HomePoliticsAn oncology surgeon and patient is Biden's pick to lead the NIH

An oncology surgeon and patient is Biden’s pick to lead the NIH

WASHINGTON — President Biden will announce Monday that he will nominate Dr. Monica M. Bertagnollian oncology surgeon who took over as director of the National Cancer Institute in October, to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health, filling a position that has been vacant for more than a year.

Dr. Bertagnolli is also a cancer patient. She announced late last year that she had received a diagnosis of early breast cancer.

In a statement shared by the White House, Mr. Biden called her a “world-class medical scientist” who had “spent her career pioneering scientific discovery and pushing the boundaries of what is possible to improve prevention and treatment.” of cancer for patients, and ensuring that patients in all communities have access to quality care.”

Dr. Bertagnolli must be confirmed by the Senate. She is the first female director of the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. She would be the second woman to head the NIH permanently.

For Biden, cancer research is deeply personal. His eldest son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46. Last year, the president set a goal to reduce the cancer death rate by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years, as part of an effort, he said at the time, to “supercharge” the moonshot cancer program he initiated and presided over when he was vice president.

On Monday, Mr. Biden praised Dr. Bertagnolli for promoting that initiative and for her efforts to promote childhood cancer research and programs to expand access to cancer clinical trials.

The announcement of her nomination was not a surprise; various news organizations, including The New York Times, reported last month that the president planned to nominate Dr. Bertagnolli. It is not clear why there was a delay.

The fight against cancer is also personal for Dr. Bertagnolli. In mid-December, she announced her diagnosis and said she was “grateful to receive excellent care” at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where she had worked as a surgical oncologist before taking over at the National Cancer Institute. Cancer. .

He said then that his prognosis was good and that he had enrolled in a clinical trial. in a interview with NPR in February, he said he was still undergoing treatment.

“I went in for my regular mammogram expecting it to be negative like all the others and was in for a nasty surprise,” she said. “And now I know what it feels like.” She added: “The first thing I asked my doctors was, is there something available for me? And there was a studio available for me, and I signed up.”

only a woman, Dr. Bernardine P. HealyAppointed by President George HW Bush, he has led the National Institutes of Health on a permanent basis. Dr. Ruth KirschsteinA longtime federal scientist and NIH administrator, he served as the agency’s acting director for two terms.

If confirmed, Dr. Bertagnolli would replace Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak, who has led the agency in an interim capacity since its last permanent director, Dr. Francis S. Collins, left his post in December 2021. Dr. Collins, a President Barack Obama appointee, served in that role for more than 12 years.

As director of the NIH, Dr. Bertagnolli would lead one of the world’s leading research agencies, a collection of 27 institutes and centers that focus on cancer, infectious diseases, heart and lung disease, mental health, and drug abuse, among others. other medical matters. With an annual budget of more than $47 billion, the NIH funds research around the world.

The daughter of Italian and French Basque immigrants, Dr. Bertagnolli grew up on a ranch in southwestern Wyoming, studied engineering at Princeton University, and attended medical school at the University of Utah. Before joining the federal government, she was a professor of surgery specializing in surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School.

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