A Woman for All Seasons

 

 

 

Dr. Bernadine Patricia Healy, M.D. (born August 4, 1944 — died August 6, 2011) was an American physician, cardiologist, academic and a former head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She was a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, professor and dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health at the Ohio State University, and served as president of the American Red Cross. She was health editor and columnist for U.S. News & World Report. She was a well-known commentator in the media on health issues.

 

Born in New York City to Michael Healy and Violet McGrath, both deceased, Bernadine Patricia Healy was one of four daughters raised in Long Island City, Queens, New York. Healy’s parents stressed the importance of education. She was the top student of her high school class at Hunter College High School.

She attended Vassar College on a full scholarship and graduated summa cum laude in 1965 with a major in chemistry and a minor in philosophy. She went on to Harvard Medical School, also on full scholarship, and was one of only ten women out of 120 students in her class. After graduating cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1970, she completed her internship and residency in cardiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Hospital. After finishing her post-doctoral training, she became the first woman to join its full-time faculty in cardiology, and rose quickly to the rank of professor of medicine.

For eight years she headed the coronary care unit at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the medical school she served as assistant dean for post-doctoral programs and faculty development. During that time she organized a nationally covered Mary Elizabeth Garrett symposium on women in medicine which examined the opportunities and hurdles faced by women physicians roughly 90 years after the founding of the medical school in 1893, and at the same time honored Ms. Garrett, the Victorian socialite and philanthropist who made sure Hopkins, from its opening, admitted women and men precisely on the same terms.

While at Johns Hopkins, Healy held several leadership positions in organizations such as the American Federation of Clinical Research, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association, an organization she later led as its volunteer president, and served on advisory committees to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The Age of Autism anti-vaccine advocacy group named her 2008 Person of the Year.

President Ronald Reagan appointed Healy deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She served as chairman of the White House Cabinet Group on Biotechnology, executive secretary of the White House Science Council’s Panel on the Health of Universities, and a member of several advisory groups on developing government wide guidelines for research in human subjects, and for the humane treatment of animals in research. She subsequently served on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology during the administration of Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Director of NIH

Healy was director of the Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation when President George H. W. Bush tapped her in 1991 to become director of the NIH, its first woman head. She took on many initiatives during her two years at the helm, including the development of a major intramural laboratory for human genomics and recruited a world-renowned team to head the Human Genome Project, elevated nursing research to an independent NIH institute, strengthened a policy whereby the NIH would fund only those clinical trials that included both men and women, when the condition being studied, affects both genders.

Women’s Health Initiative

The Women’s Health Initiative was a $625 million effort to study the causes, prevention, and cures of diseases that affect women at midlife and beyond. The study continues to unearth critical information, including evidence in 2002 that combined hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of invasive breast cancers by 26% and heart attack by 27% as well as an increased risk for stroke. The study’s findings have resulted in a permanent 15% annual reduction in invasive estrogen positive breast cancer in post menopausal women in the U.S.; The HRT (hormone replacement) drug market in the United States simultaneously dropped by $1 billion, twelve months after the study’s results were publicized, as 60% fewer women stopped filling their HRT prescriptions.

As president of the American Heart Association from 1988 to 1989, she sought to convince both the public and medical community that heart disease is also a woman’s disease, “not a man’s disease in disguise”. Appointed president of the American Red Cross in 1999, Healy worked to improve the safety and availability of the American blood supply while overseeing the development of a Weapons of Mass Destruction response program. In 2001 she led the organization’s response to the September 11 attacks.

U.S. Senate candidate

Healy was a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994. She ran in the GOP primary, and came in second in a four-person race. Lt. Gov. Mike DeWine won and prevailed in the general election.

Cleveland Clinic

In 1985 Healy left Washington and moved to Cleveland where she became Chairman of the Cleveland Clinic Research Institute and also practiced cardiology. In addition to building major new programs in molecular biology, neuroscience, and cancer biology, she headed a large NIH-funded research program in hypertension, and was the lead investigator for the Cleveland Clinic’s participation in a major clinical research study comparing angioplasty with coronary artery bypass surgery. She headed the NIH advisory board for another multi-center clinical study that showed statins could slow course of atherosclerosis in coronary artery bypass grafts. During this time she initiated a medical student program in alliance with Ohio State University that served as a precursor of the founding of the Cleveland Clinic College of Medicine in 2004.

 

Ohio State University

Healy served as professor and Dean of the College of medicine from 1995 to 1999. During her tenure, the college expanded its public health programs to become a School of Public Health, re-christening the College of Medicine into a College of Medicine and Public Health.

With her efforts the medical school became designated as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. A new department of orthopaedics was created along with a planned development of a Musculoskeletal Institute. The James Cancer Center expanded its efforts in basic research with recruitment of Dr. Albert de la Chappelle, a world famous geneticist, and Dr. Clara Bloomfield, an oncologist and leukemia researcher; together, they expanded the college’s programs in cancer research and tumor genetics. Cardiovascular research and practice grew with the recruitment of Dr. Robert Michler of Columbia University, who helped to revitalize the thoracic surgery and heart transplantation, and developed one of the earliest robotic heart surgery programs. Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt, a cardiologist and researcher, who was recruited from Johns Hopkins, helped create the Heart and Lung Institute.

 

American Red Cross

Healy was recruited away from Ohio State to become President and CEO of the American Red Cross in late 1999, succeeding Elizabeth Dole. From the outset she strove to unite the various services and volunteers under the banner “Together we can save a life.” Her tenure at the Red Cross was not without controversy. In the spring of 2001 the FDA issued a record fine to the Red Cross for mishandling CMV infected blood products. A lack luster performance during the 9/11 crisis (including the Red Cross failing to show up at the Pentagon crash site) led to her resignation under pressure. The American Red Cross and Healy in particular, were criticized in the media, by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, and by some in Congress for designating funds for 9/11 related activities that did not directly involve victims. Healy, who had taken controversial stands on Magen David Adom, and auditing and financial controls of chapters, had crossed swords on these issues with a few board members and chapter heads. In mid-November, the Board redirected all of the funds dollars to those who had suffered or faced hardships at the attack site and made the change retroactive to 9/11. Dr. Healy departed the organization as president on December 31, 2001.Advisory boards

 

Healy has served on numerous medical advisory committees and boards over her career. They include committees the National Academy of Science‘s Institute of Medicine, of which she is a member, and the national Academy of Engineering; the Department of Energy, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health. She participated briefly on an Advisory board of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (an organization later shown to have been funded by Philip Morris), and served on numerous advisory groups and Boards of the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, where she was an outspoken critic of smoking and its effects on the cardiovascular system.

 

Press

 

 

Over her career Healy served as a medical commentator and consultant for CBS, PBS and MSNBC, and has made numerous appearances on CNN, C-SPAN and Fox News Channel. Healy has written a column, “On Health”, for U.S. News and World Report since 2003 on a wide array of medical topics from women’s health to marijuana, coronary artery disease to cancer, tattoos to male circumcision, and medical preparedness to health reform.

 

Healy became the focus of controversy when she questioned the 2004 finding of the Institute of Medicine that the evidence refuting a link between childhood vaccinations and autism was conclusive. She suggested a government conspiracy against further research in a nationally televised CBS interview with Sharyl Attkisson.

 

Family

Dr. Healy was married to cardiac surgeon Floyd D. Loop, a former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. She and her husband had one daughter, Marie McGrath Loop. Healy has another daughter, Bartlett Bulkley, from her previous marriage.

 

 

 

Below is the announcement and article, on her passing, from the New York Times……………………………

 

 

 

 

Dr. Bernadine P. Healy, Influential Health Administrator, Dies at 67

 

 

Dr. Bernadine Healy in 2001

 

 

The New York Times, GoogleNews.com, by Robert D. McFadden, August 8, 2011  —  Dr. Bernadine P. Healy, the first woman to lead the National Institutes of Health and the first physician to lead the American Red Cross until she was forced out in a storm of criticism over flawed responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, died on Saturday at her home in Gates Mills, Ohio. She was 67.

 

The cause was recurring brain cancer, which she had battled for 13 years, her husband, Dr. Floyd D. Loop, said.

In a hybrid career in the largely male domains of medicine and government, Dr. Healy — a cardiologist and feminist — was a professor at Johns Hopkins University, dean of the Ohio State University medical school, a White House science adviser and president of the American Heart Association. She wrote scientific papers and magazine columns, and once ran for the United States Senate.

But she was best known as a tough, innovative administrator who, as director of the National Institutes of Health from 1991 to 1993, championed studies that overturned false assumptions about women’s health. And as president of the American Red Cross from 1999 to 2001, she struggled to coordinate its complex, often contradictory missions of humanitarian disaster relief and the businesslike maintenance of blood supplies.

Dr. Healy’s curriculum vitae was a compendium of academic and professional achievements that in its cold detail omitted a central fact: her relentless attack on the misperception that heart attacks were men’s problems. Heart disease was by far the leading killer of American women, who accounted for nearly 40 percent of its victims. Women’s groups had long sought a greater focus on women’s coronary health, cancers and the role of hormonal changes and therapy.

Dr. Healy, who had pushed similar concerns within cardiology, went to Washington and made the issue her own. “The problem is to convince both the lay and medical sectors that coronary heart disease is also a women’s disease, not a man’s disease in disguise,” Dr. Healy wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1991. At the institutes of health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and America’s largest medical research and research-financing organization, Dr. Healy, a Republican appointed by President George H. W. Bush, inherited a sprawling agency of 15,000 people beset by bureaucratic infighting, political interference and declining morale. It had gone without a director for two years. “I am willing to go out on a limb, shake the tree and even take a few bruises,” she told reporters. “I’m not particularly concerned about being popular.”

Dr. Healy cracked the whip on bureaucrats, recruited new talent, expanded the Human Genome Project and reversed policies that, like the medical establishment, had focused largely on men’s health and virtually excluded women from clinical trials. She mandated the inclusion of women in trials wherever appropriate.

She began the Women’s Health Initiative, a $625 million study of the causes, prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and cancer in middle-aged and older women. Long after her tenure, it continued yielding important findings. In 2002, it found that prolonged combined estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women increased risks of breast cancer, stroke and heart attacks.

“Dr. Healy’s stubborn insistence that the N.I.H. concern itself with women’s health was not broadly supported at the time,” Anne M. Dranginis, an associate professor of biological sciences at St. John’s University, wrote in a 2002 Op-Ed article in The New York Times. “Had Dr. Healy not championed research on women’s health, how much longer would healthy women have been encouraged to take hormone drugs?”

Dr. Healy stepped down when President Bill Clinton named a new N.I.H. director in 1993. Foes in Congress like Representative John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat with whom she had clashed over issues of cooperation with oversight inquiries and scientific integrity in the N.I.H., were not sorry to see her go.

But Joan H. Marks, director of the Sarah Lawrence College Graduate Health Programs who had been named to an advisory committee created by Dr. Healy on the Women’s Health Initiative, told The Times: “I’m impressed with what Dr. Healy has been able to accomplish in the short time she has been in this position. She has been a very persuasive voice, able to focus attention on these women’s health issues.”

Six years later, Dr. Healy faced even more daunting challenges at the Red Cross. While it was widely seen as an icon of humanitarian work, the organization, founded by Clara Barton in 1881, was an unwieldy behemoth with 1,000 chapters, 1.2 million volunteers, 3,000 staff members and a $3 billion budget. It was also a house divided, with nonprofit disaster-relief on one side and, on the other, a blood business run like a corporation.

Recovering from a brain tumor as she took over, Dr. Healy found what she called “turf battles, gossip and very little teamwork.”

Her reform efforts stumbled in the face of resistant autonomous chapters, a staff that chafed under her hard-driving style, cases of embezzlement and lax controls, which led to record fines for infected blood products. She made the safety of blood supplies a priority.

But she upset many by auditing local chapters’ finances, overriding veteran administrators’ decisions and aggressively supporting Israel’s Red Shield of David in its effort to join the international Red Cross and Red Crescent societies without having to accept a cross or crescent as its emblem. When the effort failed, she withheld dues from the international body in protest.

Missteps after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks precipitated her downfall. Red Cross disaster-relief units responded poorly, especially at the Pentagon crash site, critics said. Later, her handling of blood donations for 9/11 victims came under fire. Collections far exceeded amounts needed. Some blood was kept for other users, but much of it expired and had to be discarded.

She was excoriated in Congress and by chapter leaders and donors over her Liberty Fund, established to aid victims of the terrorist attacks. It collected $564 million, but kept $264 million of it for other uses, including aid in future attacks. She said it had never been intended just for 9/11 victims, but her critics insisted that the money had been raised under false pretenses. In response to the protests, the Red Cross redirected all the funds to 9/11 relief.

Critics called Dr. Healy autocratic and said she had jeopardized the good will of a revered charity. Allies defended her as smartly decisive, even if she sometimes ignored political realities. She resigned under pressure, although one Red Cross director acknowledged, “We hired a change agent for a culture resistant to change.”

Bernadine Patricia Healy was born in New York City on Aug. 2, 1944, one of four daughters of Michael and Violet McGrath Healy. Her parents ran a small perfume factory in Long Island City, Queens, where she grew up. She graduated from Hunter High School in Manhattan in 1962, got through Vassar College in three years and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1970. After post-doctoral work, she became a full professor at Johns Hopkins in 1982 and directed its cardiac care unit from 1976 to 1984.

Her first marriage, to Dr. George Bulkley, a surgeon she had met in medical school, ended in divorce in 1981. They had a daughter, Bartlett Bulkley. In 1985, Dr. Healy married Dr. Loop, a cardiologist. They had a daughter, Marie McGrath Loop. Dr. Loop and her two daughters survive her.

Dr. Healy was President Ronald Reagan’s deputy science adviser in 1984 and 1985, president of the American Heart Association in 1988 and 1989, and from 1985 to 1991 practiced cardiology and directed research at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, which was operated by Dr. Loop.

She lost a Senate primary race in Ohio in 1994, was a professor and dean at Ohio State University from 1995 to 1999 and, after leaving the Red Cross, was an adviser to President George W. Bush on bioterrorism, a columnist for U.S. News & World Report and a frequent television commentator.