At the end of this month, Dr. Alan Guttmacher will retire from his position as NICHD Director. I’d like to take a moment to reflect on his unique perspective, which has shaped the NICHD scientific vision.
In the spring of 2011, Dr. Guttmacher graciously offered an interview with The NICHD Connection—the focus of the article: scientific trends and training. While composing the piece, it struck me how much Dr. Guttmacher valued interdisciplinary collaboration. A desire to have fluency in multiple fields guided his approach to science—an approach that, clearly, served him well.
It comes as no surprise that during his tenure as NICHD Director Dr. Guttmacher stood at the helm of developing the NICHD scientific vision, combining ideas from diverse disciplines in an effort to push forward the NICHD mission. Indeed, the Human Placenta Project, spearheaded by Dr. Guttmacher, taps several corners of biology and clinical studies to better understand an oft-misunderstood organ. With Dr. Guttmacher, it was never just talk. He put his ideas into action.
While pushing the NICHD forward, into the realm of interdisciplinary study, Dr. Guttmacher strengthened the cohesive feeling of our institute. Several times he used the phrase “NICHD family”—in his Director’s monthly eNewsletter--as a way to address NICHD staff in emails and in his public speaking engagements. One instance in particular stands out in my mind. During his closing remarks at the NICHD 50th Anniversary Colloquium, in reference to the full day of diverse and engaging talks, Dr. Guttmacher said of the event:
I was trying to think, what did this remind me of? In some ways it reminded me of Thanksgiving. This was a gathering of a family, the NICHD family, and you are all in different ways part of the NICHD family. . . and it was just a wonderful feast—an intellectual feast—that had everything from cranberries to sweet potatoes to pumpkin pie.
Through his enthusiasm and colorful metaphors, Dr. Guttmacher made a lasting impression on the NICHD family. But don’t just take my word for it. Current and former fellows offer their own kind words on Dr. Guttmacher. In honor of Dr. Guttmacher’s interdisciplinary approach to studying child health and human development, take a few minutes to browse award-winning research projects from our institute in our sneak peek of the upcoming NIH Research Festival this month.
On behalf of The NICHD Connection, a publication that wouldn’t exist without the Director’s support, a big thank you to Dr. Guttmacher and a fond farewell.
Your Editor in Chief,
Shana R. Spindler, PhD