NIDDK Director's Update Winter 2019

Commendations & Commencements


Drs. Felsenfeld and Gellert at symposium

Drs. Gary Felsenfeld and Martin Gellert, NIDDK intramural investigators, were honored by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a symposium in Washington, D.C., in November. The event focused on their distinguished research careers and service to the NIH, as well as in celebration of their 90th birthdays. In attendance were many NIH colleagues, former trainees, and other esteemed guests. Colleagues reflected on the scientific impact, exceptional mentorship, and generosity of Felsenfeld and Gellert and their extraordinary contributions in their research fields and beyond.

Former NIDDK grantee Dr. Gregg L. Semenza shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to changes in oxygen availability,” a process essential for survival. Semenza is a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Editor’s Note: For more on this award, go to the News Around NIDDK section.

Photo of DR. Paul Kimmel

Dr. Paul Kimmel, NIDDK program director for the acute kidney injury program and kidney HIV/AIDS program, was elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, a prestigious accolade held by some of the most innovative and exceptional physicians in the world.

Dr. Anne Sumner receiving the EDI award.

Dr. Anne Sumner, chief of the Section on Ethnicity and Health in NIDDK’s Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch, received the NIH Champion of the Disability Community Award from the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). Sumner has made significant contributions towards cultivating inclusivity and removing workplace barriers. Her advocacy has led to accessibility improvements  from seating to parking to handrails  in spaces across NIH. The award was presented at the first annual EDI Cultivating Inclusion: Honoring NIH Champions and Allies of Disability awards ceremony on October 24. Editor’s Note: For more on Sumner, read our May 2019 interview with her.

Five NIDDK grantees and one NIDDK Intramural Research Program scientist received the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) honor, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology:

Photo of Melena Bellin

Dr. Melena Bellin, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, received the award for childhood diabetes research and for advancing treatment of children and adults who are disabled by chronic pancreatitis, an inflammatory condition of the pancreas. Bellin has pioneered and led a consortium to study the long-term outcomes, patient selection, timing, and cost-effectiveness of potential life-transforming procedures.

Photo of Zachary Knight

Dr. Zachary Knight, associate professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, received his award for an innovative approach to explaining the underlying nervous system mechanisms that control and regulate energy expenditure, hunger, thirst, and thermoregulation to enhance understanding of the biologic origins of obesity and the development of obesity treatment therapies.

Photo of Sandeep Mallipattu

Dr. Sandeep Mallipattu, associate professor at Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, received his award for advancing diabetic kidney disease research by explaining the role of Krüpel-like factor 6 (KLF6), a zinc finger domain transcription factor, in regulating mitochondrial function, reducing disease progression, and advancing understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying mitochondrial injury in people with diabetes.

Katherine McJunkin

Dr. Katherine McJunkin, Stadtman Tenure Track Investigator in the Laboratory of Cellular and Developmental Biology within NIDDK’s Division of Intramural Research, received her award for advancing the understanding of microRNA regulation in normal physiology by elucidating the mechanisms underlying microRNA turnover, and for providing insights into novel therapeutic approaches for treating diseases resulting from microRNA dysregulation.

Photo of Jason Wertheim

Dr. Jason Wertheim, vice chair for research in surgery as well as an associate professor in the Feinberg School of Medicine and the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, received his award for his work on how injured tissues and organs heal, regenerate, and repair, with a focus on bioengineering approaches tailored to treat liver and kidney damage and disease. This research could help to develop new tissues and regenerative approaches as future treatments for chronic organ failure.

Editor’s note: NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers recently served as the John Morgan Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The professorship was established to honor Dr. John Morgan, who served as the first chair of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Medicine. Rodgers presented on November 22 at the Department of Medicine Grand Rounds. He spoke on the topic of “Sickle Cell Anemia: Past, Present, and Future.” Prior to the event, he met with medical school residents, fellows, and members of the school’s faculty and leadership team.


Profile photo for Matthews Portnoy

Dr. Matthew Portnoy joined NIDDK as deputy director of NIDDK’s Division of Extramural Activities. Portnoy was previously the director of the Division of Special Programs in the NIH Office of Extramural Research. He managed the SBIR/STTR programs at NIH, provided program management and oversight for conference grants, and oversaw NIH’s Academic Research Enhancement Award R15 program and the Extramural Staff Training Office.

NIDDK welcomed four new members to its Advisory Council:

Photo of Tracey Brown.

Tracey Brown, chief executive officer of the American Diabetes Association, joined as a public member representative to serve on the Council’s Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases subcommittee.

Photo of Ian Drummond.

Dr. Ian Drummond, an associate professor in medicine and genetics at Harvard Medical School, joined the Council’s Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases subcommittee.

Photo of Penny Gordon-Larsen.

Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, professor of nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and past president of the Obesity Society, joined the Digestive Diseases and Nutrition subcommittee.

Photo of Gary Wu.

Dr. Gary Wu, Ferdinand G. Weisbrod Professor of Gastroenterology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and co-director of the Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Disease, joined the Digestive Diseases and Nutrition subcommittee.

A Fond Farewell

Photo of Dr. Aaron Pawlyk

Dr. Aaron Pawlyk served as a program director and senior advisor in the NIDDK Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases, where he directed the Type 1 Diabetes-Rapid Access to Intervention Development program, managed cooperative agreement components of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership® program for Type 2 Diabetes and initiated and directed a trans-NIDDK program on therapeutics translation. Pawlyk became chief the Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and continues to serve as a coordinator of Illuminating the Druggable Genome, an NIH Common Fund program.

Photo of Luke Stoeckel

Dr. Luke Stoeckel served as a program director of the Clinical Neuroscience of Obesity and Diabetes program in the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases. His portfolio focused on neuroscience and cognitive aspects of diabetes and on translating basic neuroscience discoveries into novel, brain-based interventions for obesity and diabetes in people. Stoeckel became program director of mechanistic and translational decision science at the National Institute on Aging.

In Memoriam

Dr. William B. “Bill” Jakoby, former chief of NIDDK’s Laboratory of Biochemistry and Metabolism has died. He had a long and successful NIH research career, primarily in what is now the NIDDK, and was a seminal figure in enzymology. Dr. Jakoby also played a significant role in developing the NIH Intramural Research Program and its tenure-track system. Dr. Jakoby became chief of the Section on Enzymes and Cellular Biochemistry in the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Metabolism in 1967 and continued in that role until 1985, when he became chief of the NIDDK Laboratory of Biochemistry and Metabolism. He held that position until 1999, when he retired and became a scientist emeritus in NIDDK. He is perhaps best known as editor of the influential "Methods in Enzymology" series for Academic Press. Dr. Jakoby also helped pioneer the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES) art program, and the many paintings procured by FAES now spread across the NIH campus bear witness to those efforts.

2019 NIDDK Employee Appreciation Awards

This year’s NIDDK Employee Appreciation Awards, presented October 21, recognized the following people for their noteworthy achievements and dedication to federal service:

Nancy Nossal Mentorship Award
Peggy Hsieh, Ph.D.
James F. Hyde, Ph.D.

Director’s Award – Individual
Devon Drew
Carle Johnson
Jennie Larkin
Teresa Lindquist
Ranganath Muniyappa, M.D, Ph.D.
Andrew S. Narva, M.D.
Jinfa Ying, Ph.D.

Director’s Award – Group
DDN Clinical Trials Specialists
Sherry Hall
Rebecca J. Torrance
Rebekah Van Raaphorst

NIDDK Career Development Team
Kim Black
Rebecca Borawski
Andrea R. Brush
Elise DiSciullo
Vikas Khator
Robin J. Klevins
Traci Melvin
Van Nguyen
Camila M. Torrella
Amy M. Trenkle
Kelly L. Yager

NIDDK Data Center Migration Team
Steven Bradham
Maurio Carter
Errin Frahm
David Graham
Robert Herbert
Lee Matthews
Umashankar Pattabiraman
Charles Pham
Anh Khoa Tho Bui
Jason White

NIDDK Purchasing Office Transformation Team
Sheida Ahdoot
Lauren M. Sands
Elizabeth Scott
Bonnie P. Zimmerman

NIDDK Scientific Review Officers T1D Review Group
Michele Barnard, Ph.D.
Najma Begum, Ph.D.
Dianne Camp, Ph.D.
Xiaodu Guo, M.D., Ph.D.
Jason Hoffert, Ph.D.
Ann A. Jerkins, Ph.D.
Peter J. Kozel, Ph.D.
Ryan Morris, Ph.D.
Charlene J. Repique, Ph.D.
Elena Sanovich, Ph.D.
Thomas A. Tatham, Ph.D.

Terry Rogers Bishop, Ph.D.
Daniel Gossett, Ph.D.
Patricia Greenwel, Ph.D.
Deborah K. Hoshizaki, Ph.D.
David Saslowsky, Ph.D.
Victoria Spruance, Ph.D.
Karen L. Teff, Ph.D.

NIDDK Web Migration Team
William Bennett
Maria A. Dove
Christopher Ginnow
Raymond Goh
Adam Hall
Megan McVey
Reagan Phillip
Benjamin Pinegar
Joshua Reitnauer
Jennifer Rymaruk
Anuj Saxena
Dana Sheets
Hilary C. Shutak
Clayton Tompkins
Antony Zacharias

NIH Obesity Research Task Force
Sandeep Dayal, Ph.D.
Lisa Gansheroff, Ph.D.
Jaime J. Smith, Ph.D.
Phil Smith, Ph.D.
Susan Z. Yanovski, M.D.

The NIDDK "Biggest Loser" Campaign
Robin Brooks
Katie Clark
Ryan Gonzales

Innovation Award – Individual
Victoria Spruance, Ph.D.

Innovation Award – Group
Clinical LDB Fontan Group
Gil Simha Ben-Yakov, M.D.
Christy Ann Leinaala Gilman, M.D.
Theo Heller, M.D.
Chunwei Walter Lai
Catherine Ann Nadal
Anusha Vittal, M.D.

Compensation and Performance Analysis Team
Starsky Cheng
Vy P. Tran

CTB Application Development Team
Ryan Campbell
Zhuomin Gao
Olga Meyerson
Massoud Niakani
Roza Podkovyrova
Aarti Shah
Jason White

The Mammalian Meiotic Recombination Interdisciplinary Team
Kevin Brick
Florencia Pratto

NIDDK “You Make a Difference Award” – Individual
Sheida Ahdoot
Orlena Cheng, Ph.D.
Elaine Cochran
Lynn Oundo
Janine H. Peterson
Rathna Ramani
Linda Robinson
Sheryl M. Sato, Ph.D.
Dorota Wasak

NIDDK “You Make a Difference Award” – Group

Liver Diseases Branch Administrative Staff
Patricia Alcivar
Tanya Brown
Lori E. Standifer

ODCRS Metabolic Unit Nursing Team
Barbara Ann Dugan-DeMers
Ebony Godwin
Sasha Kalous-Wessels
Barbara Jean Morales
Joan Nethercutt
Dacia Sorrell
Bradley Sullivan
Loranda Tarrant
Ethelena Tessay

NIDDK Property Management Branch
Candy Caraballo
Jason Martin
Edgar Salcedo

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