When I was named director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research in August, 2015, we had almost as many unfilled as filled positions in the office. We could have moved quickly to fill these positions, but I remembered the advice of one of my mentors in government leadership, “Hire slowly,” so we had a deliberate and thoughtful process for identifying candidates and making selections over the past 18 months.
Before introducing OBSSR’s new staff, I want to thank the “stalwarts” – Bill Elwood, Attallah Hampton, Paula Roberts, Wendy Smith, Mike Spittel, Erica Spotts, and Deborah Young-Hyman – who have provided stability and continuity in the office through the director transition. I also want to particularly acknowledge Stephane Philogene, former deputy director of OBSSR, who, among his many contributions, was instrumental in coordinating the recruitment of these new staff. After 14 years of service to OBSSR, Stephane recently started a new and exciting position as director of the Office of Science Policy, Reporting, and Program Analysis at NICHD. Many thanks to Stephane for his service to OBSSR. Wendy Smith, associate director for OBSSR, will serve as acting deputy director, and we will undergo a similar deliberate and thoughtful process to fill the deputy director position in the future.
Now for our new staff in the order they joined us from August, 2015 through December 2016:
- Kathryn (Katie) Morris, MPH is a health science policy analyst who serves as the executive secretary of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Coordinating Committee and coordinates our co-funding activities. Katie has an MPH from George Washington University and has worked on various global health efforts.
- Katherine (Kate) Blizinsky, Ph.D. is a health science policy analyst who provides legislative and policy analysis and contributes to the Precision Medicine Initiative and to the NHGRI Social and Behavioral Research Branch. Kate has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Northwestern University and previously served as a fellow with NHGRI and with the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
- Dana Wolff-Hughes, Ph.D. is a health science administrator who is primarily responsible for our efforts in technologies applied to behavioral and social sciences. She has a Ph.D. in Physical Activity Epidemiology from the University of Tennessee. Before joining OBSSR, Dana was a Cancer Research Training Award Fellow in the Science of Research and Technology Branch at NCI.
- Sara Hargrave, Ph.D. is a AAAS fellow at OBSSR. She has a Ph.D. is psychology with concentrations in neuroscience and ingestive behaviors from Purdue University. She was a postdoc in behavioral neuroscience at American University before joining OBSSR.
- Elizabeth (Liz) Ginexi, Ph.D. is a health scientist administrator who is primarily responsible for addressing research methodologies, measures, and analytic approaches to advance behavioral and social sciences research. She has a Ph.D. in Applied Social Psychology from George Washington University. Prior to OBSSR, Liz was a health scientist administrator at NCI and at NIDA. Before NIH, she served as a research scientist at George Washington University and as a senior study director at Westat.
- Dana Greene, Ph.D. is a health scientist administrator primarily responsible for the cognitive and behavioral neuroscience research area. She has a Ph.D. in Biology from University of Alaska and was a neuroscience post-doc at Wake Forest University. Dana came to OBSSR from NINDS and was previously a AAAS fellow with OBSSR.
- Kate McNeill, M.A. is a public health advisor primarily responsible for budgets, contracts, and Planning at OBSSR. Kate has an M.A. in Communications from East Tennessee State University. Prior to OBSSR, Kate served in similar positions at NCI in the Office of Science Planning and Assessment, Behavioral Research Program, and the Healthcare Delivery Program.
- Erica Moore is communications lead for OBSSR. She has a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Prior to OBSSR, she served as communications director at ORWH. She was also managing account supervisor for Ketchum’s social marketing practice, and while at Ketchum she helped lead communications efforts for NHLBI.
- Farheen Akbar, MPH is a health science policy analyst who serves as policy and evaluation lead for OBSSR. She has an MPH from the University of Florida. Before joining OBSSR, she was a scientific analyst with NIA, initially with the Division of Behavioral and Social Research and more recently in the Office of Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation. She also served as an ORISE fellow at the CDC in the Office on Smoking and Health.
- Dara Blachman-Demner, Ph.D. is a health science administrator primarily focused on the dissemination and implementation research area. She has a Ph.D. in Clinical/Community Psychology from University of California Berkeley. Before joining OBSSR, she served as a social science analyst at the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) working on the impact of youth violence and victimization on health outcomes. Prior to NIJ, she was the coordinator of the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.
With these new positions filled, OBSSR is better poised to execute its Strategic Plan and to advance rigorous, health-relevant behavioral and social sciences research at the NIH. It’s nice to have a full house!