November 14, 2003

Limbird praised for leadership in research

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Lee E. Limbird, Ph.D.

Limbird praised for leadership in research

Lee E. Limbird, Ph.D., is ready for a new challenge.

For the past five years, Limbird has nurtured the Medical Center’s research mission as the first associate vice chancellor for Research. She will relinquish that role at the close of the calendar year.

Limbird, professor and former chair of Pharmacology, also will begin winding down her laboratory on the fourth floor of the Robinson Research Building. It will close next July.

She will continue to serve on the faculty and guide the medical center’s fledgling research magazine, Lens, as a member of its editorial board. But Limbird says that after 25 years at Vanderbilt as a scientist, teacher and administrator, she’s ready to start a new chapter of her life.

“I want to express my gratitude to Vanderbilt for the pleasure of doing research and training students and postdoctoral fellows in critical thinking, taking risks and discovery, and for having the opportunity to lead the Department of Pharmacology and, later, the implementation of the 1997 Academic Strategic Plan,” she said. “I have been multiply blessed under the Vanderbilt tent.”

“When the medical center faculty, under the leadership of (Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Director) Hal Moses and Lee Limbird, developed our Academic Strategic Plan, it was clear to all that we would not succeed without a senior leader responsible for doing whatever is necessary to foster the success of our faculty, graduate students, fellows and research staff,” vice chancellor for Health Affairs Harry R. Jacobson said.

“I need to point out that her advice to me, her ability to identify excellence in research, her uncompromising high standards, and her devotion to the success of research across the entire university have been invaluable,” Jacobson said. “We simply would not be where we are today without her great work.”

“Lee is an untiring advocate for research,” said Dr. Mark A. Magnuson, professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and of Medicine and assistant vice chancellor for Research. “Through her leadership, virtually all of the goals described in the Academic Strategic Plan were achieved. As a result, Vanderbilt is a better place today to perform both clinical and basic science research than it was six or seven years ago.

“In a wonderful partnership with (Vice Chancellor) Harry Jacobson’s visionary leadership, Lee is a dynamo who has guided the rapid progress of the scientific enterprise at Vanderbilt towards the future,” added Heidi E. Hamm, Ph.D., Earl W. Sutherland Jr. Professor of Pharmacology and chair of the department. “Lee represents for me the high standards and uncompromising search for quality and discovery that we can all aspire to.”

Limbird earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina. She was a member of the departments of Medicine and Biochemistry at Duke University before joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 1979.

She is married to Dr. Thomas J. Limbird, associate professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt. They have two children, Eric and Jessica.

In 1985, Limbird was promoted to professor of Pharmacology, and chaired the department from 1991 to 1998. Under her guidance, the department grew in stature as a leader in research. It consistently ranks at or near the top of nationally recognized pharmacology departments in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, graduate training and citation impact of research publications.

Meanwhile, she continued her research, focusing on alpha(2)-adrenergic receptors, which are involved in diverse physiological effects. Limbird has served on editorial boards of several scientific journals, and as co-editor of Goodman and Gilman’s Pharmacological Basis for Therapeutics. She also has authored a textbook on cell surface receptors.

Limbird’s role as associate vice chancellor for Research evolved from a faculty-driven strategic planning process, culminating in a 1997 report that recommended investments in people and programs to enhance the academic enterprise. Upon being named to the position in 1998, Limbird assembled a team committed to facilitating research and research training and letting faculty-initiated independent and team research flourish, from bench to bedside.

Part of the plan involved reorganization of the Office of Research, an enhanced infrastructure that helped increase the amount of extramural research funding at the medical center from $94 million in 1998 to a current level of $254 million.

During this period:

— Drs. Magnuson and Alastair J.J. Wood were appointed assistant vice chancellors for Research to implement the goals of the plan and to enrich those goals “with their own extraordinary visions,” Limbird said.

— Core facilities were increased and enhanced for both laboratory and clinical research, and financial management of the cores was made less burdensome by a core budgeting tool developed by John Manning, Ph.D., M.B.A., executive director for Research Operations.

— The institutional review board program for human subjects research was expanded under the medical leadership of Dr. Gordon R. Bernard, professor of Medicine, and the organizational leadership of Robin Ginn, M.B.A., R.N., director of Research Informatics and Regulatory Affairs.

— Jeffrey R. Balser, M.D., Ph.D., who now serves as chair of Anesthesiology, was recruited from Johns Hopkins University as associate dean for Physician-Scientist Development. He launched the Vanderbilt Physician Scientist Development Program to foster the career development of junior faculty.

— Barbara O. Meyrick, Ph.D, director of program development in the Office of Research, has helped faculty compete for multi-investigator grant applications invited by the NIH. Meyrick and Magnuson also managed the Discovery Grant Program, the medical center’s $1 million investment in new ideas.

— Sandra L. Goldstein, recruited last year to lead the newly integrated office of Grants and Research Contracts, helped to launch COEUS, a campus-wide grants management information system that will allow investigators to spend less time with paperwork and more time in the lab.

Limbird has received many honors, including a young investigator award, a MERIT award and the Margaret Pittman Lectureship award from the NIH; the American Association of University Women’s Recognition Award for Young Scholars; and the John Jacob Abel Award from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

She has chaired the NIH Pharmacology Study Section and the boards of the National Advisory Committee of the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation and the Searle Scholars Program.