In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation to establish the NICHD, noting that "For the first time, we will have an institute to promote studies directed at the entire life process rather than toward specific diseases or illnesses."
Since then, the Institute has nurtured and encouraged the world's best minds in investigating human development—from preconception through adulthood—in pursuit of the NICHD's ultimate goal: improving health and well-being.
As we look back over the last five decades, we recognize the research challenges that gave way to research advances. We highlight not only the big steps forward, but also the small steps that made those advances possible. We note the many important parts of our broad mission: from developmental biology, maternal and child health and development, and intellectual and developmental disabilities; to reproductive health, population and behavioral studies, and medical rehabilitation; to enhancing the scientific enterprise and training future generations of scientists. We exemplify the best aspects of collaboration, working to ensure that all of these parts truly contribute to the greater whole.
At the core of the whole, however, are the children, adults, families, and communities for whom we endeavor. We seek to expand knowledge of pregnancy mechanisms and outcomes, prevention and treatment of disease and disability, and the many factors that positively and negatively affect development—not for ourselves or even for our science alone—but to translate this knowledge into the practices and tools that improve the quality of life of individuals, families, and populations.
In marking the Institute's 50th anniversary, we also acknowledge the efforts, commitment, and talents of the many people who comprise the NICHD family—those at all levels of the NICHD and the NIH—researchers, health care providers, advocates, policymakers, leaders in the global health community, and patients, caregivers, children, adults, and families throughout the world.
Turning 50 affords us the opportunity not only to reminisce but also to re-invent. It is within this dual context that we present this Snapshots in NICHD Science—a collection of moments in our scientific history, with a nod to the past and a hopeful and ambitious eye to the future.
Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D.