News Release

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NIH Appoints Alan Guttmacher Acting Director of NICHD

Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., is the new acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the 27 institutes and centers that comprise the National Institutes of Health.

"Dr. Guttmacher brings a unique combination of expertise and experience to this new role," said Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIH. "A highly regarded pediatrician and medical geneticist, he has served in a number of important leadership roles at the National Human Genome Research Institute since joining the Institute from the University of Vermont in 1999."

Dr. Guttmacher replaces Susan L. Shurin, M.D., who left the NICHD to serve as acting director of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Dr. Guttmacher's appointment was effective Dec. 1.

"The NICHD has the singularly important task of getting every human being off to the healthiest start possible," Dr. Guttmacher said. "I am honored to serve in pursuit of its mission: 'to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from reproductive processes, and that all children have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives, free from disease or disability, and to ensure the health, productivity, independence, and well-being of all people through optimal rehabilitation.'"

At the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), Dr. Guttmacher served in a number of roles. In 2002, he became the NHGRI deputy director and, in August 2008, the acting director. In those roles, he oversaw the institute's efforts to advance genome research, integrate that research into medical practice, and explore the ethical, legal, and social implications of human genomics. At the NHGRI, Dr. Guttmacher also oversaw the NIH's involvement in the U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative, an effort to encourage all Americans to learn about and use their families' health histories to promote personal health and prevent disease.

Dr. Guttmacher came to the NIH from the University of Vermont, where he directed the Department of Pediatrics' Vermont Regional Genetics Center and Pregnancy Risk Information Service. He served as the medical director of the Vermont Newborn Screening Program, founded Vermont's only pediatric intensive care unit, and co-directed the Vermont Cancer Center's Familial Cancer Program. He also was the principal investigator for an NIH-supported initiative that was the nation's first statewide effort to involve the general public in discussion of the Human Genome Project's ethical, legal, and social implications. He had a busy practice in clinical genetics, conducted research, and taught. His research interests have been dysmorphology (abnormalities of development), and the identification and description of syndromes. He also has an interest in hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia — a condition resulting in numerous malformations of the blood vessels. In addition, Dr. Guttmacher previously served in volunteer leadership positions for several regional and national nonprofit organizations involved with reproductive health.

A graduate of Harvard College, Dr. Guttmacher said his interest in medicine began as a middle school teacher, when he became interested in the origins and treatment of pediatric learning disorders. After graduation from Harvard Medical School, he served as a physician in several developmental pediatrics programs at Children's Hospital in Boston, where he then completed an internship and residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in medical genetics. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and of the American College of Medical Genetics.

The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute's Web site at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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