The National Institutes of Health honored a Center for Cancer Research veterinarian for his contributions as a mentor.
Dr. R. Mark Simpson is a senior scientist for the Center for Cancer Research within the National Cancer Institute and founding director of the NIH Comparative Biomedical Scientist Training Program. He received the 2021 Ruth L. Kirschstein Mentoring Award for his leadership, skill, and ability in serving as a mentor during 2020. Under his leadership, the training program increased collaboration between veterinary academia and the NIH to provide training in comparative biomedical science and cross-train veterinarian clinician-scientists in human disease research.
The award nomination—a copy of which was provided by the NCI—describes Dr. Simpson as an outstanding mentor whose dedication, drive, compassion, and commitment help the scientists he mentors learn through individualized curriculum and realize their potential.
“He is a consummate role model for trainees, guiding their clinical and investigative skill development,” it states.
Dr. Kevin Woolard, associate professor of pathology, microbiology, and immunology at the University of California-Davis, said in the nomination that Dr. Simpson is exceptional in his ability to identify the talents that will advance a scientist’s career and their progress in comparative biology.
“It is only through his mentorship that his program continues to thrive and provide the NIH with unique and powerful trainees, many of who now populate prestigious universities as research pathologists,” he wrote. “I always tell everyone I meet that I have never had a better advocate or mentor than Mark Simpson.”
Dr. L. Tiffany Lyle, assistant professor of veterinary anatomic pathology at Purdue University, said Dr. Simpson encouraged her to push past expectations of what she could achieve.
“An amazing characteristic about Mark is that his passion is truly in facilitating the success of his mentees throughout their careers,” she wrote.
Dr. Simpson provided a statement from then–NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, who left the NIH in December, that Dr. Simpson “helps his protegees realize their potential through his dedication to their success, and his mentoring, meticulous research training, and authenticity help give trainees the support to achieve more than they thought possible.”
The award’s namesake, Ruth L. Kirschstein, MD, was a polio vaccine researcher, champion of research training and inclusion for underrepresented groups in the scientific workforce, and administrative leader during her half-century career at the NIH, agency information states. The NIH National Research Service Award Program is also named for Dr. Kirschstein.