Peer review veteran David Sahn awarded NIH Center for Scientific Review's top honor

November 03, 2008

The NIH Center for Scientific Review today awarded its top honor for extraordinary commitment to peer review to veteran reviewer Dr. David J. Sahn, a renowned expert in pediatrics, cardiology and radiology at Oregon Health & Science University.

The Marcy Speer Outstanding Reviewer Award highlights the vital contributions of the 16,000 CSR reviewers who evaluate NIH grant applications. Each year, these reviewers volunteer about 150,000 days to assess the scientific merit of approximately 56,000 applications. Their scientific evaluations help NIH invest more than $20 billion yearly in the most promising research grants paving the path to biomedical breakthroughs that improve public health and save lives.

"Dr. David Sahn's enduring commitment and willingness to give much more with little notice are astounding," said CSR Director Toni Scarpa. "He personifies all that's great about our reviewers, who make countless sacrifices to advance science and health here and around the world."

The professor of pediatrics, diagnostic radiology and bioengineering currently directs the interdisciplinary cardiac imaging program at Oregon Health & Science University. His extensive peer review service includes two four-year terms on review panels for applications related to diagnostic radiology and medical imaging between 1985 and 1989, and 2000 to 2004.

Since 1994, Dr. Sahn served on special and regular review panels 34 times as a chairman or a temporary reviewer. "He added critical clinical experience vital to sound peer review," said Dr. Scarpa, "and he did so under challenging conditions, filling in for reviewers who unexpectedly couldn't attend their scheduled meetings."

One such incident, detailed in Dr. Sahn's nomination, drew the attention of the award committee. Dr. Sahn was asked on two days' notice to fill in as chairman of a special review panel for a reviewer who had a family emergency. Not only did Dr. Sahn attend the meeting and serve as chairman, he had read all the applications to be discussed and provided a vital clinical perspective essential for review. One member of the award committee lauded Dr. Sahn as having "saved the day for CSR."

The Marcy Speer Award recognizes scientists who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to CSR peer review groups making it possible for NIH to fund the best applications, and, ultimately, improve public health. The award's namesake exemplified this commitment by continuing to review grants during her treatment for breast cancer, and extending her term as a regular member of one of CSR's genetics review panels to make up for meetings she missed during chemotherapy. She died Aug. 4, 2007.
The next nomination deadline is April 16, 2009. More information on the Marcy Speer Award is available by going to

The Center for Scientific Review organizes the peer review groups that evaluate the majority of grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health. CSR recruits about 16,000 outside scientific experts each year for its review groups. CSR also receives all NIH and many Public Health Service grant applications -- about 80,000 a year -- and assigns them to the appropriate NIH Institutes and Centers and PHS agencies. CSR's primary goal is to see that NIH applications receive fair, independent, expert, and timely reviews that are free from inappropriate influences so NIH can fund the most promising research. For more information, visit

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- The Nation's Medical Research Agency -- includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH/Center for Scientific Review

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