Clinical Center News
Fall 2018

NHGRI Scientific Director named 2018 Federal Employee of the Year

Dr. Daniel Kastner examining a patient at the NIH Clinical Center
Dr. Daniel Kastner examines a patient at the NIH Clinical Center. The patient, Sarkis, stated, "As the years went on our check-ups would be filled with exciting updates on how his research was going. He always was filled with anticipation about his team's progress and the possibility of discovery. When his research resulted in success then his passion turned toward the discovery of [new treatments] for familial Mediterranean fever."

Young girl sitting, pets a Guinea pig on a table
Hallie Luton, a pediatric patient of Dr. Daniel Kastner's enjoys time with a therapy Guinea pig.

Dr. Daniel Kastner of the National Human Genome Research Institute was named 2018 Federal Employee of the Year as a part of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies). The Sammies are presented to the best in federal service for their significant contributions to the country and the world. It's considered one of the most prestigious honors a civilian can earn and is given by the non-profit Partnership for Public Service.

Kastner, who began his career at NIH as a Rheumatology fellow in 1985, was honored for the identification of a new class of rare genetic diseases and treatments to alleviate suffering for thousands of patients in the U.S. and around the world. He serves as the Scientific Director of NHGRI and cares for patients with both known and undiagnosed disorders of inflammation at the Clinical Center.

When asked how it feels to have received this award, Kastner said, "although it is extremely gratifying to be recognized in this way, this award is really a testimony to the accomplishments of those around me: to my clinical team for their astute observations and the compassionate care they give to our patients, to my colleagues in the lab for their dedication and creativity, to our administrative staff for everything that they do to facilitate translational research, and to my family for their steadfast support over many years."

"It's also a tribute to the Human Genome Project for creating the genetic tools that made our work possible, to the Clinical Center for fostering a supportive environment for the in-depth study of medical mysteries, and to the NIH Intramural Research Program for promoting the kind of long-term, high-risk, high-reward projects that I was able to undertake," he added.

One of Kastner's patients, Sarkis, says thesre is no one I know more deserving of this honor.

"Dr. Kastner not only changed my life, he and his research team have improved the lives of an entire segment of people suffering from auto inflammatory disease." Sarkis said. "When you grow up with a genetic or inherited illness you honestly don't know what it feels like to be truly healthy because you have no source of reference. Because of Dr. Kastner and his research team plus the I know what it feels like to be truly healthy."

Evan Luton, mother of pediatric patient Hallie Luton, also shared her appreciation and support when she heard he received the award.

"When we brought [our daughter] to the NIH, it was a last resort for us," Luton said. "We had already sought out so many experts in an effort to find out what was wrong with our little girl. When we showed up at the NIH in 2011 we started to feel hopeful. They ended up discovering a new rare disease and my daughter was the second patient to come through the NIH with this disease. They cared for us so well. I will be forever grateful to them all. His dedication and service forever changed our lives for the better."

While nearly 30 federal employees were honored, nine received a Sammies award. NIH employees have a long track record of earning the prestigious title of Federal Employee of the Year (2007, 2012, 2013, 2015). View past NIH recipients of a Sammies Award.

"It is very humbling to receive this award, knowing the incredible things that the other 2018 Sammies finalists have done," Kastner added. "Seeing the great work of others, this program makes one very proud to have the privilege of being a US Government employee."

Reminiscing, Kastner said that joining the NIH Intramural Program "has been one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life."

"The NIH Clinical Center is a magical place where patients, health care providers, and basic scientists come together to do the unimaginable."

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Dr. Daniel Kastner examining a patient at the NIH Clinical Center
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