Government Relations Update

Duane Alexander Announces Departure from NICHD

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's director has served since 1986.

By Karen Studwell

At the September meeting of the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council, Duane Alexander announced that he would be leaving the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the end of the month. He was joined by Francis Collins, the new Director of the National Institutes of Health, who thanked Alexander for his remarkable service to the institute. Alexander has served as the NICHD Director since 1986, and has overseen the budget of one of the NIH’s primary institutes supporting of psychological scientists.

Alexander first came to NICHD in 1968, after graduating from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He left briefly to complete a fellowship in pediatrics with a focus on developmental disabilities at the John F. Kennedy Institute for Habilitation of the Mentally and Physically Handicapped Child at Johns Hopkins. He returned to NICHD in 1971 as Assistant to the Scientific Director and directed the NICHD National Amniocentesis Study, which established the safety and accuracy of prenatal diagnosis using amniocentesis.

As a founding organization of the Friends of NICHD (FNICHD), APA has a long history of working with Alexander to encourage the institute to further research in child development, early learning, school readiness, developmental disabilities, family formation, women’s health, youth violence, and medical rehabilitation. In 1992, APA President Charles Spielberger honored Alexander with a Presidential Citation, for “his dedicated support of behavioral research as an essential element in preventing illness and disability and restoring function to the disabled; his recognition of the importance of the control of fertility to the health of mothers and children; and his strong advocacy of research on human sexual behavior and steadfast support of the scientific peer review process." This month, APA will be hosting a lunch with FNICHD coalition members to honor Alexander for his years of service and dedication to women’s and children’s health.

Though leaving the NICHD, Alexander will be staying within the NIH, serving as a Senior Scientific Advisor on Global Maternal and Child Health Research at the NIH’s Fogarty International Center. He will focus on the NIH contributions to the White House’s $63 billion Global Health Initiative being developed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity in less developed countries through research and delivery of health services. According to Alexander, “The opportunity to work at this level to translate research advances, many of them from NICHD and NIH, to people in challenging settings is too good to pass up.”

As of October 1, Susan Shurin, currently the Deputy Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, will serve as Acting Director of NICHD, while a search is conducted for a new permanent director. Shurin has been at NIH for three years after serving as Vice President for Research at Case Western Reserve University, where she was also a Professor of Pediatrics and Oncology.