Praising her vision and leadership as a world-renowned surgical oncologist, cancer researcher, and educator, on May 15, 2023, the White House announced President Joe Biden’s nomination of Monica Bertagnolli, MD, as the next National Institutes of Health (NIH) director.

Add one more accolade: patient with cancer. After her December 2022 diagnosis with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer, Bertagnolli brings a patient’s perspective to NIH, the world’s preeminent biomedical research organization—as well as her experience participating in a clinical trial for treatment.

“It’s one thing to know about cancer as a physician but it is another to experience it firsthand as a patient as well,” Bertagnolli said in December when announcing her diagnosis and treatment plan. “To anyone with cancer today: I am truly in this together with you.”

Bertagnolli is only the second woman appointed to lead NIH following Bernadine Healy’s, MD, service from 1991–1993. Bertagnolli is also the first woman to serve as National Cancer Institute (NCI) director, a role she’s held since October 2022.

In her short tenure at NCI, Bertagnolli took long strides to transform the care of patients with cancer. “Bertagnolli has advanced my Cancer Moonshot to end cancer as we know it,” Biden said. “She has brought together partners and resources from different sectors to launch groundbreaking efforts in cancer prevention and early detection, a national navigation program for childhood cancers, and additional programs to bring clinical trials to more Americans.”

ONS Perspective

Bertagnolli is an innovative consensus leader who recognizes that coordinated, patient-centered care is essential to optimal outcomes, and she gives ONS and oncology nursing advocates a new ally to work with in her NIH role. This is an exciting time and historic nomination.