Issue Date: November 9, 2009
Ruth Kirschstein, 82, a long-time administrator at the National Institutes of Health, died on Oct. 6 in Bethesda, Md.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Kirschstein earned a bachelor’s degree from Long Island University in 1947 and an M.D. from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1951.
From 1957 to 1972, she worked as a researcher in experimental pathology at the Division of Biologics Standards (now the Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research at the Food & Drug Administration). In that role, she developed tests to ensure the safety of viral vaccines such as those for polio, measles, and rubella.
In 1974, she became the first woman to direct an NIH institute, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a post she held until 1993. She became director of the newly established NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health in 1990. Kirschstein was an acting director of NIH in 1993 and again from 2000 to 2002, serving as principal deputy director of NIH in the interim. She served as a senior adviser to the director from 2002 until the time of her death.
Kirschstein is survived by her husband, Alan Rabson, and son, Arnold Rabson.
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