Clinical Center News
February / March 2024

NIH Director Scrubs In at the Clinical Center

Dr. Monica Bertagnolli and Dr. Stephanie Goff
NIH Director, Dr. Monica Bertagnolli and NCI, Dr. Stephanie Goff discuss surgical procedure.

Dec. 6, 2023, was a busy day for Dr. Monica Bertagnolli. Bertagnolli was formally sworn in as the 17th Director of the National Institutes of Health by the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. Prior to being sworn in, Bertagnolli went back to something that was little more familiar.

Earlier that morning, Bertagnolli arrived at the Clinical Center ready to assist Dr. Stephanie Goff, senior research physician at the National Cancer Institute, with a surgical procedure. They operated on a woman with metastatic melanoma to remove a tumor from her thigh muscle, which is part of a clinical trial's protocol to test the effect of using combo immunotherapy drugs in a patient with metastatic melanoma.

“We were looking at the tumor cells and the white blood cells that are in the tumor to better understand the relationship between her tumor and her immune system,” explained Goff.

This isn't the first time that Bertagnolli and Goff have operated together. When Bertagnolli was a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Goff was a fellow in surgical oncology and spent time on her clinical service, assisting with complex sarcoma operations, and was a member of her lab for 18 months.

Goff expressed her admiration, stating, "Dr. Bertagnolli is a remarkable leader, surgeon-scientist, and advocate. Her transition from NCI to the broader NIH is not only a significant milestone for her but also fantastic news for the wider scientific community, as she is poised to extend her talents beyond cancer research."

Bertagnolli is the first surgeon and the second woman to hold the position of director of the NIH. She transitioned from her role as the 16th director of the NCI, a position she has held since October 2022.

- Yvonne Hylton

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