A fond farewell to NIA, next steps on a global journey for geroscience
It has been an exhilarating run, but the time has come for both me and NIA’s Division of Aging Biology (DAB) to explore new pastures. As some of you may know, on April 30, I will be stepping down from my position as DAB director.
My tenure at NIA started in 2002 (those 18 years went by so fast!) when I joined DAB as a program officer, coming from parallel appointments at The Lankenau Institute for Medical Research in Philadelphia and the Universidad de Chile. Talk about long commutes! In 2006, I was fortunate to be chosen as director of the division after the retirement of the recently departed and beloved Dr. Huber Warner. At the time, the field was growing in new and exciting ways, thanks in no small part to the efforts of my predecessors in developing programs like the Nathan Shock Centers and the newly minted Interventions Testing Program. Through these and other programs spearheaded by DAB, the aging biology field has grown exponentially during my time at the helm, and I hope I have made my own small contribution through concepts such as healthspan, geroscience, and, more recently, molecular and cellular resilience.
The aging biology field hit two major milestones in 2013 with the simultaneous publication of a paper describing the major molecular and cellular determinants of aging — the so-called Hallmarks of Aging — and the formation of the trans-NIH Geroscience Interest Group. Progress has been exponential to the extent that the basic biology of aging is being seriously considered in translational paradigms which are poised to strongly influence the health of our older adults, an outcome that would have been unthinkable 15 to 20 years ago. We have come a long way from the days when aging biology research was considered a backwaters endeavor, focusing on a biological process that some seemed to believe “we would never be able to modify.“ To that we said, and continue to say, “Ha!”
These advances represent considerable opportunities for the future, including in the challenging areas of integrated physiology, researching a possible role for artificial intelligence and systems biology, and so many others. Based on my experiences at NIA, I have no doubt that leadership will continue to make thoughtful, evidence-driven decisions moving forward, balancing multiple needs in fields as diverse as basic biology and populations behavior. This will in turn require an enormous effort from the next director of DAB, and I’m confident that person will be up to the task and will grow into the position as I did. Whoever takes this position — and I know there are many capable individuals out there — should rest assured that they can count on NIA leadership to offer them guidance and support.
So, what is on the horizon for me? Many suggested that I can comfortably retire to paint and play the guitar, but unfortunately for me, such a placid future is not compatible with my personality. My life after retirement will include consulting work as a senior advisor on an NIH Common fund activity as well as other initiatives to further promote aging biology initiatives such as geroscience.
I am looking forward to the future and wish all of my past and present colleagues at NIA and NIH the best and continued success!