Hannah Valantine recently returned to Stanford as Professor of Medicine having served for six years as the inaugural Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity at the National Institutes of Health and a Senior Investigator in the Intramural Research Program at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Prior to starting this position in April 2014, Dr. Valantine was Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Leadership at Stanford, a leadership position she held since November 2004. She is nationally recognized for her transformative approaches to diversity and is a recipient of the NIH Director’s Pathfinder Award for Diversity in the Scientific Workforce. Citing NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins’ statement about Dr. Valantine’s accomplishments at NIH, “her laser-like focus on expanding recruitment and retention of the brightest minds regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and socioeconomic status has produced remarkable results over a few short years.” For example, she established the Distinguished Scholars Program, which has had a dramatic, positive impact on the diversity of tenure-track investigators at NIH. Hannah established the NIH Equity Committee to systematically track and evaluate diversity and inclusion metrics in each NIH Institute and Center’s intramural program. Under her leadership, there has been a significant increase in representation of women as tenure-track and tenured principal investigators and of African American/Black and Hispanic tenure-track PIs in the Intramural Program. There also has been a significant increase in representation of women in NIH leadership positions, such as Institute/Center directors and Scientific Directors. She played a major role in taking on workplace harassment at NIH. One of her significant achievements was developing and implementing the first NIH Workplace Climate and Harassment Survey. The findings provided critical data that have informed the NIH’s strategies to improve the workplace moving forward. The survey provides a tool (now published) for NIH-funded institutions across the country to assess and improve their workplace climates.
The impact of Dr. Valantine’s work has been felt well beyond the NIH campus. She has made several important inroads into improving diversity and equity among the extramural research community. For example, Hannah designed the Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program that is being implemented by the NIH Common Fund to create cultures of inclusive excellence at NIH-funded institutions. She also guided the National Research Mentoring Network program on coaching and mentoring for grant writing toward successful applications and awards supporting scientists from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Since her arrival at NIH, there has been a significant increase in the number of R01 applications and awards that identify African American/Black and Hispanic scientists as the Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI). And for early career scientists, she has focused on career development awards (K-series), the penultimate stage before R01 grants, increasing the number of applications and awards on which African American/Black and Hispanic scientists are identified as PD/PIs, essentially eliminating the racial gap in success rates for K-awards.
Dr. Valantine is a national and international leader in the field of heart transplantation with over 30-years of NIH-funded research resulting in pivotal changes in patient care, over 170 peer-reviewed articles, licensed patents, and presentations at major scientific meetings. Her landmark research findings include Doppler echocardiographic measures of diastolic function as markers of acute rejection; defining a causal role for cytomegalovirus in cardiac allograft vasculopathy; demonstrating the utility of intravascular ultrasound for early diagnosis of cardiac allograft vasculopathy; leading the first ever randomized controlled trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010, that demonstrated gene expression profiling is a safe and effective blood test to monitor heart transplant rejection while reducing the need for invasive heart biopsies. Probably her most pivotal research done in collaboration with Steve Quake, professor of bioengineering, was the application of next-generation sequencing technologies to detect donor derived cell-free DNA (dd-cfDNA) in plasma, publishing the first ever article on it in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011. This has provided a highly sensitive and specific biomarker of acute rejection across most solid organ transplants and spurned a whole new field of research. Dr. Valantine transferred the dd-cfDNA technology to NIH where she established a highly productive research program within the NHLBI. She created the Genomic Research Alliance for Transplantation, a consortium of five heart and lung transplant programs in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, which has enrolled and is actively following more than 500 patients, 40% of whom are African American/Black. Research on this larger multicenter cohort has validated the use of dd-cfDNA to monitor organ transplant rejection and predict long term outcomes. Dr. Valantine’s current research is applying this technology to understand the mechanisms that explain how and why African Americans/Black patients reject their organ transplants at higher rates than White patients.
Dr. Valantine has been elected to a number of honorific scientific societies including the Association of American Physicians in 2018, and the National Academy of Medicine in 2020, “for her national leadership in both scientific workforce diversity and cardiac transplantation research. Her data-driven approach in these two important areas has led to game-changing policies and new programs that enriched the nation’s biomedical talent pool and have generated paradigm-shifting innovations in patient care.”