Taking it EZ: NIH Director Zerhouni Ends Remarkable Tenure

Elias Zerhouni, MDElias A. Zerhouni, MD, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2002, stepped down from his position at the end of October.

A physician scientist and world-renowned leader in radiology research, Dr. Zerhouni led NIH through a challenging period that required innovative solutions to transform basic and clinical research into tangible benefits for patients and their families. One of the hallmarks of his six-year tenure is the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, launched in 2003, after extensive consultations with the scientific community.

The NIH Roadmap brought together all 27 of the NIH’s institutes and centers to fund research initiatives that could have a major impact on science, but that no single institute alone could tackle.

“The Roadmap for Medical Research that Dr. Zerhouni developed and implemented will benefit the health of this nation for many years to come,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt. “His many achievements include promotion of genetic research, support for advances of biodefense research and helping raise awareness of women’s heart disease.”

Dr. Zerhouni also initiated a 2005 ban on NIH scientists consulting for drug and medical device companies. The ban was originally unpopular among some agency scientists, but a growing number of medical schools and medical groups now follow the NIH policy on consulting.

For his part, Dr. Zerhouni said, “Over the past six years, we experienced a revolution in the biomedical sciences and I feel fortunate to have been part of it. I will miss the NIH and all my colleagues, not only for their friendship and support through ‘thick and thin,’ but also for their essential role in the progress we made in advancing innovative research, fostering scientific collaboration, supporting young scientists, and enhancing basic, translational, and clinical research, despite great challenges.”

Dr. Zerhouni plans to pursue writing projects and explore other professional opportunities before accepting another position. Raynard S. Kington, MD, PhD, deputy director of NIH, will serve as the agency’s interim director.

NIH is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and is the nation’s premiere biomedical research agency. It has more than 18,000 employees and a fiscal year 2008 budget of $29.5 billion. It supports more than 325,000 researchers at more than 3,100 institutions throughout the US and around the world.