President Joe Biden has announced his plans to appoint Dr. Monica Bertagnoli, a cancer surgeon and researcher, as the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If confirmed by the Senate, Bertagnoli will be the second woman appointed to the Executive Board of the NIH, one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutions.
Bertagnoli has spent her career pioneering scientific discoveries and pushing the boundaries of what is possible to improve cancer prevention and treatment. “To everyone struggling with cancer today, I really am with you on this issue,” Bertagnoli said of her diagnosis and treatment. Cancer is a top priority for Biden, who lost his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015.
The NIH has a budget of $47 billion, providing funding and oversight for a wide range of medical research beyond cancer, including infectious diseases, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases, diabetes, drug addiction, and mental health. The agency has been without a permanent director since Dr. Francis Collins retired in December 2021.
Prior to her appointment as NCI Director, Bertagnoli was a professor at Harvard University and a cancer surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She grew up on a ranch in southwestern Wyoming, the daughter of first-generation Italian and French Basque immigrants. Bertagnoli earned an engineering degree from Princeton University and attended medical school at the University of Utah.
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