an outstanding director, trusted colleague, and close friend for many years. Back in 1999, I had the good fortune of recruiting Alan from Vermont to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), where a few years later he became my deputy. As a pediatrician and medical geneticist, Alan brought a wonderfully fresh approach to the Institute, overseeing many aspects of the work, but particularly leading NHGRI’s efforts to promote the integration of genomics into the practice of medicine. Through countless hours of close collaboration, I saw first-hand Alan’s keen intellect, capacity to see the big picture, and unwavering commitment to patients and their families.
In 2010, following a vigorous national search, I concluded that Alan was the best candidate to lead the NICHD, and asked him to take on that leadership role. The NICHD is the NIH’s focal point for research in pediatric health and development, maternal health, reproductive health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and rehabilitation medicine, among other areas. Alan was a natural fit for the job, given his knowledge of the NIH, his extensive experience in pediatric research, and his stellar reputation in the scientific community. During his tenure, Alan instituted a number of new scientific initiatives with major goals: better understanding, treatment, and prevention of birth defects; prevention of pre-term birth on a global scale; and recently, the launch of two programs to improve the health of mothers and their children: the Human Placenta Project to accelerate the understanding of this most neglected human organ; and a mobile device-based “app” to gather data through crowd-sourcing about the natural history of pregnancy.
Alan possesses a rare combination of brilliance, impeccable scientific acumen, a lightning-quick wit, and an inspiring sense of humanity. I am truly sorry to see him retire from the NIH, but I am deeply grateful for his enormous contributions to this agency and to advancing medical research. He now plans to return to the Green Mountain State – no doubt hoping for some peace and quiet. Little does he know that I will continue to call on his wisdom, expertise, and counsel!
Following Alan’s departure and while we conduct a national search for a new NICHD Director, Catherine Spong, M.D., will serve as Acting Director. Currently the NICHD Deputy Director, Dr. Spong has held a number of leadership positions at the NICHD, including the director of extramural research and chief of the pregnancy and perinatology branch. Cathy is an internationally recognized researcher, with more than 200 publications, and has a deep knowledge of the NICHD, having joined the agency as a Fellow 20 years ago. I deeply appreciate her willingness to lead the Institute in this transition period.
I want to congratulate Alan on his extraordinary career at the NIH, thank him for all he’s done, and wish him the very best as he heads back home.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health