Former Hopkins professor may be top choice for NIH

September 11, 1990|By Sue Miller | Sue Miller,Evening Sun Staff

Dr. Bernadine P. Healy, a former professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, may become the first woman to head the National Institutes of Health.

According to published reports, Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan already has asked the White House to clear the appointment of Healy, chairwoman of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation Research Institute in Ohio and past president of the American Heart Association.

The world's leading medical research organization, the NIH has 14 institutes that investigate the causes and treatments of a broad range of diseases, including cancer, heart ailments and AIDS.

"Lou Sullivan has made a superior choice," Dr. Richard Ross, dean emeritus of the Hopkins Medical School, said yesterday. He served on the search committee that made recommendations to Sullivan and was Healy's mentor at Hopkins.

"If one were to list all the positions important as background for the NIH director, Bernadine Healy has had them all -- experience with both clinical and laboratory science, with academic administration and with the government," Ross said.

"At the American Heart Association and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, she has proven she can run a big operation herself."

"Equally important, she has a keen mind, high ideals, energy and enthusiasm and she has a strong personality and will fight hard for what she believes in," Ross said of Healy.

If named to the job, Healy, who is 46, would lead an agency that has a budget of more than $7 billion this year, employs more than 13,000 people and awards more than 23,000 grants to medical researchers each year.

Her appointment requires the approval of President Bush, which is expected after background checks have been completed. If ** Bush nominates her, Healy would have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Healy is on vacation and could not be reached for comment. At Hopkins, she rose from intern to full professor of medicine in 14 years.

The NIH post has been vacant for a year. Currently, the directorship pays about $100,000 annually but, according to the reports, Sullivan is seeking more money and authority for the position that has been hard to fill.

TC Although Healy, a cardiologist, hasn't been formally offered the NIH post, opposition to the appointment already has been voiced by abortion foes.

A National Right to Life Committee leader, Douglas Johnson, has been quoted as saying the group cannot endorse the nomination because in Healy's past statements "what comes across is someone not at all sympathetic to the pro-life point of view."

Healy has served as president of the American Federation for Clinical Research, which has opposed the government's ban on fetal-tissue research. In the Reagan administration, she was an assistant director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In the past, Healy has spoken out publicly on the need to pay more attention to diseases affecting women and to moving more women into leadership positions in medical research and administration.

In a talk during the Hopkins Medical Institution's celebration of 100 years of medicine a year ago, she said, "Women have no choice but to lead. They will be the majority of our population. The necessity is no longer for themselves but for those around them. This nation will desperately need the skill, education and professional expertise of its women, particularly in science and medicine.

"This does not mean that men need to feel threatened by this new order," she said. "They will not lose power because women gain it. Rather, there is a desperate need for skilled men and women in the times before us."

Healy is married to Floyd Loop, director of the Cleveland Clinic, and has two children. Her former husband, Dr. Gregory Bulkley, is a professor of surgery and director of surgical research at Hopkins.

Healy graduated summa cum laude from Vassar College in 1965 and earned her medical degree cum laude from the Harvard Medical School in 1970.

Soon after, Healy came to Hopkins for her internship. Before she left in 1984, she was a professor of medicine, an associate professor of pathology, director of the coronary care unit and assistant dean for post-doctoral training and faculty training and faculty development.

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