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  Zerhouni, Elias A.
NameElias A. Zerhouni
, , United States
Born April 12, 1951 (71 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedJuan Croniqueur
Nov 21, 2022 06:42pm
InfoFormer NIH Director, Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., lead the nation’s medical research agency and oversaw the NIH’s 27 Institutes and Centers with more than 18,000 employees and a fiscal year 2008 budget of $29.5 billion.

The NIH investigates the causes, treatments, and preventive strategies for both common and rare diseases, helping to lead the way toward important medical discoveries that improve people’s health and save lives. More than 83% of the NIH’s funding is awarded through almost 50,000 competitive grants and awards to more than 325,000 scientists and research support staff at more than 3,000 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state and around the world. About 10% of the NIH’s budget supports projects conducted by nearly 6,000 scientists in its own laboratories, most of which are on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Zerhouni, a world renowned leader in the field of radiology and medicine, has spent his career providing clinical, scientific, and administrative leadership. He is credited with developing imaging methods used for diagnosing cancer and cardiovascular disease. As one of the world’s premier experts in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), he has extended the role of MRI from taking snapshots of gross anatomy to visualizing how the body works at the molecular level. He pioneered magnetic tagging, a non-invasive method of using MRI to track the motions of a heart in three dimensions. He is also renowned for refining an imaging technique called computed tomographic (CT) densitometry that helps discriminate between non-cancerous and cancerous nodules in the lung.

Since being named by President George W. Bush to serve as the 15th Director of the National Institutes of Health in May 2002, Dr. Zerhouni has overseen a number of milestones:

Reauthorization demonstrated renewed confidence in NIH
Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the National Institutes of Health Reform Act of 2006. The agency's third reauthorization in history and first since 1993, it signaled renewed confidence in the NIH mission, its employees and its leadership. The new law provides the NIH director expanded authority to manage the agency, encourages NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) to collaborate on trans-NIH research and reforms the agency's reporting system. Reauthorization will strengthen the links within NIH and between the intramural and extramural research communities. Ultimately, it will help NIH more effectively balance what has traditionally worked in science — freedom of exploration, autonomy, decentralization — with providing opportunities for people to collaborate and cooperate more freely.

Development of a new office to improve trans-NIH initiatives
In 2005, NIH launched the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI) in the Office of the NIH Director to transform the way NIH finds and funds cutting-edge research, improve our ability to identify public health challenges, and increase trans-NIH dialogue, decision-making and priority-setting. OPASI will build upon the model of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research and will coordinate with NIH ICs and external stakeholders to identify research priorities that will ultimately improve NIH’s ability to be nimble, dynamic, and responsive to emerging scientific opportunities and public health needs.

Although OPASI will not have grant-making authority, it will provide an “incubator space” to jump-start trans-NIH initiatives and support ICs that will take the lead on priority projects on a time-limited basis (5 to 10 years). These OPASI initiatives will be supported by the “Common Fund for Shared Needs,” a central funding source built upon the Roadmap budget model. Building from current Roadmap funds, which amount to about 1.6 percent of NIH’s total budget in fiscal year 2007, the Fund will increase to up to 5 percent of the total NIH budget depending on NIH budget growth, scientific opportunities and public health needs.

Initiated the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research
Launched in September 2003, the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, a new research vision to accelerate medical discovery to improve health, focuses the attention of the biomedical research community on new pathways of discovery, research teams for the future and the re-engineering of the clinical research enterprise. It aims to accelerate the pace of discovery and speed the application of new knowledge to the development of new prevention strategies, new diagnostics and new treatments, and, ultimately, to the transfer these innovations to health care providers, and the public.

Established an NIH-wide research initiative to address the obesity epidemic
The Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research is a multi-dimensional research agenda that addresses one of the nation’s most dramatic health challenges. In the U.S. population, recent figures show that 65 percent of adults—or 130 million people are overweight or obese. The strategic plan enhances both the development of new research in areas of greatest scientific opportunity and the coordination of obesity research across the NIH. The plan calls for interdisciplinary research teams to bridge the study of behavioral and environmental causes of obesity with the study of genetic and biologic causes.

Supported the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint
Mental illness, neurological disorders and a range of behavioral disorders are major causes of human suffering and contribute greatly to the burden of disease. These illnesses exact a cost of $500 billion each year. NIH Directors from 17 Institutes and Centers have developed a model of strategic leadership to address several of the most common causes of death and disability, as well as rare disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord, or nerve cells throughout the body. The blueprint leverages the abilities of the Institutes and Centers to create new resources, tackle common scientific problems, and train the next generation of neuroscientists through collaboration and leadership.

Made health disparities a research priority
“Broadening the collaborative relationships developed through partnerships between NIH and institutions and researchers from all populations,” is the focus of Dr. Zerhouni’s commitment to eliminating health disparities and disparities in the burden of disease. In 2007, NIH announced the awarding of $66.7 million to support the advancement of health disparities research. This was the most recent in a series of commitments of funds to this research. NIH has made 58 awards under the Centers of Excellence program. NIH as a whole expects to spend $2.8 billion on research funding for health disparities.

Ensured public access to NIH-funded research results
February 3, 2005, Dr. Zerhouni announced an historic public access policy. For the first time, the public will have access to peer-reviewed research publications that resulted from studies funded by NIH. Dr. Zerhouni has urged maximum participation by investigators, encouraging scientists to submit their publications as soon as possible and within twelve months of publication to the archive.

Committed to earn the public’s trust
Dr. Zerhouni continues to seek advice from the public through the Council of Public Representatives (COPR), a recent public trust workshop, and, more locally, through community liaison efforts. He is committed as well to producing the most scientifically-accurate, useful and accessible health information through public health campaigns, fact sheets, over the Web and through a full complement of outreach efforts with special attention to cultural competence designed to keep the public informed.

Enhanced the leadership of NIH
Since becoming the NIH Director, Dr. Zerhouni named a new NIH Deputy Director (Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D.) and directors for nine institutes and three centers: Center for Scientific Review (Antonio Scarpa, M.D., Ph.D.), John E. Fogarty International Center (Roger I. Glass, M.D., Ph.D.), National Cancer Institute (John E. Niederhuber, M.D.), National Center for Research Resources (Barbara Alving, M.D.), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D.), National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D.), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program (David A. Schwartz, M.D.), National Institute of General Medical Sciences (Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D.), National Institute of Mental Health (Thomas R. Insel, M.D.), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Story C. Landis, Ph.D.), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Ting-Kai Li, M.D.), National Institute on Drug Abuse (Nora D. Volkow, M.D.), and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Josephine Briggs, M.D.).

Prior to joining the NIH, Dr. Zerhouni served as executive vice-dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, chair of the Russell H. Morgan department of radiology and radiological science, and Martin Donner professor of radiology, and professor of biomedical engineering. Before that, he was vice dean for research at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Zerhouni’s imaging research has led to advances in Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT scanning) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). It has earned him a Gold Medal from the American Roentgen Ray Society for CT research and two Paul Lauterbur Awards for MRI research. Dr. Zerhouni has also received the Special Presidential Award of the European Congress of Radiology.

From 1998–2002, he served on the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors. He was a consultant to both the World Health Organization (1988), and to the White House under President Ronald Reagan (1985).

In April 2008, France bestowed its highest honor on Dr. Zerhouni. In a ceremony at Elysée Palace in Paris, French President Nicholas Sarkozy made him a Knight of the Légion d'honneur (French National Order of the Legion of Honor).

He has been a member of the Institute of Medicine since 2000.

Dr. Zerhouni is the author of 212 publications and holds 8 patents.



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