NIH official recognized for efforts to create AIDS-free generation

Monday - 7/9/2012, 12:02pm EDT

Lynne Mofenson, Branch Chief, Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal AIDS Branch, NIH

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In the 1980s, an AIDS diagnosis was considered a death sentence. Even more troubling was the number of children who contracted the disease from their mother.

But thanks in part to the work of Dr. Lynne Mofenson, future generations won't have to worry about being born with HIV or AIDS. The State Department has made ending mother-to-child HIV transmission — what it calls an AIDS-free generation — a U.S. policy priority.

For her career of distinguished services, the National Institutes of Health branch chief has been selected as a finalist for a Service to America Medal.


What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?

Collaboration, advocacy, persistence, leading by example (I know, more than three words but they are all important.)

What's the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you've ever received and who gave it to you?

"It isn't necessarily who is the smartest, it is who works the hardest" — my father's work ethic. If you work hard, become an expert in your area, and then are willing to do the often arduous work that it takes to make the most difficult things happen, you can make a big difference in the world.

Who is your biggest role model and why?

My father — he was a pediatrician who loved medicine and the thought process that goes into differential diagnosis — figuring out medical mysteries — and he had a remarkable memory and work ethic. He also felt it was critical to write and publish what you learn to share with others. I used to go on hospital rounds with him as a child and adolescent and watched as he clearly made a difference in the lives of his patients and their parents. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery — and here I am a pediatrician at NIH.

What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome (personally or professionally) and how did you overcome it?

Finding a balance between work and family has been a great challenge and I am not sure I have overcome it! My husband and daughter refer to "Lynne time" — that is, when I say I will be home in 30 minutes I really mean an hour and half.

What's the last thing you read and what's next on your reading list?

Much of my reading is medical journals! For fun reading, I like light fiction. Defending Jacob is the last book I have read. I am looking forward to the new installment of "The Passage", called "The Twelve", by Justin Cronin - it is about science gone wrong, leading to a viral infection that results in infected individuals becoming vampires, and leads into 100 years in the future in a world trying to cope with this catastrophe. It sounds silly but it was a great book!

What's your favorite bureaucratic phrase?

Bureaucracy is not my favorite thing. I think my favorite phrase would be, "How can we make this happen?" and figure out how to work around the bureaucracy.

Meet the rest of the 2012 Sammies finalists.