Dr. Bernadine Healy goes in the catalog of Great Leaders. Dr. Healy changed the face of Medicine. A physician, educator, and health administrator she was the first woman to head the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Known for her outspoken, innovative policymaking, Dr. Healy championed for studies that overturned false assumptions about women’s health. Before her tenure at the NIH, clinical studies focused mostly on men’s health and often excluded women from clinical trials — not any more.
When President at the Red Cross Dr. Healy displayed on her mantle a quote from Clara Barton: “It irritates me to be told how things have always been done….I defy the tyranny of precedent.”
When head of the NIH, she had a wooden sign on her desk: “Strong Verbs, Short Sentences”
I recommend listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History Podcast, which delves into Dr. Bernadine Healy’s unfaltering pursuit of openness and fairness in the science community. In Gladwell’s podcast, Dr. Bernadine Healy confronts bullies in Bernie mode. As she proudly displayed on her desk all those years, with strong verbs, short sentences, Dr. Bernadine Healy demonstrates how you — Defy tyranny.
Perhaps her real call to action is to defy the tyranny of precedent. But, I thought, why limit it to “precedent”? When any tyranny is defied, we can have back justice, balance, peace.
Last week we witnessed the bullying behavior of the Senators that support Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination — and even Brett’s Kavanaugh’s own derisive rant. During her tenure at the NIH, Dr. Bernadine Healy stood up to the Senate committee bullies and restored justice for many abused scientists.
I am inspired by Dr. Bernadine Healy to protect and reclaim the value and ethics that we all deserve. Defy tyranny — in Bernie mode.
More reading/and listening:
- Malcolm Gladwell’s Podcast Revisionist History Season 3 Episode 9: Strong Verbs, Short Sentences
- Bernadine Healy Papers (1958-2010)
- Huffington Port, Dr. Susan Blumenthal, former Assistant Surgeon General: Bernadine Healy, MD: Remembering a Pioneering Health Hero