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Celebrating NICHD’s 50th anniversary

APA and other organizations recognize institute’s accomplishments in improving health of children, women and families.

On July 12, 2012, the American Psychological Association (APA) and other member organizations of the Friends of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (FNICHD) hosted a Congressional Reception and Science Exhibition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Institute. The event drew more than 200 attendees, including Rep. Rosa DeLauro, (D-Conn.), NICHD Director Alan Guttmacher, nearly 100 congressional staff and representatives from FNICHD's member organizations. The event featured presentations by leading scientists who have been supported by NICHD. 

Jan Neimeier and Frances ConnersGiven the breadth of the NICHD portfolio, the scientists represented a wide range of research areas from child development, population research, and economics, to learning disabilities, autism, Down syndrome, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Jan Neimeier, a psychologist from Virginia Commonwealth University and past-president of APA Division 22 (Rehabilitation Psychology), presented her research evaluating an intervention for TBI. Frances Conners, a psychologist from the University of Alabama, shared her research on language impairment in children with Down syndrome. Their presentations were sponsored by APA. 

Karen Studwell, of the APA Science Directorate’s Government Relations Office and current chair of the Friends of NICHD, made opening remarks at the reception. Studwell recognized the dedication and perseverance of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who tirelessly lobbied Congress in 1962 to establish an institute dedicated to research on intellectual and developmental disabilities, and shared some of the scientific accomplishments that have been made since then. As NICHD’s mission has expanded, the institute’s broad biomedical, behavioral and social sciences research has made enormous contributions to the health and well-being of the nation’s children, women, and families. NICHD research has cut the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in half, helped create the standard pregnancy test, developed a vaccine to nearly eliminate the primary cause of acquired intellectual disability, and has changed the way society treats individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.

Alan Guttmacher, Director of NICHD, a pediatrician and geneticist, thanked both the Friends of NICHD for the efforts to share the NICHD’s research accomplishments and also the Congress, for its continued investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Congressional Champion Awards were presented to two members of Congress who are working to improve the lives of women, children and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Rep. Rosa DeLauro accepted the Congressional Champion Award and reiterated the many accomplishments of the Institute. As a survivor of ovarian cancer, she credits her survival in part to biomedical research and expressed commitment to keeping NIH a priority in federal spending decisions. Accepting the award on behalf of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash), Karen Summar, a physician and Joseph P. Kennedy Policy Fellow for the Congresswoman, expressed McMorris Rodgers’ appreciation for the scientific work that the NICHD funds to improve the lives of children and adults with Down syndrome. 

Given the breadth of support for psychological science across the Institute, other prominent psychologists were also involved in the exhibition. In collaboration with the American Educational Research Association, Jacquelynne Eccles (University of Michigan) presented her research on the family influences on developing interest in math and sports. In partnership with the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Jack Fletcher (University of Houston) described the broad research findings from the NICHD Learning Disabilities Research Centers, and Connie Kasari, working with the Society for Research in Child Development, presented her research on enhancing communications skills in young children with autism.

Additional information and photos of the event can be found on the FNICHD Reception page.