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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

December 2023

Monica Bertagnolli starts as new NIH director

As the first surgeon and second woman to lead NIH, Monica Bertagnolli, M.D., plans to improve clinical trials and restore trust in science.

Physician-scientist Monica Bertagnolli, M.D., became the 17th director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in November. She is the first surgeon and the second woman to hold the position.

President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Bertagnolli in May, and she was confirmed following a bipartisan vote by the U.S. Senate on November 7. She transitioned from her role as the 16th director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a position she held since October 2022.

“Dr. Bertagnolli is terrific, and I can’t imagine someone more qualified to be the director of NIH and to represent the work of NIH,” said NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D. “I had a chance to get to know her when she was the director of NCI. To her new position, she brings a broad base of knowledge as a cancer surgeon and impressive in-depth knowledge of basic mechanistic research.”

Goals for the future

Monica Bertagnolli, M.D.
As a cancer surgeon and researcher, Bertagnolli has improved understanding of the gene mutation that promotes gastrointestinal cancer development and the role of inflammation in cancer growth. (Photo courtesy of NIH)

Bertagnolli has noted that her experience growing up in rural Wyoming has shaped her desire to make NIH research equitable and accessible to all people from all walks of life regardless of income or ZIP code.

"As a physician-scientist for more than 30 years, I have seen the transformative power of NIH research to produce results that save lives, including my own treatment for breast cancer," said Bertagnolli. "As NIH director, I look forward to ensuring that NIH continues to be the steward of our nation's medical research while engaging all people and communities in the research effort that includes informing medical practice that drives equitable access to health care for all."

Her key priorities as she takes office include the following.

  • Ensuring clinical trials reflect the diversity of Americans to yield the best results.
  • Embracing the rapid expansion of new learning-based analytical tools, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and ensuring their use serves to advance care for people.
  • Restoring trust in science by making it accessible to all communities and inspiring the next generation of doctors and scientists.

Bertagnolli also plans to strengthen collaboration across the NIH’s 27 Institutes and Centers.

Learn more by reading the NIH news release.

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