NIDDK Director's Update Spring 2015

Commendations & Commencements


Anna Amar

Anna Amar, acting deputy director of the NIDDK Technology Advancement Office, received a 2014 NIH Office of the Director Honor Award as part of the Technology Transfer Working Group. The award recognizes the group’s efforts to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of technology transfer across NIH.

Dr. Alexxai Kravitz

Dr. Alexxai Kravitz, investigator in the intramural NIDDK Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch, was named a Deciphering Circuit Basis of Disease (DECODE) awardee at an event in Washington, D.C. on the sidelines of the Society for Neuroscience 44th Annual Meeting. The DECODE program was launched by Inscopix, Inc. to support the President’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and aims to accelerate the discovery of neural circuit based signatures of brain disease.

Dr. Elissa Lei

Dr. Elissa Lei, senior investigator in the intramural NIDDK Laboratory of Cellular and Developmental Biology, has been granted tenure. She studies how chromatin insulators—complexes of DNA-bound protein—function and how they help control which genes are active. This research improves understanding of how cells develop and turn into different tissues.


Jenna M. Norton

Jenna M. Norton recently joined NIDDK as a program manager within the Division of Kidney, Urologic and Hematologic Diseases. Before joining NIDDK, she was an account director for Ogilvy Public Relations. Norton will support the National Kidney and Urologic Science Translation Program with strategic program planning and content development for translation of kidney and urologic research to clinical and community settings.

A Fond Farewell

Dr. Michael Grey

Dr. Michael Grey, program director in the NIDDK Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, left NIDDK in February to become an instructor at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston. Grey joined NIDDK in 2009 as a health science policy analyst in the Office of Scientific Program and Policy Analysis. The following year he became a program director, where he has revitalized and developed new programs in epithelial transport, host-microbial interactions and pre-clinical translational biology.

Dr. Mary Horlick, program director in the NIDDK Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, retired in December. Horlick came to NIDDK in 2005 as the first program director of the newly established pediatric clinical obesity program. She also served as project scientist for the innovative Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery Study, or LABS, and the adolescent bariatric surgical study, Teen LABS. Throughout her career, Horlick helped greatly to advance clinical, behavioral and epidemiological obesity research.

In Memoriam

Dr. Hanna Emile Abboud
Photo courtesy of the Abboud Family

Longtime NIDDK grantee Dr. Hanna Emile Abboud died in January. From 1990 until his death, he served as chief of the Division of Nephrology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Dr. Abboud was world-renowned for his research contributions to nephrology, particularly in the area of diabetic kidney disease.

Dr. Hillel Jonathan Gitelman
Photo courtesy of the Gitelman Family

Nephrologist Dr. Hillel Jonathan Gitelman died in January. An NIDDK grantee, he spent 30 years as a Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Dr. Gitelman's contributions in understanding distal tubulopathies—such as Gitelman’s syndrome, named for Dr. Gitelman—have been a hallmark for teaching renal physiology. His research also encompassed issues related to bone metabolism, particularly bone effects from aluminum exposure.

Dr. Donald F. Steiner
Photo courtesy of the University of Chicago Medicine

Longtime NIDDK grantee Dr. Donald F. Steiner, the A.N. Pritzker Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Medicine and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago, died in November. Dr. Steiner showed that insulin, thought to be made from two separate protein chains, began instead as a longer single chain. This discovery paved the way to understanding how other hormones are made and processed, and enabling the pharmaceutical industry to improve insulin. Dr. Steiner published more than 400 peer-reviewed papers, and his work has been cited by other researchers more than 10,000 times, among many other honors.

Ms. Tommie Sue Tralka
Photo courtesy of Dr. Jay H. Hoofnagle

Former NIDDK program officer Ms. Tommie Sue Tralka, who served in the NIDDK Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, among other NIH positions, died in December. Colleagues remember her as a dedicated and talented professional who was instrumental in the success of the Liver Transplant Database, the HALT-C trial and co-edited the proceedings of the NIH Consensus Conference on Hepatitis C as a supplement to Hepatology entitled “Management of Hepatitis C.”

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