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Employee Testimonials

Are you exploring options for your next career move? Let NHLBI be at the top of your list! Read testimonials of our employees about their typical workday, recent interesting projects, and what brings them joy at NHLBI. Here is what they are saying.

Administrative positions

Scientific positions




Administrative positions

 

Tawana McKeither

Tawana McKeither

Grants Management Specialist

What is your professional field?
My professional fields are Grants Management and Financial Management.

Prior to NIH, where did you work? What initially attracted you to the NIH/NHLBI?
Prior to NIH, I worked for the United States Treasury Department in the Community Development Financial Institution Office where I began my Federal Service. I knew early on that I wanted to have a long career in Grants and NIH was and remains the Gold Standard in Grants Management. I had to be part of an environment that is known for their excellence in Grants Management. NHLBI was the Institute that wanted me to be part of their dynamic team and is also known for being a training Institute for Grant Specialists. I knew I found my professional home.

What is your typical workday?
Grants, Grants, Grants… On a daily basis, I am advising grantees on Grants policy to assist them in maintaining successful research, analyzing applications and progress reports to ensure progress is satisfactory and costs are allowable while always ensuring a high level of integrity is maintained. I meet with Program staff on a regular basis to answer questions, provide guidance at review meetings, and enhance our partnership. My workday is always changing to produce the most effective environment to get the job done on a superior level.

What interesting projects have you worked on recently?
Recently, I had the opportunity to be a mentor - which was great! This role allowed me to show the ropes of Grants Management and to share some of my techniques for mastering Grants.

What do you like best about your job? What makes working at the NHLBI worthwhile for you?
What I like best about my job is that I’m part of a community of people who truly want to cure the world of sickness. I love that I’m part of something GREAT and how it has a direct effect with elevating the world health consciousness. Working for NHLBI is worthwhile for me because we have a level of dedication to our mission that most places don’t. I’m lucky to be part of a team where you know that your work touches all walks of life. NHLBI encourages me to be my absolute best in a nurturing way.

What is the career ladder for your job?
My career ladder ranges from the General Schedule (GS) grade GS-7 to GS-13.

What do you enjoy doing beyond work?
Outside of work you will find me in a gym watching my daughter play basketball. I am a true fan and love watching her play and SCORE!!

 

Mary E. Landi O'Leary Carder

Mary Landi O'Leary Carder

Procurement Analyst/Contracting Officer

What is your professional field?
I am in the 1102 job series which is the Contract/Acquisition series.  I am currently a Contracting Officer with a Procurement Analysis emphasis.

Prior to NIH, where did you work? What initially attracted you to the NIH/NHLBI?
I originally started my contracting career at the Department of Defense which I feel gave me a great foundation in the contracting field. I moved to NIH because the overall mission of public health and actually feeling like what you are doing is helping individuals was more appealing.

What is your typical workday?
My position is a Procurement Analyst in the Office of Acquisitions at NHLBI.  My role is to serve as a subject matter expert in the analysis and evaluation of all acquisitions within the responsibility of research and development contracts for the office. I review, evaluate and provide specific guidance on any contracting issue that may arise. With that in mind it seems no day is typical! New presidential mandates are signed daily, or new Federal Register Rules are issued. These mandates or rules must be reviewed to see what if any change in current policy needs to be made in order for the office to comply with the mandate or rule. If they are ambiguous, then research must be done in order to make a logical decision on how to implement the change. Typically, I will review any periodicals issued (Government Executive, Federal Register Notices) that day to see if changes may have an impact.  My door is always open to co-workers for discussions about contracting strategies that they may want to get a second perspective on.  I work with our policy office to implement Standard Operating Procedures and updating the NHLBI Acquisition Policy manual.

What interesting projects have you worked on recently?
I would call this project more challenging, which was the reinterpretation of appropriation law and how it affects contracts and funding within HHS. This interpretation was and is a major shift in the way contracts and grants can be funded at NIH.  With this shift, different acquisition strategies needed to be formed and developed in order for us to help programs achieve the project goals.

What do you like best about your job? What makes working at the NHLBI worthwhile for you?
The individuals I work with. I work with a group of professionals that take pride in the work product they put forth and the willingness to step in and help during difficult times, such as the recent threat of a government shutdown. There is a feeling of being appreciated for what we do, not only by your supervisors but by the program staff as well. It may not always be easy, but everyone does realize we are working towards the same goal which is public health.

What is the career ladder for your job?
The career ladder for the 1102 job series is from the General Schedule (GS) grade GS-5 to GS-13.  From there, competitive appointments for the GS-14 and GS-15 supervisory level are available.

What do you enjoy doing beyond work?
Beyond work I am a certified fitness instructor. I teach progressive resistant weight training. I also enjoy competing in 5 and 10k road runs and at least one Sprint distance triathlon a year.

Scientific positions

 

Carol J. Blaisdell, M.D.

Carol Blaisdell

Medical Officer

What is your professional field?
I am a Medical Officer and Program Director of Lung Development and Pediatric Lung Diseases.

Prior to NIH, where did you work? What initially attracted you to the NIH/NHLBI?
Prior to joining the NHLBI, I worked at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. As a pediatric pulmonologist, I was attracted by the opportunity to help develop programs and encourage new science to improve the health of children with lung disease.

What is your typical workday?
Reading the literature and grant summaries to identify gaps in our current knowledge of lung development and pediatric lung diseases, developing workshop ideas and initiatives, contacting investigators for input on program development, responding to investigator questions regarding grants proposal ideas, grants that have been submitted and reviewed, and what outcomes from study section mean; meeting with other program staff in the division of lung diseases and at NHLBI and other institutes/centers to develop programs utilizing multiple types of expertise and experience; reviewing investigator progress and requesting information for clarification.

What interesting projects have you worked on recently?
We developed 2 new initiatives that will advance our understanding of lung diseases of children: 1) the prematurity and respiratory outcomes program (PROP) which involves 5 clinical centers with teams of neonatologists and pediatric pulmonologists to test new molecular biomarkers of post-NICU lung disease risk; and 2) Functional Modeling of the Pediatric Upper Airway, which has awarded 5 centers to study and model the dynamic changes of the pediatric upper airway during the breathing cycle. Both programs challenged the scientific community to develop new multidisciplinary teams to address gaps in our understanding of phenotypes of clinical disease in children with premature lung disease or upper airway disorders.  Both initiatives started with gathering expert scientists to participate in a workshop to discuss some of the scientific knowledge gaps and identifying priority areas for research.

In basic research I have helped develop our science in lung stem/progenitor cell biology and lung regeneration, monitoring progress of investigator initiated projects as well as developing a new initiative the “Lung repair and regeneration Consortium”.

What do you like best about your job? What makes working at the NHLBI worthwhile for you?
I am developing new programs that will inform better care of children. I enjoy the scientific and intellectual challenge of knowing what is currently being studied, published, and what new areas need development.

What is the career ladder for your job?
The career path goes from Program Officer to Branch Chief, then Deputy Division Director or Division Director. 

What do you enjoy doing beyond work?
I enjoy gardening, sewing, bike riding, and travel.

 

Jovonni R. Spinner, MPH, CHES

Jovonni Spinner

Public Health Analyst

What is your professional field?
My background is in Public Health. Currently, I am a Public Health Analyst in the Division for the Application of Research Discoveries.

Prior to NIH, where did you work?
I have worked in the healthcare and public health field for the past ten years. Immediately prior to coming to NIH, I worked at the National Vaccine Program Office as a Health Policy Fellow. In this position, I focused on vaccine supply and financing issues.

What initially attracted you to the NIH/NHLBI?
After working in policy for two years, I realized that I wanted to move back into a position where I could work with communities to make a change and to work on issues that are closer to my personal interests; mainly obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. In graduate school, my research interests were obesity and low income women and in previous jobs I mostly worked on program implementation and evaluation. I realized that I wanted a career that could morph these two passions where I could ultimately help underserved communities. So, as my fellowship was coming to an end, I searched for companies where I could use my public health skills and also work with communities on program development, implementation and evaluation.

After much research and talking with colleagues, it became apparent that NIH would be the ideal fit for me, personally and professionally. After many conversations several themes emerged about NIH that were attractive to me including the excellent work life balance (telework and flexible scheduling), growth potential, and of course all of the other benefits for working for the federal government.  

What is your typical workday?
Even though my core duties are centered around data analysis and evaluation, I love the fact that my job has a lot of variety allowing me to work on different types of projects. A typical day will usually include managing my projects through some variation of planning, leading or participating in meetings, researching articles, reviewing documents, and performing data analysis.  

What interesting projects have you worked on recently?
My biggest project right now is serving as the COTR to develop an evaluation plan for the We Can! and Community Health Worker (CHW) programs. The We Can! program focuses on ways to reduce childhood obesity by providing tools for parents, caregivers and communities to encourage children to eat healthy, increase physical activity and reduce screen time.  The CHW program aims to reduce cardiovascular health disparities in minority communities by using trained CHW’s to educate community members on the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and practical ways to fight heart disease. Both programs work closely with community partners to achieve their goals. Even though these are both national projects and have an expansive reach, they really touch home and aim to make changes at the individual and community levels. Since coming to NHLBI, I have also worked on projects related to Healthy People 2010, Healthy People 2020, asthma, and sickle cell disease.

What do you like best about your job? What makes working at the NHLBI worthwhile for you?
I enjoy working as a part of a team with other people that share the same passion of helping others and giving their all to make a difference. We are able to work together in an atmosphere where all voices are heard. We collaborate and work together towards a common goal, and most importantly the leadership is actively engaged and receptive to new ideas and projects. Nothing beats the personal satisfaction of knowing that the work I am doing is well received and will affect someone’s life in a positive way. For example, a community health worker called to ask questions about the evaluation portion of her project. At the end of the conversation she told me that she really appreciated my willingness to take the time to help her and that I explained the information in a way that was easy to understand. Affirmations like that make my job worthwhile!

There are also many opportunities to grow and learn professionally at NIH. As an employee, you have access to world renowned experts who routinely give lectures and presentations on campus. There are opportunities to collaborate with people from other Divisions within the federal government on various projects. Also, there are plenty of meetings and conferences related to your field which you can attend to stay abreast of emerging trends and topics.
Some of the perks to working on campus at NIH are the onsite credit union, a store to buy stamps and other odds and ends, and a place to ship packages (e.g. Fedex and UPS) and not to mention the Farmer’s market and other vendors that sell unique crafts and other gifts. Given that people spend most of their day away from home, these amenities make it easier to take care of routine errands.

What is the career ladder for your job?
With a background in public health, the career options are limitless. You can work in government, non-profit, for-profit or academia. The skills and knowledge gained can be easily transferred to different public health programs, applied at a managerial/supervisory level or independent consulting.

What do you enjoy doing beyond work?
Beyond work, I enjoy traveling wherever my passport will take me and baking all types of desserts. In particular, I like to bake cakes and pies. 

 

Scientific Planning Specialists:

Hilary S. Leeds, J.D. Hilary Leeds

Program Analyst (Science and Technology)

What is your professional field?
I received an undergraduate degree in biochemistry, after which I went to law school and studied bioethics and health law. I have fellowship training in bioethics, as well, so I consider my profession to be a mix of law and bioethics. 

Prior to NIH, where did you work? What initially attracted you to the NIH/NHLBI?
My first job after I completed my bioethics training was as a Research Associate in Public Health Law. I had always been interested in working at the NIH because of its mission and the opportunities to be involved in cutting-edge issues in research and policy. I found my position through USAJobs, and I was lucky that it ended up being in the NHLBI’s Office of Science and Technology (OST), which is a wonderful place to work.

What is your typical workday?
A typical workday for me involves participating in a variety of projects, from leading the planning of our annual Public Interest Organization meeting, to translating science for the public and preparing the Institute’s components of Congressionally mandated reports. I often have the privilege of working with colleagues from the NHLBI or across the NIH. I attend meetings, lectures, and occasionally conferences that help inform my projects. 

What interesting projects have you worked on recently?
I feel lucky that I regularly work on a number of interesting projects. These include helping our various programs and networks with agreements to distribute data and materials, working with staff from across the NIH on implementing the Genome-Wide Association Studies Policy, and helping with a workshop on Institutional Review Board issues.

What do you like best about your job? What makes working at the NHLBI worthwhile for you?
I like that each day is different and that I find intellectual satisfaction from my projects. The people I get to work with are helpful and knowledgeable, and I am always learning from them and their experiences. 

What is the career ladder for your job?
The experience and training I have received as a part of the OST team have given me the tools to pursue a number of career options in the future.

What do you enjoy doing beyond work?
When I am not at work, I dance, play the piano, do paper crafts, participate in the occasional community service project, and spend time with friends exploring the activities and events Washington, DC and the surrounding areas have to offer.

Last Updated: December 2011