First published April 1, 2005 - More info
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) covers extensive ground, exploring causes, prevention, therapy, and diagnosis of diseases involving the heart, blood, blood vessels, and lung. The NHLBI also researches sleep disorders and coordinates the NIH Woman’s Health Initiative. Elizabeth Nabel, formerly the scientific director of clinical research in the NHLBI intramural program and a board-certified cardiologist, is now at its helm.
In her new role, Nabel manages nearly 850 federal employees and an annual budget of about $3 billion. The JCI talked to Nabel about her new responsibilities and the goals she hopes to reach as director of the NHLBI.
JCI: How were you selected for this new position?
Nabel: There was a national search lead by two NIH institute directors. The search committee was comprised of scientists from around the country. The search committee provided recommendations to [NIH Director Elias] Zerhouni who made the selection.
JCI: What is the duration of the position?
Nabel: The position is open ended with a review every 5 years.
JCI: What are your top objectives as director of the NHLBI?
Nabel: To stimulate basic discoveries through innovation, creativity, and using the most advanced biomedical technologies. To speed translation to clinical applications so that people can benefit as quickly as possible. To facilitate communication between scientists and physicians so that new ideas can be generated, shared, and advanced; in addition, to effectively communicate research advances to the public to improve their understanding of new promising science.
JCI: What do you consider the biggest health threat in your field?
Nabel: Our biggest health threat is the tremendous increase in obesity in this country which will threaten the health gains that we have made in cardiovascular diseases over the past 3 decades.
JCI: What do you think is your biggest challenge in this position?
Nabel: I want the NHLBI to support the most promising research in this country in heart, lung, and blood diseases. My goal is to support investigators who will make critically important new basic discoveries as well as investigators who will then translate those discoveries into new therapies. We must recruit and train the next generation of physician-scientists in this country and provide them with the independence and skills to be our next scientific leaders.
JCI: When you leave, what do you hope to have accomplished?
Nabel: I want to raise the profile of the NHLBI so that the public will have an understanding of the research advances fostered by the NHLBI, and so that our institute is viewed as providing outstanding leadership in this country on critical issues facing us. Ultimately, our mission is to serve the public and to improve individual and public health. My job is to shepherd this institute in new emerging areas of science, with a continual emphasis on excellence.