Elizabeth Nabel; director of the $3 billion National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; told staff in a memo today that with "bittersweet emotions" she is leaving at the end of this year to become president and CEO of the Harvard University-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital and Faulkner Hospital in Boston.
A cardiologist, Nabel, 57, joined the institute 10 years ago from the University of Michigan when her husband, Gary Nabel, became director of NIH's new vaccine research center. Hired to direct NHLBI's clinical intramural program, she moved up to to head NIH's third largest institute in 2005 after long-time director Claude L'Enfant retired. She has overseen a revamp of the intramural program and led an expansion of research that looks for genes linked to common diseases. While these studies have found many disease risk markers, the field also has been criticized for hyping the benefits of personalized medicine. Nabel's own lab studies the molecular genetics of vascular diseases.
A polished speaker who favors tailored suits over the rumpled scientist look, Nabel has been in the running for top jobs at several institutions. Two years ago, she turned down an offer to become dean of the Harvard Medical School, saying she wanted to remain with her family in Washington, D.C. In the past year, she was also rumored to be on the short list for NIH director. Her move to Brigham Women's is a homecoming of sorts—she did her residency and a research fellowship at the hospital and met her husband there.
Heart disease geneticist Helen Hobbs of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, a member of insitute's advisory council, praises Nabel's "politically astute" leadership. Her departure is "a huge loss for the NIH and NHLBI," Hobbs says.
Photo Credit: NHLBI