You are here
July 9, 2019
Statement on the retirement of Dr. Linda Birnbaum
It is with sincere gratitude for her dedicated service that I announce the upcoming retirement of Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S., as Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). Linda has ably served as NIEHS Director for just over 10 years; in total, she has worked as a federal scientist for nearly 40 years, including 19 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She will retire on October 3, 2019.
Linda is the first board-certified toxicologist and the first woman to serve as Director of the NIEHS, which has a unique research mission to discover how the environment affects people’s health in order to promote healthier lives.
Under Linda’s leadership, the NIEHS became a world leader in toxicology and environmental health research, with NIEHS science inspiring health policy and safety standards in the United States and abroad. Scientific reports generated by the NTP, such as the bi-annual Report on Carcinogens, serve as major presentations of scientific analyses of substances in our environment that may cause cancer. The NIEHS also established a national network of exposure assessment laboratories with an innovative grant program called Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource. Research conducted by the NIEHS Children’s Centers, cosponsored with the EPA, and related work with environmental justice communities, has led to policy changes to protect the health of children through improvements of their environments.
Linda and her team opened the NIEHS Clinical Research Unit providing new opportunities for NIH partnerships with cutting-edge biomedical teams at Duke University, Durham, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University, Raleigh. She led important trans-NIH research projects following the 2014 West Virginia Chemical Spill and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico for which she and her team recruited more than 33,000 participants. Both studies required effective coordination with scientists across the NIH, and with the residents of affected areas. Linda has also been an active supporter of the NIH Women in Biomedical Research Program.
Linda’s passion for leading NIEHS has been unmistakable and she has implemented two strategic plans during her tenure. She has been a strong proponent of community-based-participatory-research, and she has actively engaged local residents in identifying, planning, and reporting on environmental conditions that require both basic and applied research to understand potential health effects.
Linda’s remarkable career is replete with awards and honors. In 2010, she was elected to the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine). In 2016, Linda received the distinguished North Carolina Award in Science — the highest civilian honor given by the state’s Governor. In 2018, she was named the Distinguished Toxicology Scholar by the Society of Toxicology and earned the Mildred S. Christian Career Achievement Award from the Academy of Toxicological Sciences.
It has been my privilege to work with Linda. She is an enthusiastic, accomplished, and caring scientist who has provided dedicated scientific leadership to the NIEHS and the NTP since 2009. She will continue her laboratory research at NIH part-time. I wish Linda and her husband, their children, and grandchildren every happiness as they enjoy more time together.
While we conduct a national search for a new NIEHS Director, I have asked Richard P. Woychik, Ph.D., to serve as NIEHS Acting Director. Rick currently serves as the NIEHS Deputy Director.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health