Despite Challenges, A Commitment to Excellence
Speaking to a room of NCI researchers and investigators last week, NCI Deputy Director Dr. Alan Rabson reflected on his 50 years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), all but the first year of which he has spent as an NCI employee. I've had the pleasure of working with this extraordinary man since my arrival at NCI, and over the past 3 years I have seen the skills, talent, and energy that have exemplified every moment of his long career. He is a role model of the true meaning of commitment and excellence, always putting NCI, its people, and its mission first.
Al launched the NCI Combined Intramural Principal Investigator retreat as he introduced Dr. Susan Gottesman, the winner of the first annual Alan Rabson Award for NCI Intramural Research. Dr. Gottesman, of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in NCI's Center for Cancer Research (CCR), has been with NCI for 28 years and is internationally recognized as a leader in identifying small RNA and its function.
Like Dr. Rabson, she too typifies dedication to public service and exemplary basic and clinical research. That same commitment to service and scientific excellence was on display among the investigators in attendance at the retreat, many of whom presented data from their research - a rich array of investigation being performed by researchers from CCR and the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, often in collaboration with outside researchers.
The poster presentations at the retreat covered everything from basic research in cell signaling to development of predictive models to novel clinical interventions to cohort consortium studies and genetics determinants of cancer susceptibility. It's this sort of investigative diversity that makes the NCI intramural research program unique and so valuable to the overall cancer research enterprise.
The intramural retreat came just one day after the second annual retreat of three of NCI's primary advisory boards (see lead story), during which the participants grappled with how, given the current fiscal limitations facing biomedical research, NCI can continue its upward, forward-thinking trajectory. To be certain, budget limitations mean we need to make difficult but creative choices; hurdles must be overcome. At both meetings last week - and in every visit I have made to cancer centers or in meetings with advocacy groups - I am struck by the robust undercurrent of sincere optimism that our progress against cancer will not just continue, but accelerate.
In large part, I think that optimism is rooted in the cancer community's belief in its mission and the remarkable people who compose it. Whether it's NCI advisory boards or visits to NCI-funded cancer centers, there is unprecedented support for collaboration and team science, for new technologies, for revamping the clinical trials infrastructure, and for working with industry to sort through thorny issues such as intellectual property rights. So when somebody asks me why I'm so optimistic about our future, I can tell them it's because of this indefatigable momentum that I see every day - a momentum that will spur us to make the sort of reasoned, intelligent choices that will allow us to achieve the 2015 goal.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach