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First Female NIH Director Dies

A prolific cardiac research scientist, Bernadine Healy revolutionized the study and treatment of disease in women.

By | August 10, 2011

Bernadine HealyNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH

Bernadine Healy, the first female director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), died on Saturday (August 6) from brain cancer at the age of 67, reports ScienceInsider.

Healy was a long-time proponent of women’s health. Just three weeks after accepting her appointment as NIH director under President George H. W. Bush in 1991, she launched the $625 million Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a mammoth health study of 150,000 women to investigate heart disease, breast cancer, and other diseases that are the leading cause of illness in postmenopausal women. She spoke before Congress, explaining that “we need a moon walk for women,” according to her NIH video bio. As director of the NIH, an appointment she held until 1993, she also established a policy requiring all NIH-funded studies involving an affliction of both men and women to include women in the clinical trials.

The WHI was “the most definitive, far-reaching clinical trial of women’s health ever undertaken in the United States,” current NIH Director Francis S. Collins said in a statement. “Dr. Healy will be long remembered for her visionary efforts that transformed the landscape of women’s health research.”

After Healy’s NIH appointment was not renewed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, she went on to become dean of Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, president of the American Heart Association, and president of the American Red Cross, serving the latter position during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She is survived by her husband, Floyd Loop, and two daughters.

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