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Digestive Diseases News Spring 2012

Photograph of Bernadine P. Healy, M.D.
Bernadine P. Healy, M.D.

Former NIH Director Healy Dies at 67

From NIH Record

Dr. Bernadine Healy, who became the 13th NIH director in April 1991 and was the first woman to head the agency, died Aug. 6 of a brain tumor at age 67. She had battled brain cancer for 13 years.

Healy served as NIH director for 2 years, during which she launched the $625 million Women's Health Initiative and established the Shannon Awards, which fostered innovative approaches in research. She also established a policy that all NIH-funded clinical trials on conditions that affect both genders must include both men and women.

"I am deeply saddened by the death of former NIH Director Bernadine P. Healy, and will greatly miss her courageous leadership on behalf of biomedical research," said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. "Dr. Healy will be long remembered for her visionary efforts that transformed the landscape of women's health research."

Healy came to NIH from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where she had been a research director and cardiologist for 6 years. She had also been deputy director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House and a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University.

Healy was president of the American Heart Association in 1988-1989 and was a member of the Institute of Medicine. A native of Queens, N.Y., she had earned her medical degree at Harvard Medical School.

After leaving NIH, she was dean of Ohio State University Medical School (1995-1999) and president and chief executive officer of the American Red Cross (1999-2001). She was also a columnist for U.S. News & World Report. In 1994, she ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate from Ohio.

Collins, whom Healy recruited from the University of Michigan to head the nascent Human Genome Project at NIH, said, "I will be forever grateful to Dr. Healy for her vigorous support of the public effort to sequence the human genome and her keen insights into the potential of genomic research for revolutionizing medicine."

In remarks she made for an NIH exhibit on pioneering women doctors, Healy said, "All of us, I believe, in our hearts are humanitarian. And how wonderful to be in a career that in almost any dimension of it—whether you're the doctor at the bedside, or the scientist in the laboratory, or the public health doc tracking down the latest epidemic—that you are doing something that is pure in its fundamental purpose, which is helping another human being."

Healy is survived by her husband, Dr. Floyd D. Loop, and two daughters.

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NIH Publication No. 12–4552
May 2012

Page last updated June 8, 2012

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