Tulane Alumni Association




Dermot McGlinchey Lifetime Achievement Award 2002 


Dr. Ruth Kirschstein

Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, the sixth recipient of the Dermot McGlinchey Lifetime Achievement Award, has been acting director of the National Institute of Health since January 2000. This is the second time she has served as the acting director of the NIH, having held the position between July and November of 1993. She served as the NIH deputy director from 1993 to December 1999.

Kirschstein credits Tulane for instilling her with an interest in research. "Going to medical school at Tulane was the single best thing I ever did in my life," she said.

A native of Brooklyn, she received her bachelor's degree from Long Island University before coming to Tulane. She interned in medicine and surgery at Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn and did residencies in pathology at Providence Hospital in Detroit, Tulane University School of Medicine, and the Clinical Center at the NIH.

From 1957 to 1972, Dr. Kirschstein performed research in experimental pathology at the Division of Biologics Standards. During that time, she helped develop and refine tests to assure the safety of viral vaccines for such diseases as polio, measles and rubella. Her work on polio led to the selection of Sabin vaccine for public use. For this work she received the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's Superior Service Award in 1971.

In 1972 she became assistant director of the Division of Biologics Standards. That same year, when the division was transferred to the FDA as a bureau, she was appointed deputy director. She subsequently served as deputy associate commissioner for science at the FDA, before being named director of the National Institute for General Medical Sciences in 1974. From September 1990 to September 1991 she was acting associate director of the NIH for research on women's health.

Dr. Kirschstein has twice taken part in World Health Organization deliberations in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1965 she was a member of the WHO Expert Group on International Requirements for Biological Substances, and in 1967 as a consultant on problems related to the use of live poliovirus oral vaccine.

She has received many honors and awards, including the Public Health Service Superior Service Award, 1978; the Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award, 1980; election to the Institiute of Medicine, 1982; the Public Health Service Equal Opportunity Award, 1983; a doctor of science, honoris causa, degree from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, 1984; the Public Health Service Special Recognition Award, 1985; the Distinguished Executive Service Awardof the Senior Executive Association, 1985; the Harvey Wiley FDA Commissioner's Special Citation, 1987; selection by the Office of Personnel Management as one of ten outstanding executives and organizations for its first group of "Profiles in Excellence," 1989; the Dr. Nathan Davis Award from the American Medical Association, 1990; an honorary doctor of humane letters from Long Island University, 1991; election as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1992; and the Public Service Award from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 1993.

She is married to Alan S. Rabson, M.D. They have one son, Arnold Rabson.

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