The Privilege of Leading NINDS

The Privilege of Leading NINDS

I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to lead the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.  The Institute has a long history of leading, funding, and facilitating great advances in neuroscience over the past 65 years.  I intend to build from these efforts and guide the Institute to an even greater level of excellence in all areas of our portfolio, from fundamental neuroscience to mechanistic studies of neurological disorders, translational research, clinical research, and clinical trials – advancing the NINDS mission requires vital investments in all these research phases.

In my mind, the Director’s job can be simplified as:  a) fund the best science, b) train the best and brightest and, c) facilitate the process by which curiosity leads to discovery, and discovery leads to treatments for neurological disorders.  Yet, identifying the best science is no simple task.  Good scientific sensibility requires attention to detail and an appreciation of scientific topics beyond our individual areas of expertise. As Director, I will foster effective stewardship of research and research training in basic, translational and clinical neuroscience. For NINDS staff – myself included - to truly know the science we support, I believe there is no substitute for immersing ourselves in reading papers, grants, and peer review critiques, and engaging in open communication with the scientific community by attending conferences, visiting universities and intramural labs, and soliciting input on our programs and priorities. 

I believe such broad understanding and open dialogue are essential to ensuring that NINDS makes objective decisions about investments based on the most promising opportunities. The 2010 NINDS strategic plan, multiple disease-focused plans, and the BRAIN 2025 report for the BRAIN initiative at NIH are all good examples of planning efforts in which outreach and open scientific discussion guided the development of a vision for NINDS. I embrace NINDS’s long-standing commitment to methodically analyzing our portfolio, critically reviewing our programs, and encouraging high level conversations about our research investments with the NINDS Advisory Council. I intend to continue this open process that provides diverse ideas to advise the Director, empowers NINDS staff, and makes staff responsible for attending to the details of the science.  I look forward to candid exchanges that ensure we make the most informed decisions that maximize the taxpayers’ investment in NINDS.

Advances in neuroscience are emerging at an amazing rate.  I’m excited and very optimistic about the future, and I sense that across the country Americans are becoming ever more interested in how the brain works and how scientists can bring meaningful solutions for those who suffer with disorders of the nervous system.  For the hundreds of thousands with neurological disorders and stroke, NINDS-funded investigators are their HOPE.  The problems are hard, and we need more powerful tools and greater fundamental knowledge of the nervous system to solve them. However, with the coordinated hard work of our grantees, staff, patients, and partners from disease-related organizations, industry, and other federal agencies, we will not disappoint.  As I look ahead, I know it is with great enthusiasm, energy, and drive that NINDS will strive to support our scientific mission and enhance the neurological health of all Americans.


Related Link: NIH Names Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D. Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Thursday, June 11, 2015