Margaret “Kenny” Offermann, M’80, PhD’81, honed some serious time-management skills during her years on the MCV Campus. That’s served her well in a career as medical oncologist, biomedical researcher and advocate for health and science policy—jobs which she sometimes holds simultaneously.
Margaret “Kenny” Offermann, M’80, PhD’81
photo by Lawrence Green
Interests in medicine, science and policy – and the ability to juggle them all – laid the foundation for her term as president of FASEB that ended this past summer. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology is the nation’s largest coalition of biomedical researchers. As its leader, her priorities included educating legislators about the importance of funding and drawing their attention to tough issues – in terms they can appreciate.
“It’s not just advocating for increased dollars,” Offermann says. “It’s looking at our existing system and saying, ‘how can we make the system better so there is a bright future for science in America?’”
Offermann learned early how to balance her many passions, from ballet to basketball to biology.
A native Richmonder, Offermann was familiar with the MCV Campus. She worked with Gaylen Bradley, Ph.D., former chair of microbiology and immunology and dean of basic health sciences, on an undergraduate fellowship. She wasn’t willing to give up the goal of a career in medicine, but that experience, combined with her respect for biochemistry professor Judith Bond, Ph.D., (who later became FASEB’s president) had sealed her interest in research, too.
“I had started thinking of myself as a scientist,” says Offermann. So she added what she describes as a “stealth” Ph.D. to her medical school work. Since the university did not have a formal M.D.-Ph.D. program, she created her own path, keeping the secret from medical school administrators until fourth year. Juggling classes, writing a dissertation and playing intramural sports required discipline. “Paranoia can be a great motivator,” she laughs.
After graduation, Offermann continued to blend research and practice, eventually landing at Emory University’s School of Medicine, where she spent 17 years building a tumor biology program and later serving as associate director of Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.
“There are so many opportunities and so much need for combining science and medicine,” she says. “Most physicians focus on delivery of care, and most researchers focus on one area. It takes a physician-scientist to know unmet clinical needs and to have the tools to be able to address those and move the bar.”
MARGARET “KENNY” OFFERMANN
FASEB, Immediate Past President
Salutramed Group, Inc., Managing PartnerPREVIOUS POSTS:
Emory University School of Medicine, Professor of Hematology and Oncology, Co-Director of MD-PhD training program, Associate Director of postgraduate training program, Associate Director of Winship Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society, Deputy National Vice President for Research
BA, Mount Holyoke College
M.D., Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University
Internship/ residency in internal medicine at University of Chicago Hospitals; training in medical oncology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School
• Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
• The nation’s largest coalition of biomedical researchers, comprised of more than 120,000 researchers worldwide from 26 scientific societies
• Founded in 1910 and located in Bethesda, Md., one mile from NIH
Several years ago, Offermann left academia for the health and science policy arena. At the American Cancer Society, she honed a natural talent for putting complicated ideas in layman’s terms, an important skill when she advocated for funding in a tough Washington environment.
With one daughter in medical school and another planning to attend veterinary school, the need for reform has hit home. “It seems tremendously wasteful and also very dangerous for the future by disincentivizing the best and the brightest. Many have said we’re likely to be sacrificing a generation of scientists because of funding policies.”
Offermann’s experience and insight made her uniquely qualified to lead FASEB in today’s challenging environment, says Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D., the organization’s deputy executive director for policy. “She brings a wonderfully diverse perspective on how and where science improves peoples’ lives.”
Offermann was a visible presence in Washington, advocating for reforms including a more stable, sustainable funding environment, decreased regulatory burden and re-structuring training to fit workplace needs. “Much of the training now doesn’t give students opportunities to customize their research for jobs they might want to pursue,” she explains. “They’ve been the workforce in the lab, doing technical and demanding and important work, but it doesn’t necessarily fit their career goals.”
Offermann remains involved in FASEB as its immediate past president. “She has been a great, enthusiastic spokesperson for FASEB,” says Bond, Offermann’s former mentor who went on to her own term as FASEB president. “Kenny has great breadth from her training and experience in academia, science funding agencies, and entrepreneurial enterprises. It gives her a unique perspective to represent biomedical scientists and engineers in our country.”
Now she has more time to devote to her job as managing partner at the Salutramed Group Inc., an Atlanta-based consulting firm. And because one job is never enough, she and husband Russell Medford, M.D., Ph.D., own Artetude, an art gallery in Asheville, N.C.
By Lisa Crutchfield