NIH Clinical Center bids farewell to long-time employees this fall
After more than three decades at the Clinical Center, Dr. Frederick P. Ognibene, deputy director for Educational Affairs and Strategic Partnerships, and Director, Office of Clinical Research Training and Medical Education (OCRTME) retired Sept. 29.
Ognibene came to the NIH as a clinical fellow and was an active clinical investigator focusing on pulmonary complications of immunosuppressed patients as a tenured senior investigator and member of the senior staff in the Clinical Center's Critical Care Medicine Department. In 2003, he became director of the Clinical Center OCRTME and in 2009 expanded his portfolio as Clinical Center deputy director for educational affairs and strategic partnerships.
At a time when the number of clinician-scientists is declining, Ognibene focused the Clinical Center's efforts to support research-oriented medical and dental students through yearlong mentored research experiences, first through the NIH Clinical Research Training Program and then through its successor, the Medical Research Scholars Program. Research recently published in Academic Medicine showed that nearly two-thirds of scholars who had fully completed formal training were now conducting research for some percentage of their time as opposed to entering entirely into full-time practice of medicine.
One of Ognibene's final projects was to help initiate a still developing collaboration between the NIH Intramural Research Program, the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences to share cutting edge medical care facilities and other resources while improving patient care, supporting collaborative research and expanding training opportunities.
"Well beyond half of my life has been spent here, so I don't leave in a lighthearted manner. I leave fulfilled, gratified, and very thankful," Ognibene said.
In a candid interview with CC News, he shared his thoughts and his feelings on his legacy and his future.
What was the moment when you realized that it's time to leave the Clinical Center and do something different?
I think it was cumulative. Realizing that, despite my best efforts, I am getting older was one factor. Knowing there are some personal things I want to do that I have not done because I have always been very much a dedicated a civil servant working more than 40 hours a week was another. I want to do these things while I still am able physically and mentally. Importantly, I look on this as a transition for me. I am not someone who is not going to be active. I want to do things that are productive and meaningful. This will be an opportunity for discovery and maybe a little bit of a reconfiguration of what I do, as opposed to who I am.
What does that feel like?
I've basically covered the range of emotions from sadness and some anxiety, to relief. Also, excitement because there's a lot that I know but there's so much more that I don't know. I appreciate the opportunity to have time and resources to be able to explore new adventures and experience their outcomes while I can. But, never losing my core foundational respect, admiration, and strong emotional bond for the experiences of the past 35 years.
Do you have a clear sense of where you are going; your next journey?
No I really don't. I've got a lot of options, interests and opportunities but nothing has crystalized.
Are people always asking you why all the time? Is it annoying?
Yes (he laughs), they are always asking why. Why now? What's next? It's not annoying. I think it's a natural series of questions. I think "Why now?" is based on a number of things. I think for me, the timing was right. And what's next? I'd have to say to everyone "stay tuned."
Final thoughts you would like to share?
I never thought 35 years ago that my coming to the NIH as a fellow for a couple of years would turn into a career. I had the very good fortune to be in an environment where I was able to achieve excellent clinical training gain excellent clinical skills as a critical care physician, while learning what my strengths are in research and taking those things collectively into my passion for education and training. I would like to think that with those simple points, and hopefully some modesty, that I've left a legacy.
Do you feel like you've done it?
I've at least done this. There hopefully will be another "it or two" in my future, but at least I can proudly say that I've done this!
Dr. Margaret Bevans, clinical nurse scientist with the Nursing Department, has accepted a position in the NIH Office of the Director in the Office of Research on Women's Health where she will serve as associate director for Clinical Research.
Bevans will help implement the NIH Strategic Plan for Women's Health Research. She will oversee the clinical research portfolio, as well as develop strategies to enhance sex and gender considerations in clinical research at an NIH-wide level.
Bevans has served the Nursing Department since 1988. Over the last decade, she has dedicated herself to clinical research and specifically the area of family caregivers and patient reported outcomes.
"Although it is a difficult decision to leave the Clinical Center after 29 years, I am excited about the new opportunities," said Bevans.