In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed the legislation that established NICHD. In his accompanying speech, he articulated our institute’s purpose and potential:
“We will look to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for a concentrated attack on the unsolved health problems of children and of mother-infant relationships. This legislation will encourage imaginative research into the complex processes of human development from conception to old age. It should permit major advances in the conquest of those chronic conditions such as mental retardation and other congenital defects which derive from aberrations in early development. . . . Research in recent years has established beyond question that adult behavior, intelligence, and motivation are established by the experience and patterns of responses developed in the formative years of life.”
When I joined NICHD, that quotation was on a plaque on the wall in my office. I keep it there, where it reminds me every day of our mandate, and also of how far we’ve come, with our scientific advances now too numerous to count. Since NICHD’s founding, we have branched into many other avenues of discovery—in women’s health, reproduction, infectious diseases, targeted pharmacology, social sciences, and rehabilitation, to name a few—but our commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of children, families, and communities remains constant.
Now in our 51st year, we take pride in the many accomplishments from our past and look forward to even more opportunities in our future. We look forward to working with you and our many other partners as we embark on our next fifty years of discovery and of answering President Kennedy’s call to us to solve health problems.
Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D.