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Ushering in 2021

Director’s Page
Helene M. Langevin, M.D.

January 29, 2021

With all the challenges 2020 brought, our recent Advisory Council meeting offered a thoughtful beginning to the new year, with robust discussion on a range of important issues.

During the open session of Council, I usually highlight several interesting studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). This month, I was pleased to share two recent articles on pain, one published in the journal NeuroImage that explored functional brain connectivity in patients with fibromyalgia, and another published in the Clinical Journal of Pain on the relationship between chronic pain and cognitive impairment. These publications and other NCCIH-funded research results on pain may contribute to managing the epidemic of chronic pain—an effort that will continue under the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-wide Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM (HEAL) Initiative.

Of course, high-quality research depends on a highly skilled, well-prepared workforce who have knowledge and expertise in both state-of-the-art research methods and complementary health. At the Council meeting, Lanay M. Mudd, Ph.D., program director in the NCCIH Division of Extramural Research, shared an update on our activities to increase the number and diversity of researchers who are equipped to build the evidence base around complementary and integrative health approaches. Dr. Mudd noted the importance of 1) offering funding opportunities designed to enhance diversity of the biomedical workforce and 2) the need to promote these opportunities and highlight success stories to potential applicants and diverse communities.

During our meeting, we were also privileged to hear from Bruce J. Tromberg, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Dr. Tromberg spoke about NIBIB’s impressive $500 million Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADxSM) Tech innovation initiative to increase SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity and performance. He cited the importance of public-private partnerships in expanding the availability of well-performing testing technology to serve public health needs in combatting COVID-19. As participants in RADx-UP, a component of the RADx initiative that focuses on underserved populations, NCCIH has a role in funding research “to understand the factors associated with disparities in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality and lay the foundation to reduce disparities for those underserved and vulnerable populations who are disproportionately affected by…the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As we prepare to publish our draft 20212025 Strategic Plan, solicit additional public comments, and finalize the plan this spring, we’re excited about our work and continued contributions to public health. We know our new strategic plan will be enriched by discussions with our Council members and other stakeholders, and we look forward to seeing your comments on how NCCIH research can best address the health of the country over the next 5 years!

Helene M. Langevin, M.D.
Helene M. Langevin, M.D.