Guest Update by Dr. John E. Niederhuber
Sustaining the Momentum
As many readers of the NCI Cancer Bulletin now know, I was recently named by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to oversee day-to-day operations of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) while Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach serves as interim commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The transition to this position was certainly made much easier by the close working relationship I have had with NCI's leadership and staff over the last 4 years, during which time I served as chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board and also was part of several other NCI committees.
While surprise and adjustment may be the best way to describe the last 2 weeks, the adjustments needed in day-to-day operations have been relatively minor. Much of the credit goes to Dr. von Eschenbach's selection of truly outstanding individuals to be part of his immediate staff at NCI and to two very special leaders, Drs. Anna Barker and Mark Clanton, who have worked alongside Dr. von Eschenbach for almost his entire tenure at NCI. Working together, we have adapted our roles to ensure that daily operations at NCI have moved along in a nearly seamless fashion. Even more importantly, Drs. Clanton, Barker, and I are committed to maintaining and accelerating progress toward the 2015 goal. The strategic planning to meet this goal was already completed and ours is the task of implementation. Needless to say, I am extremely honored to be part of this outstanding team.
When this change occurred, in my role as deputy director for Translational and Clinical Sciences, I had already been meeting with each of the NCI division and center directors and their teams. Last week I met with the division and center directors as a group. We are truly blessed at NCI with talented, dedicated leaders in these critical positions. They are the real story of NCI and its accomplishments over the years.
During the meeting, we talked about the importance of keeping focused on the outstanding work being performed in our intramural and extramural programs. There was detailed discussion about the tremendous translational and clinical scientific opportunities ahead of us, including the important new initiatives in informatics, nanotechnology, and cancer genomics. We pledged to work together in an integrated fashion to continue the progress we have made toward implementation of NCI's strategic vision.
During the 2 months I have been on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus, I find myself once again awed by its immensity. It truly is the scientific marvel of the world. And walking the corridors of the new NIH clinical center reinforced for me how fortunate we are in the United States to have tremendous resources such as this and, with it, exciting opportunities to make a real difference in the lives of those suffering from cancer and other chronic diseases.
For me, these past 2 months have been a palpable renewal of spirit. My step is faster, my enthusiasm and optimism never greater. While the challenges for NCI and FDA are clearly significant, the opportunities have never been better to make a real difference for cancer patients. I hope all of you share in this enthusiasm and have confidence in our leadership.