About NIA

NACA Meeting: May 19-21, 2014

Staff Changes

Creighton Phelps, PhD has been appointed as Deputy Director of the Division of Neuroscience, NIA and will continue as the Director for the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers Program. For the last 18 months he also served as the Acting Chief of the Dementias of Aging Branch in the Division of Neuroscience. Dr. Phelps earned his Ph.D. in Neuroanatomy from the University of Michigan. After post-doctoral research training at University College, London, England he was a faculty member at the University of Connecticut Health Center and subsequently, at Wright State University School of Medicine. In both positions he conducted basic research on brain structure and directed integrated neuroscience teaching programs.

In 1985, Dr. Phelps joined the staff of NIA as Executive Secretary to the Aging Review Committee where he coordinated the review of research grant applications related to the neurobiology of aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD). In 1987, he transferred to the Neuroscience and Neuropsychology of Aging Program at the NIA where he was Program Director in charge of neurobiology and neuroplasticity. Dr. Phelps moved to the national office of the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago in 1989 as Vice President for Medical and Scientific Affairs, and became Senior Vice President in 1991. In that position he directed the research grant program, implemented the Zenith Awards, supervised the development of the Benjamin Green-field National Alzheimer’s Library, served as a spokesperson for AD research, and helped to set the scientific policies of the Association.

In 1992 Dr. Phelps returned to the NIA where as Director of the Alzheimer's Disease Centers Program in the Division of Neuroscience he develops policy, oversees the funding, and monitors the progress of a national network of Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers located at 27 major U.S. Medical Schools. He is also the Program Officer for the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center located in Seattle and the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s disease in Indianapolis. He has helped to coordinate the development of major initiatives related to the genetics and genomics of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease dedicated to identifying risk factor genes for AD. In addition he works closely with the Alzheimer’s Association and the NINDS and advises other national organizations dedicated to research and care-giving for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Frontotemporal dementia, Vascular cognitive impairment, and Lewy body dementia. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal, Neurobiology of Aging. In recent years he has coordinated a project resulting in issuance by the NIA and the Alzheimer’s Association of a set of revised guidelines for the clinical and pathological diagnosis of AD. He is a senior author on the series of published papers laying out the new guidelines.

Dr. Laurie Ryan is the new Chief of the Dementias of Aging Branch in the Division of Neuroscience at NIA. She oversees the development, coordination, and implementation of NIA’s basic and clinical Alzheimer’s disease research program. Dr. Ryan also directs the Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials research portfolio.

Dr. Ryan received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Development from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 1986 and her Masters in Psychology from Loyola College in Maryland in 1991. She undertook her doctoral training in clinical psychology (with specialty training in neuropsychology) at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. During her doctoral training, she focused her research on mild traumatic brain injury. She also completed a neuropsychology-focused psychology residency at the Medical University of South Carolina/Department of Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center in Charleston, S.C., where she researched disorders affecting geriatric populations, including dementia. She obtained her PhD in 1997 and went on to complete a fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital/Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

After completing her fellowship, Dr. Ryan joined the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC where she served as the clinical neuropsychologist for the Walter Reed site. At that time, the DVBIC was an 8-site military, VA, and civilian partner TBI disease management program delivering clinical care, conducting clinical research and providing focused TBI education. In January 2003, Dr. Ryan became the Assistant Director for Research and senior neuropsychologist for the national DVBIC where she was responsible for overseeing clinical research development and implementation with a particular focus on clinical trials. In September 2005, Dr. Ryan joined the National Institute on Aging as the Program Director for Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Trials. In December 2013, she was promoted to her current position.

Pamela Northcutt, Lead Extramural Staff Assistant, retired March 31, 2014 after 16 years of federal service. Ms. Northcutt initially worked in administrative support for the NIA Division of Aging Biology, transferred to the NIH Division of Extramural Activities Support (DEAS) as a Task Leader with assignment to the NIA Extramural Program and, in more recent years, served in a similar capacity for the Division of Neuroscience. Ms. Northcutt brought vast and much appreciated expertise to the position, particularly in the areas of travel and conference organization. She plans to enjoy unlimited time for gardening and traveling during retirement.

Ms. Prisca Fall-Keita joined BSR as a Research Program Analyst in Population and Social Processes Branch. Previously she was at the National Cancer Institute, where she was an Epidemiology Program Specialist working primarily in the intramural Epidemiology and Biostatistics program. Before starting as a contractor at NCI in 2008, Prisca worked as a Research Assistant in the Departments of Family Medicine and Psychology at Case Western Reserve University, as an Executive Assistant to the Vice-President of Robert Ross International School of Nursing, and as a Physician’s Office Assistant at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. She was awarded an MA in Medical Anthropology from Case Western Reserve and a BS in Psychology from St. Lawrence University. We are delighted to have Prisca as a colleague.

Isis Mikhail, MD, DrPH, has joined the Scientific Review Branch, as a Scientific Review Officer, and she comes from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) where she served as the Program Director and Acting Branch Chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Branch (CTEB). She oversaw a portfolio of cancer epidemiology grants with a concentration on rare cancers, health disparities, and chronic and auto-immune diseases. Dr. Mikhail also served as Chair of the Health Disparities Interest Group, was a member of the NCI Special Studies Institutional Review Board (SSIRB), and a recipient of NCI’s Merit Award.

Most recently she served as Program Director of the Extramural Research Program (ERP) at the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM), in addition to serving as an SRO for several grant and contract review meetings. Prior to joining NCI, Dr. Mikhail worked as Program Director and Research Coordinator of several large scale studies and clinical trials at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Medicine and UAB School of Public Health.

Dr. Mikhail received her Medical degree from Cairo University School of Medicine and her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Epidemiology and International Health from the UAB School of Public Health. She has over 50 publications and presentations in the areas of epidemiology of chronic and infectious diseases, cancer, rheumatology and clinical immunology, genetics, health behavior, women’s health, health disparities, and complementary and alternative medicine.

Dr. Jeannette Johnson is the new Deputy Chief, Scientific Review Branch. She has been a Scientific Review Officer for the last eight years at the NIA and prior to joining SRB she has been a researcher and program officer at NIDA. Through the years the main focus of her research has been on mental health, brain imaging, substance abuse, intervention and prevention research, and life span development. Her other academic appointments include: Director of the Division of Drug Abuse Evaluation at the University of Maryland in the School of Psychiatry and a Distinguished Professor at the University of Buffalo, School of Social Work. She is the author and co-author of over 150 scientific publications, published three books, one especially relevant entitled "Resilience and Development: Positive Life Adaptations". Dr. Johnson holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and a doctoral degree in psychology from the University of Vermont. She has also completed a fellowship in cross-cultural psychology at the University of Hawaii and being from Huron tribe she has devoted time and energy working on HIV/AIDS and hepatitis prevention programs for reservation and urban Native Indians.

Dr. Alfonso Latoni who has been the Deputy Chief, Scientific Review Branch for the last five years has now moved on to NIEHS, North Carolina, to head the review branch there. Besides being the Deputy, he also conducted a variety of reviews mostly related to Behavioral and Social Research program, and Institutional training grants. We wish him success at NIEHS.

Stephanie Studenski M.D., M.Ph. is a geriatrician and rheumatologist whose practice, teaching and research focus on mobility, balance disorders and falls in older adults. She received her training in Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Rheumatology at Duke University Medical Center and received a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of North Carolina. She joined NIA in January of 2014 as Director of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and Chief of the Longitudinal Studies Section in the Translational Gerontology Branch. Prior to her arrival, she was Professor of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Allied Health at the University of Pittsburgh where she served as principal investigator of the Pittsburgh Claude D Pepper Older Americans Independence Center.

Her research focuses on balance and mobility problems that occur with obvious conditions such as stroke, as well as those of more insidious onset that may be related to subclinical losses in multiple organ systems. She has investigated the use of physical performance measures such as gait speed in the clinical setting, examined a wide range of potential contributors to gait and balance disorders with a focus on neural control, body composition and muscle function, and has led several clinical trials of novel forms of exercise to promote balance and mobility in older persons.

After 13 years of service at the National Institute of Aging, Dr. Irving Wainer, Senior Investigator, Laboratory of Clinical Investigation retired from his position in March 2014. Dr. Wainer was trained as a chemist and received his Ph.D. from Cornell University. Before coming to the NIA Dr. Wainer worked for the FDA for 8 years as a research chemist he also held professor positions at McGill University and Georgetown University and also worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. >His research interests included clinical pharmacology, bioanalytical chemistry, proteomics and the development of on-line high throughput screens for new drug discovery.