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Acting Director's Comments:  Arthur R. Norris

Image of former NCTR Acting Director, Arthur NorrisI offer these recollections for the short period of time that I was Acting Director of the Center. Not only was it a short period, about two years, it was nearly 15 years ago. Memory fails in general, and memory fails specifically in trying to single out that short period of the 18 years I was privileged to be a part of NCTR.

It was quite a surprise to suddenly be in the position of Acting Director. It wasn’t anything I saw coming, and it seemed more like a continuation of what we were all doing as a group than anything enormously different. The privilege of working more closely with FDA leadership under Dr. Kessler was rewarding, and reporting to Dr. Henney as FDA’s Chief Operating Officer was a singular privilege. She was a strong supporter of the Center and its people.

The most memorable event was the fact that FDA’s first Science Advisory Board issued a report on science in FDA. It was quite complementary of the science, the staff, and the productivity at NCTR, but there was a powerful statement that seemed at the time to turn our world on end. It said that although the science was very good, unless the work at NCTR could be made more relevant to the regulatory mission of FDA, NCTR should no longer exist as a part of the FDA.

The response by the scientific staff, especially the division directors, was immediate and powerful. Many of you spent much more energy traveling to the D.C. area and interacting with other FDA centers and other FDA scientists. In very large part, it was a matter of letting the others know, in more detail, about your work. It was also a matter of seeking their collaboration in design and conduct, not just within FDA, but also strengthening the relationship with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program. So many names and faces of people who did so much for the Center are firmly in my mind. There’s no way I could start to list them individually. There would be no logical stopping point. There was a common devotion to preserving the Center that prevailed over and over. In my view, those efforts were successful in changing many attitudes; in letting others in the Agency know of NCTR’s contributions and in paving the way for the fresh, new leadership brought to us by Dr. Bern Schwetz.

I also remember fondly some of the nondivision director leaders. You were the people who raised voices for those whose voices were too often not heard. Your passion, your concerns, and your abilities continue to impress me. The contractor staffs who so strongly identified and adopted the NCTR mission as their own were always inspiring to me. It was a time of new energy and talent in the area of the information management contract, thanks primarily to Dr. John Young’s vision and oversight.

I suppose, as I look back, my over-riding set of feelings are those of gratitude—gratitude for the opportunity to have been a part of this group of people and what they have accomplished…gratitude for being able to learn so much in the process of earning a living…gratitude for knowing so many of you. I thank all of those who made this possible: Dr. Hart for selecting and supporting me and, most definitely, the NCTR government and contractor staff who made the experience so valuable and made such a profound difference in my life. I don’t believe there was ever a day when I didn’t learn something and gain insight from those of you who were and are NCTR. It was a unique privilege for which I always shall be enormously grateful.



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