News Release

Monday, October 20, 2008

Three NIH Employees Win Presidential Rank Awards

Three NIH employees were among the more than 350 career federal executives recognized with Presidential Rank Awards on Sept. 30 by President George W. Bush for their outstanding leadership and longtime service to government. NIH Deputy Director for Management Colleen Barros received the Distinguished Executive Award, and NHLBI Associate Director for Administrative Management Don Christoferson and Clinical Center Chief Operating Officer Maureen Gormley both received the Meritorious Executive Award.

These awards are presented to a very select group of career civil service executives whose integrity, strength, leadership, and sustained performance have earned them one of the most prestigious honors in government. Recipients are selected after being nominated by their agency and undergoing a rigorous review process that includes evaluation by private citizens. The nominations provide examples of the applicants’ accomplishments in leading change, leading people, building coalitions and communications, and demonstrating business acumen and a results-driven approach to their work.

The two award categories include the Distinguished Rank Award, awarded for achieving extraordinary results through their executive careers, and the Meritorious Rank Award, given for sustained accomplishment.

"Winners of the prestigious Presidential Rank Award represent the cream of the crop within the federal executive ranks," said Michael Hager, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management. "Their professional dedication and commitment to excellence is helping to advance President Bush’s agenda for enhancing federal government performance and creating a more effective civil service."

Selected highlights of each awardee’s accomplishments appear below:

Colleen Barros

As NIH’s senior management official, Barros advises the NIH director and other senior officials on all phases of administration and management. In addition, as director of the Office of Management, she leads and oversees budget and finance; human resources; management assessment and policy; program integrity; contracts, procurement, and logistics; engineering services; safety, space, and facility management; support services; and the police and fire departments. Barros led strategic change by implementing organizational-wide improvements across the large, de-centralized NIH organization, all while maintaining vision, morale, efficiency, and organizational goals. Barros deployed a state-of-the-art NIH-wide Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System, which links accounting systems and diverse support functions and incorporates "best practice" administrative support processes. Functions deployed to date include general ledger, travel, warehousing, property, accounts payable, acquisitions, and research and development contracts — functions that are critical to the support of the research conducted on the NIH campus by federal scientists. Barros also led a human capital workforce planning process to provide a reliable foundation for defining human capital short- and long-term options for ensuring NIH’s workforce has the ability to achieve the research mission of the NIH.

Barros said, "This is a tremendous honor for which I am deeply grateful. It is my love of NIH, its mission and people that has inspired and motivated me throughout my career. I have been surrounded by talented and committed people who have worked with me in the support of NIH. I am so appreciative of their role in this achievement."

Don Christoferson

With Christoferson as chair of the NIH Commercial Activities Steering Committee, NIH helped to bring the title of the largest Most Efficient Organization to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). DHHS was one of only four agencies to initially achieve to earn a “green” scorecard rating on the President’s Management Agenda for competitive sourcing. NIH exceeded DHHS competitive sourcing requirements in part because of Christoferson’s leadership in the creation of the Commercial Activities Tracking System, which was used in the development of the NIH Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act. Christoferson also manages five offices with more than 70 employees in the Office of Administrative Management, where he serves as a role model in preparing the next generation of NIH leaders. He initiated a seminar series and customer service award to increase understanding between administrative staff and scientists of how their roles support each other. In addition, Christoferson is a leader within the NIH executive officer community, where he has played an influential role in the agency’s business management by participating in a number of cross-NIH committees and advisory councils. He chaired the NIH CIVIL Committee, which addresses workplace violence, guided its effort in developing a strategic plan for operations, oversaw an NIH-wide education program informing staff on the issue, and developed and issued a related official NIH policy.

"I am honored to be included in the company of past and present NIH awardees of this special recognition,” said Christoferson. “The accomplishments being recognized would never have been possible without the support of my NIH colleagues and the terrific staff of the NHLBI. I cannot imagine a better place to work."

Maureen Gormley

NIH in 2005 opened its new hospital, the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, and the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge, a 34-room guest house for families of NIH patients, with Gormley’s leadership in planning and activating the two new facilities. Gormley developed new policies and procedures for operating the new hospital and adapted patient-care delivery processes for a smooth transition. The new hospital created opportunities for efficiencies through consolidation of clinical programs. Gormley also led initiatives to augment the Clinical Center’s exemplary customer service to patients and visitors by devising and implementing an intensive organizational training and hospitality program. While facing declining operating budgets and managing a hospital staff stressed by major organizational changes, Gormley envisioned and implemented several program initiatives that have enhanced both investigators’ and patients’ experiences at NIH. Outside the Clinical Center, Gormley participates in numerous administrative and clinical research support activities for the NIH community. She was also instrumental in the rapid planning and execution of three major efforts on behalf of NIH in response to Hurricane Katrina — deployment of staff for a 250-bed field hospital in Mississippi, establishment of a round-the-clock medical consultation call center, and ensuring the ability to accept up to 100 patients with family members from the affected areas.

Gormley said, “It is such an honor to be recognized but an absolute privilege to have a career at NIH in support of the dedicated scientists and courageous patients who have given so much to advance medicine.”

The NIH Clinical Center (CC) is the clinical research hospital for the National Institutes of Health. Through clinical research, physician-investigators translate laboratory discoveries into better treatments, therapies and interventions to improve the nation's health. For more information, visit

Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available 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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