William Gahl honored with prestigious Service to America Medal

By Raymond MacDougall
Associate Communications Director for Intramural Research

 

William Gahl comments after accepting the Service to America Award while DuPont's Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Thomas Connelly, Jr. (left), Sally Massagee (center) and U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen look on. Photo by Sam Kittner Photography.
William Gahl comments after accepting the Service to America Award while DuPont's Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Thomas Connelly, Jr. (left), Sally Massagee (center) and U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen look on. Photo by Sam Kittner Photography
In May 2011, the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service chose 34 unsung heroes in federal service as finalists for the 10th annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal. The Partnership had reviewed the accomplishments of more than 400 nominees whose contributions have had a profound impact on the health, safety and well-being of Americans.

Now, more than four months after announcing the top 34 nominees, the Partnership has selected nine medal winners. William A. Gahl, M.D., Ph.D., the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) clinical director and director of the renowned NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP), is among this esteemed group.

"I am delighted that the Partnership for Public Service has bestowed the Science and Environmental Medal to Bill Gahl for his work with the Undiagnosed Diseases Program and for his 30-year career at NIH," said NHGRI Director Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D. "He is a model physician-scientist who tirelessly pursues understanding the genetic basis of rare diseases and developing new therapies for his patients. He ably leads the internationally recognized NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program that seeks to establish the cause of diseases that have eluded diagnosis. He is certainly worthy of a national award of this caliber."

Dr. Gahl joined eight other recipients of the awards - also called Sammies - at a Washington, D.C., gala on Sept. 15, 2011. Also attending the award presentation was Sally Massagee, a UDP patient and a resident of North Carolina. Her amyloidosis - a rare condition that causes build up of immunoglobulin proteins in some blood vessels - was diagnosed in 2009, leading to a treatment that has restored her health.

 

William Gahl (second from left) accepts the Service to America Award following presenter remarks by (from left) DuPont's Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Thomas Connelly, Jr., Sally Massagee and U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen. Photo by Sam Kittner Photography.
William Gahl (second from left) accepts the Service to America Award following presenter remarks by (from left) DuPont's Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Thomas Connelly, Jr., Sally Massagee and U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen. Photo by Sam Kittner Photography.
"Dr. Gahl created the UDP and it literally saved my life," said Ms. Massagee. "Thirteen different specialists said to me, 'Something is wrong, it is not my field, goodbye.' I can't convey to you the loss, the grief, the fear, the pain, and the heartbreak that I felt as my body failed more and more quickly. The UDP gave me hope; the UDP gave me my life."

Other NIH awardees included C. Norman Coleman, associate director of the Radiation Research Program at the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Coleman, recipient of the Partnership's Homeland Security Medal, is a radiation oncologist who developed a comprehensive blueprint to prepare U.S. government and emergency responders for terrorist attacks involving radiological or nuclear materials. Earlier this year, he assisted in Japan's response to radiation resulting from the earthquake- and tsunami-damaged nuclear power plants.

In addition to NIH, similarly honored agencies included the Veterans Health Administration, Social Security Administration, Department of Justice, U.S. Geological Survey, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of the Treasury.

"The recipients of the Service to America Medals showcase the good that government does, which positively affects our lives every day," said Max Stier, Partnership for Public Service president and CEO. "By honoring these outstanding public servants, we give America's federal heroes the long overdue thanks and recognition they deserve."

About William A. Gahl, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Gahl received a B.S. in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D. in oncology at the University of Wisconsin McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research. He trained for four years as a pediatric resident at University of Wisconsin hospitals, serving as chief resident to complete his pediatric training. He was appointed clinical director for NHGRI in 2002 and became the founding director of the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program in 2008.

For more about the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program, go to The NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program.

For more about Dr. Gahl's work and Sammie Award go to: 2011 Science and Environment Medal Recipient William A. Gahl

About the Partnership for Public Service and the Sammie Awards

Through an array of programs, the Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Public Service seeks to inspire a new generation to serve and transform the way government works. The Service to America Medals ("Sammies") honors federal workers who have been nominated by colleagues familiar with their work and are selected by a committee that includes nearly 20 leaders in government, academia, the private sector, media and philanthropy.

For more about the Sammie Awards, go to Service to America Medals.

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Last Reviewed: May 9, 2012