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Dr. John Ohab to lead NHGRI communications

John OhabFollowing a nationwide search, John Ohab, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and science communicator, has been named chief of the Communications and Public Liaison Branch (CPLB) at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In this role, he will oversee diverse communications activities about the institute's accomplishments, programs, goals and policies. CPLB is part of the Division of Policy, Communications, and Education (DPCE), whose mission is to promote the understanding and application of genomic knowledge to advance human health and society.

"Dr. Ohab brings to this important position wide-ranging work experience, a hard science background and the tremendous energy needed to tell the evolving story of genomics in the 21st century," said DPCE Director Laura Lyman Rodriguez, Ph.D. "The position is one of great importance and responsibility." The communications branch provides a wide range of services to both internal and external audiences, including press releases and features, the website (, an extensive video library, live web-casting of meetings and events, photography, graphic design and printing. Audiences include researchers, healthcare providers, policy makers, the public and the news media.

"The National Human Genome Research Institute is known for an audacious, bold and forward-thinking culture, in part because of its leadership role in the Human Genome Project," said Dr. Ohab. "My goal is to take those foundational elements and channel them into all our communications efforts as we move steadily into the genomics age."

Prior to joining NHGRI, Dr. Ohab led communications and social media at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C., the in-house research and development arm of the Navy and the Marine Corps. At NRL, Dr. Ohab led the redesign of NRL's intranet, providing the first secure web environment for internal communication and collaboration among NRL scientists and co-produced a science-focused TV show in partnership with the Pentagon Channel and Army Research Laboratory.

Prior to joining NRL, Dr. Ohab served as a new technology analyst at the Department of Defense (DoD), where he created its award-winning science and technology blog, Armed with Science, and provided technical reports on a variety of topics, such as DoD's use of live video streaming, email subscription tools and open source blogging platforms.

"This was when people were just beginning to talk about Twitter and Facebook," Dr. Ohab said. "The DoD was concerned because service members were beginning to blog and use social media from military installations across the world and that created a security risk. Others at the DOD were talking about how social media could be useful. So, I worked as a liaison between the Chief Information Officer and the Defense Media Activity. It was the perfect balance between understanding the risks and the opportunities of the new technology."

During his doctoral training in neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Dr. Ohab authored or contributed to several articles exploring the biological underpinnings of recovery after stroke, and he received two NIH training grants.

However, he learned early on in his career that he was much more passionate about communicating findings and engaging with people than about conducting the actual experiments, Dr. Ohab said.  Realizing this, he began the process of repositioning himself towards a career in science communications even before graduation from UCLA in 2007. He joined the graduate school council to learn about governing and took a business of science course. Exploring new fields and new opportunities, all while including diverse perspectives on the science and the implications of the science for various audiences, are characteristics of his career.

"Dr. Ohab's ability to elicit and incorporate differing viewpoints will be a major asset in speaking to our many different stakeholders at this pivotal time in genomic research," said Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., director of NHGRI.  "Genomic science and the increasing application of genomic tools within medicine will continue to demand strong communication and information dissemination across the research and clinical communities, and with the general public.  John has the skills, experience, and vision to meet the many needs of our audiences in innovative and exciting ways."

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Posted: October 16, 2015