The Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

National Institutes of Health

NIH taps retired U.S. Army physician to head troubled clinical center

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has tapped Major General James Gilman (retired), a longtime manager of military hospitals, to lead its troubled research hospital.

A cardiologist, Gilman “has the kind of experience that we believe will serve us extremely well,” said NIH Director Francis Collins today at a meeting of his NIH Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD). As the center’s first CEO, Gilman will oversee management including patient safety and regulatory compliance at the hospital on NIH’s main campus in Bethesda, Maryland, starting early in 2017. He will work with former Clinical Center Director John Gallin, who is moving to the position of chief scientific officer (CSO) at the center.

With more than 200 beds, the NIH Clinical Center is the world's largest hospital devoted to research. It specializes in studies of treatments for rare diseases and life-threatening disorders. But the discovery last year of fungal contamination in two vials of a drug produced in a facility at the center led to an investigation that found broader problems.

<p>Major General James Gilman is the new chief executive officer&nbsp;of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center.</p>

Major General James Gilman is the new chief executive officer of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center.

National Institutes of Health

Last spring, a working group of ACD delivered a scathing report that found patient safety had become “subservient to research demands.” The report recommended many reforms, including a new leadership structure like that at most hospitals with a CEO, chief operating officer, and chief medical officer. In May, NIH announced that Gallin’s leadership team would be replaced.

The shakeup sparked an uproar among Clinical Center and other clinical research leaders at NIH, however. They defended the center’s patient safety record and said the working group’s report had “demonized” its leadership and “demoralized” employees. NIH seemed to step back slightly in August when it announced that Gallin would remain at the center as CSO and would also fill a new position overseeing all clinical research across NIH. The position is one of several steps NIH has taken to strengthen fragmented oversight of staff from the various institutes that conduct studies at the clinical center.   

Before retiring in 2013, Gilman oversaw several Army hospitals, most recently the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in Fort Detrick, Maryland. He was executive director of Johns Hopkins Military & Veterans Health Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, until June.

Gilman said at the meeting that he had “actively sought this job” because caring for patients who have agreed to be research subjects at NIH is “about as close as I could ever get in my professional career again” to caring for service members and their families. He is “gradually adapting to try to understand NIH culture and NIH-speak,” he added. NIH has been holding focus groups with staff on how to improve operations and shore up morale.