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NLM Mourns Loss of Dr. Bernadine Healy, First Woman to Lead NIH

Women's Health Pioneer Featured in "Changing the Face of Medicine" Exhibition on Women Physicians

Bernadine P. HealyFormer National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Bernadine P. Healy died August 6, 2011 after a long struggle with brain cancer. She was 67.

The first woman to lead the NIH (1991-1993), Dr. Healy was a distinguished cardiologist and a dedicated and caring physician. As noted in a tribute by NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins, her visionary efforts transformed the landscape of women's health research by launching the Women's Health Initiative. In addition, she established a policy that all NIH-funded clinical trials on conditions that affect both genders must include both men and women. Dr. Collins also recalled Dr. Healy’s vigorous support of the public effort to sequence the human genome and her keen insights into the potential of genomic research for revolutionizing medicine. He first met her in 1992, when, as NIH Director, she persuaded him to leave a professorship at the University of Michigan to lead NIH's role in the International Human Genome Project.

Dr. Healy was a strong advocate for the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and its programs and services, both during and after her tenure as NIH Director. NLM Director Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg held that post when Dr. Healy was Director of NIH. He reflected on one memorable interaction with her. "When I was asked to join OSTP [the US Office of Science and Technology Policy, established by Congress to advise the White House] as head of the new High Performance Computer and Communications Program, I went immediately to ask Bernie's advice. She remained strongly positive about OSTP after her own years in that Office. She encouraged me to do the job, and agreed it would be in addition to my serving as Director of NLM. Additionally, she encouraged me to set up our new office space in NLM and definitely not in the vastly inconvenient Executive Office Building. Excellent advice. I liked working with Bernie, and I miss her. This is really a great loss."

For her many achievements, Dr. Healy was selected for inclusion in Changing the Face of Medicine, a National Library of Medicine (NLM) exhibition on pioneering American women physicians, past and present. Displayed at NLM 2003-2005, it is now fully booked as a traveling exhibition through October 2012. The exhibition Web site features more on Dr. Healy's life and remarkable career, including clips from an inspirational videotaped interview. Dr. Healy also lives on in NLM’s Visitor Center, where she is featured in an interactive program called “Dialogues in Science.” Here, NLM guests can hear her thoughts on women in medicine, her stint as NIH Director, the importance of medical research, and much more, with the help of voice recognition software. In many ways, the legacy of Dr. Bernadine Healy will be preserved and shared for years to come at the National Library of Medicine.

Located in Bethesda, Maryland, the National Library of Medicine, a component of the National Institutes of Health, is the world’s largest medical library.