Message from the Director

NCBDDD Message from the Director, Dr. Coleen Boyle

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The Children’s Health Act of 2000, signed into law by President Clinton, was aimed at improving research and programs related to multiple aspects of children’s health. One of the provisions of the law required CDC to establish the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD). Since then, we have been working to save babies, help children, protect people, and improve the health of those most vulnerable.

Today, I am delighted to share with you an important milestone in the Center’s history—celebrating 20 years since this now historic Act! Not only is 20 years a critical milestone for the Center, it is also a chance to reflect on the Center’s accomplishments, with an eye toward charting the path forward.

In my first years at CDC, 35 years ago, my work focused on Agent Orange and its possible birth defects and other poor infant health outcomes. I have a special place in my heart for those who serve our country and are exposed to things that have potential and negative health consequences for themselves and their children. This is as important today as it was all those years ago.

Excited, humbled, and honored is the way I felt when, later in my career, in 2011, I was selected to serve as Director of this critically important Center. I have had the privilege of leading brilliant staff whose work focuses on preventing birth defects and developmental disabilities and helping people living with blood disorders and disabilities live the healthiest life possible.

I can only imagine that NCBDDD’s founding Director, Dr. Jose Cordero, was both excited and a bit humbled by the enormous task that lay before him—leading the newly established Center charged with creating pioneering programs to serve vulnerable populations. It would eventually become the comprehensive and successful Center we all know today.

If we stop for a moment to take a collective look back at just how far NCBDDD has come over the past 20 years, it is incredible. However, standing still and resting on our accomplishments is simply not possible, as NCBDDD must grow and change to address new issues that continue to emerge.

Today, our efforts continue to protect millions of our nation’s most vulnerable, as demonstrated by the accomplishments highlighted in this year’s Annual Report. Each year, new programs and opportunities to serve others are introduced that are collaborative and creative and just simply were not on the horizon back in 2000. I have been with NCBDDD since its inception, and the commitment to quality and innovative science and program demonstrated by NCBDDD staff has not waivered—I’m thankful to have been a part of it!  As I approach my retirement, I am so very proud to be concluding my career with CDC during this momentous time as we embark on the next 20 years.

Thank you to all of you who have touched NCBDDD over the last two decades­ . As we look forward to the future of this great Center, I know that success is inevitable because of the combined strength of the wonderful people who comprise our staff and partners. And as we celebrate this important milestone together, ­ I am eager to see what is in store for NCBDDD in the new decade.


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Coleen Boyle, PhD, MS (hyg)