Bernadine Healy, 1944-2011

I’m rather shocked to hear tonight that Bernadine Healy, M.D., has died of a brain tumor.

Dr. Healy, who turned 67 on Thursday, was the first woman to head the National Institutes of Health (1991-93). She also served as president of the American Red Cross, was  dean of the Ohio State University College of Medicine and was health editor of US News and World Report. Dr. Healy, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist, was deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Policy under President Ronald Reagan. She was married to former Cleveland Clinic CEO Floyd Loop, M.D.

I met Dr. Healy once, after she spoke at the Medical Group Management Association‘s annual conference in 2003. For someone as busy as she was, she couldn’t have been more gracious. I lost my job just a couple of months not long after that conference, and was fishing around for freelance opportunities, so I called US News offices in Washington and left her a message. Wouldn’t you know, Dr. Healy called me back. She was more about setting the editorial direction of health stories in the magazine than day-to-day story decisions, but she did direct me to the proper editor there. Alas, my pitches ultimately were rejected, but thanks to Dr. Healy, I was able to open a dialogue with the person responsible for assigning freelance stories.

This news today came as a surprise, because I had no idea Dr. Healy had been sick. Rest in peace.