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Ruth Kirschstein

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Longtime administrator at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Ruth Kirschstein, MD, died in October at the age of 82. Her career at the NIH spanned more than 5 decades. She was the first woman to serve as director of an NIH Institute - the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) - and she was called upon to serve as acting NIH director twice during her service. She helped to develop and refine safety tests of viral vaccines for diseases such as measles, polio and rubella. For her work on the development of the Sabin vaccine for polio, she was awarded the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's Superior Service Award in 1971.

Dr. Kirschstein earned her MD from the Tulane University School of Medicine in 1951 and, in 2002, she was honored by the University with a lifetime achievement award for her "incredible contributions to the advancement of science." She began her career as a research scientist for government agencies in 1957 as a pathologist at the Division of Biologics Standards, which is now known as the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

The US Public Health Service (PHS) awarded Dr. Kirschstein its Superior Service Award …

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