November 2009

Remembering Ruth L. Kirschstein

From her work on the Sabin vaccine to her many leadership positions at the NIH, she maintained a singular focus on scientific excellence, while demonstrating a steadfast devotion to public service. Dr. Kirschstein leaves a legacy that will continue to enrich the scientific enterprise and the health of the American people for generations to come.

On behalf of the leaders and faculty of the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals, I extend our deepest sympathies to Dr. Kirschstein’s devoted husband, Dr. Al Rabson; their son, Dr. Arnold Rabson; and other family members.

Darrell G. Kirch
President and CEO
Association of American Medical Colleges


Collins Reflects on Kirschstein

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins issued the following statement on the death of Ruth Kirschstein.

“Ruth embodied the spirit of the NIH. She was an icon. She was loved and admired by so many at the NIH, across the medical research community, among hundreds of members of Congress and around the world. Knowing Ruth, she would cringe if she heard us praise her — modesty was one of her strongest suits. Dr. Kirschstein couldn’t, however, argue with the facts about her service to the NIH that spanned more than 50 years. She was the first female director of an NIH institute, NIGMS. She was the deputy director of the NIH, acting NIH director and senior advisor to multiple NIH directors. There are few at the NIH who have not been touched by her warmth, wisdom, interest and mentorship.

“She worked diligently on breaking the mystery of polio and developing the Sabin vaccine. Her many other accomplishments are too numerous to list. We will have an opportunity for the NIH family to pay tribute, reflecting upon the life and lessons of one of our greatest leaders, according to her and her family’s wishes, at a future date.

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