NIGMS Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Division Director Clif Poodry Retires


Clifton Poodry, Ph.D.Clifton “Clif” Poodry, Ph.D., director of the NIGMS Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, retired earlier this month. Although he’s left federal service, Clif is continuing to pursue his long-held interest in improving science education as a senior fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Throughout his nearly 20 years at NIGMS, Clif championed—and in many cases, led—activities to build the biomedical research workforce of the future. This included initiatives for training and mentoring students from groups that are underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral research and advising on NIH-wide programs, such as the newly announced Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity program.

Clif has long been committed to using scientific approaches to understand interventions that promote interest in and pursuit of research careers. He consistently encouraged staff and colleagues to read the scientific literature on training and workforce diversity in order to develop a better understanding of biomedical workforce issues and challenges so that we could create and/or modify programs accordingly.

Clif’s long and distinguished career includes time as a biology professor, department chair, associate vice-chancellor for student affairs, and NIGMS grantee at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In the early 1980s, he served a 2-year stint at the National Science Foundation, where he helped create a program that later became a model for the NIH diversity supplement program.

Clif is a great and natural mentor who has touched the lives of numerous students and colleagues across the country, as well as those of us here at NIGMS and NIH. Many of those he mentored have gone on to positions in academia, government and the private sector.

Clif has had a huge impact in many areas, including the education and training of students from underrepresented groups, and we look forward to building on his legacy.

23 Replies to “NIGMS Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Division Director Clif Poodry Retires”

  1. It has been a great privilege to be a part of the IRACDA family that Clif envisioned and launched. This is but one of his many innovative contributions to scientific research and training. Clif we will continue to work hard to honor your legacy and look forward to your participation in IRACDA 2014!

  2. I didn’t know Clif other than through the IRACDA program. But that was enough to see that Clif was an extraordinary person with deep insight into the needs of our profession and our country. His development of the IRACDA program earns him a high place in the history of science and diversity. The postdocs that have been in our program are succeeding and will make profound impacts on many future generations of scientists. Thank God for Clif! Larry Henschen

  3. Clif has a brilliant ability to seek and gather data from diverse sources, non-judgmentally listen, comprehend, appreciate, evaluate, synthesize, and then create new mechanisms and structures that shake things up, producing significant improvements in education, training, mentoring and research. He uses his great intellect compassionately, always for the betterment of people.
    Clif, it has been a privilege and a pleasure working, learning, and interacting with you; I wish you the very best of happiness and success in your new position.

  4. Clif,

    You vigorously championed diversifying the scientific workforce through being an admirable role model, an innovative educator and perhaps the toughest job – convincing Congress and others to provide the resources needed to make transformative change. I see the results of your tireless efforts in the enhanced training thousands of undergraduates receive, the PREP post-bacs who get that “second chance” to focus on their education, the differences in the labs and their later job sites the IMSD PhD students make and the exciting courses and teaching strategies developed by IRACDA post-docs. You have done more to enable the “change in the face” of who does biomedical research in the US than anyone I know. I’m sure you will keep pushing us to think more deeply and creatively to teach our students and each other how to meet the challenging demands of science.


  5. Clif Thanks for teaching us through your personal experience and example. You have worked tirelessly for decades to include underrepresented students in biomedical research training. You and your team made countless improvements in funding and programs for these students. We will miss you and your inspiration. Joyce

  6. Clif,

    Your vision and implementation of the IRACDA program leaves a legacy, an impact on higher education, that few other individuals can match.
    Thank you

  7. Clif was the first person I ever spoke with at NIGMS. His supportive mentoring and thoughtful guidance were the biggest reason I applied for funding there, and the powerfully positive personalities of the staff at TWD owe a great deal to his vision, dedication and perseverance. Even as he accepted more responsibilities, he made time to talk with our students and worked to show them the light. Many thanks, Clif, and best wishes for your newest challenge!

  8. Clif, you championed causes that were not part of the conversation originally. Your gentle guidance and steady hand allowed the development of programs that will continue to impact generations of students for many years to come. Your vision has resulted in a diversification of the scientific workforce at every level and the research arena now has many different faces because of your passion and commitment. We owe you so much! Thank you for all the wonderful years and for being a trailblazer. You will continue to shine brightly wherever you go. We will miss you.

  9. Clif, great job! It has been great to know you from the time you were the chair who hired me to my first faculty job, then as my first dean, and always as a departmental colleague, and finally as a champion at NIH. Hope I get a chance to work with you at HHMI!

  10. You are a true example of the positive difference one person can make. Thanks for all you have done at NIGMS and in advance for all you will do at HHMI!

  11. Thank you for your leadership and guidance. The programs you helped championed have helped many students. Your legacy will never end. HHMI has gained a great leader.

  12. It has been my honor and privilege to work with you, Clif, over the many years that I spent trying to increase representation of minorities and underserved groups in the field of biophysics. The Biophysics Summer Course that your program at NIGMS supported at UNC-CH has already sent nearly all its graduates on to graduate studies, mainly in research fields. That is nearly 60 students from disadvantaged school and backgrounds during the Course’s first 5 years. Multiply that by all the other programs and efforts you and NIGMS have supported, and it is an astounding testament to a career. Keep it up at HHMI!
    All the best wishes, barry

  13. Clif,

    Since early days in developmental biology at Santa Cruz you have positively impacted all who met you. As a role model, and someone who “walked the walk”, you went on to a position at NIH that could have featured you as its figurehead only. Instead, you worked behind the scenes, in the scenes, and out front to foster diversity and invent new ways to achieve it. I have never met a person you angered which is remarkable when you have moved diversity efforts forward so markedly. Although I am a fan of all the TWD programs, IRACDA is my favorite, for it offers the opportunity to launch those underrepresented in the life sciences into their careers. My ISIS Fellows feel like family, and since my own F2 are all 50% minorities, it is fitting that I am also paying it forward.
    Good luck in your next endeavor, and come see us when you can!

  14. Clif, Congratulations on a job well done. Your efforts have touched and changed many lives, including mine starting with the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. You’ve left an amazing legacy and enormous shoes for us to fill.

  15. Cliff,

    I wish you all the best. Your vision for the IRACDA program has opened so many doors for young minority scientists, including myself.


  16. Clif, thanks for everything. It’s been wonderful working with you at NIH and, looking at the numbers, I can see we aren’t done yet! I’ve always been grateful for the help you’ve given me and my students and people all over the country. You are a true National Treasure!!

  17. Clif, thank you for all these years of courageous and strategic leadership to advance the cause of diversity in the biomedical workforce. I hope you continue contributing to this important but unfinished task.

  18. Dear Clif, I know you through our participation in the program you designed and led. We have been proud to be a part of the entire IRACDA network and to have the opportunity to help our scholars to develop, to impact on students in our Bronx neighborhood and to partner with other Bronx academic institutions. This has been heady times for all of us, and a way to follow your vision and dreams at a time when support for science has been less robust. Best wishes in your continued influence on science education via Howard Hughes and in leaving behind a firm foundation for us IRACDA folks to continue to build an important program. Many, many thanks.

  19. I first met Clif when he spoke about mentoring at the University of Rochester. At the time, I was a graduate student and uncertain of what I wanted to do next. He immediately took me under his wing and helped guide me to my current postdoctoral position at the NIH. Without his support, NUMEROUS words of wisdom, leadership, and friendship, I definitely would not be where I am today. He continues to provide invaluable support and guidance. I am truly blessed to have met Clif and look forward to a long lasting friendship with him as we both move forward in our lives.

  20. Dear Clif,
    Thank you so much for your leadership at NIGMS. We have all benefited from the programs you developed and led – directors, mentors and trainees. It has been a pleasure over the years to hear your words of wisdom and see the tangible evidence of your strategic efforts to increase diversity in the biomedical sciences. Best wishes!

  21. Leadership matters; in Clif Poodry we enjoyed a leader that mattered. Clif has cared deeply about minority participation in research, and came to the NIGMS with the conviction that talent is broadly distributed among all groups, and that it is to the advantage of the scientific enterprise that the most talented and motivated from all groups contribute to the creation of new knowledge through research. Clif has been an advocate for the minority science community, both within the NIH and in the broader society, for greater access to opportunities for our meaningful participation in American science. At the same time he has challenged us in the community to be better, to push for excellence, to not become complacent. He is still has the “If it ain’t broke…break it!” mindset. Throughout all this he became a mentor and friend.

    Clif, much thanks for all you have done at NIGMS over two decades; much thanks in advance for all you will do at HHMI; and especially, thanks for your ongoing friendship.

    Carlos G. Gutiérrez
    Professor of Chemistry
    California State University, Los Angeles

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