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Biden nominates Monica Bertagnolli to lead NIH

If confirmed by the Senate, the cancer surgeon would be the second woman to lead the agency

by Krystal Vasquez
May 16, 2023

Headshot of Monica Bertagnolli.
Credit: National Cancer Institute
Monica Bertagnolli

President Joe Biden has nominated Monica Bertagnolli as director of the US National Institutes of Health. If confirmed by the Senate, Bertagnolli would be the second woman to lead the NIH since the agency was founded in 1887. The first was Bernadine Healy, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Last August, Biden appointed Bertagnolli, a cancer surgeon, to direct the NIH’s National Cancer Institute. She was the first woman to hold the position.

“Dr. Bertagnolli is a world-class physician-scientist whose vision and leadership will ensure NIH continues to be an engine of innovation to improve the health of the American people,” Biden says in a statement announcing the nomination.

Bertagnolli will be filling a position that’s been empty since former NIH Director Francis Collins stepped down in December 2021. Lawrence Tabak has been acting as interim director during the nearly 17-month vacancy.

Prior to her time at NCI, Bertagnolli was a professor of surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School. She also served as president of Alliance Foundation Trials, a research organization that develops and conducts cancer clinical trials.

Responding to Bertagnolli’s nomination, the American Association for Cancer Research released a statement saying, “Her impeccable credentials as a researcher and clinician, along with her staunch commitment to patients, will help ensure that the NIH continues to lead the way in supporting biomedical research that is so vital for preventing disease, improving health, and reducing suffering from illness.”



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