Lee Rosen, PhD, was an outstanding colleague and friend of the medical imaging and image-guided interventions community for many years. He was also a Scientific Review Officer (SRO) at the National Institutes of Health for 26 years. During that time, as the organizer of the Biomedical Imaging Technology (BMIT) study section, he was a tireless advocate for our field and a mentor to many of us. We all have served on many NIH review panels, but can honestly say that Lee was the most passionate review officer we have encountered, and he will be sorely missed.
On 22 October 2015, Lee passed away from acute myeloid leukemia after a short but valiant battle. For those who never had the pleasure of meeting Lee or interacting with him, we can tell you that he was a great man. He was loved by all who served on his study sections, as he went out of his way to make the grant review process as effective, efficient, and fair as possible. While all of us have stories to tell about Lee, I in particular (KC) can remember his enthusiasm for review and his efforts to ensure that everyone was treated equally (both reviewers and applicants). Lee really took care of his reviewers, often arranging dinners and snacks, despite the bureaucratic NIH rules concerning food and refreshments that sometimes got in our way. I can remember Lee negotiating with hotel personnel to provide dinner when meetings ran late, and to keep everything within the rules we would all contribute $5 to the meal.
The main characteristic I remember about Lee is that he had a deep respect for science and in particular for training the next generation. Many of us cut our teeth serving on Lee Rosen’s study sections. In particular, while serving on BMIT and later as chair, I learned not only how to do a thorough and fair review, but how to improve my own proposals. I remember many discussions with Lee about which reviewers we needed on the panel and even about who should succeed me as chair. As in everything Lee did, his main concern was about fair representation from the multiple disciplines covered by the study section, including fair rotations of the chair position. This principle was a great lesson for me in my own career, which has greatly benefited from trying to apply Lee’s principles to managing a lab and a research group. I have no doubt that there are countless others in the medical imaging and related fields who also benefited from Lee’s knowledge and friendship.
Lee had a very interesting background. He received his BS from Eastern Michigan University in biology, his MS from Pennsylvania State University in physiology, and his PhD in biology. He did a postdoc in toxicology at NIH and another at Case Western University. He then spent some years in private industry in a variety of scientific pursuits. From 1991 to 2003, he conducted research on pineal cell physiology at the Food and Drug Administration. From 1989 to 2015, he was a scientific review officer at NIH.
As stated in his CV, Lee’s major strength was in the knowledge of specialists in the various fields of medical imaging. Lee did not just have “knowledge” of us, he actually “knew” us. He cared about us as researchers and as people. Scuba diving was Lee’s passion and one rarely went to a study section without seeing pictures of Lee’s adventures. Even when we met in San Diego which is not well known for scuba diving, he would often take time to go swimming through the kelp fields looking for turtles and other critters to add to his photo collection. He also loved the beach and had a small place near Bethany Beach in Maryland where he would go during the summer season—often finishing his summary statements from there!
Lee was always concerned about the welfare of his reviewers. Whenever he asked me to be a reviewer, he would always preface the question with “And ‘no’ is a perfectly good answer.” I (RN) did say no a small number of times, but each time I felt that I was missing out on a potentially fun and fruitful experience, as that is how all of Lee’s study sections were. He did not have to resort to arm twisting, people were glad to participate when invited by Lee.
I (JP) remember Lee’s concern for our community. In talking about people who had difficulty getting their research funded, Lee said “75% of all the proposals I get deserve to be funded; you are all brilliant researchers. But the reality is that our system only has enough money to fund a fraction of the deserving grants.”
I (EK) always enjoyed working with Lee on his study sections, but even more so at RSNA and other meetings when he was running grant review workshops for young investigators. It was obvious that he truly cared about helping them achieve their research goals by explaining the process, what NIH was all about, and how he and others were there to help in every way possible. If he was able to recruit a few reviewers—all the better!
I (MG) remember Lee as being very dedicated to educating the reviewers as well as the grant writers. At various national meetings, including SPIE Medical Imaging, AAPM, RSNA, and others, he was very approachable and always willing to discuss the NIH grant process as well as the latest scientific advances. His goal was to get the best science funded.
I (WG) knew Lee Rosen as an outstanding contributor to the development of biomedical engineering. He came to the field with a truly interdisciplinary background. In his position as the scientific review officer of the biomedical imaging technology study section, he worked tirelessly to achieve the highest level of scientific review for a wide range of grant proposals dealing with biomedical imaging. He took this responsibility seriously and drew from the research community the best and the brightest to serve on his review panels. Lee went beyond this responsibility to help educate the biomedical imaging community and make them aware of what was required to write a “good” grant. He asked me and other members of the committee to hold mock review sessions at society meetings such as the Radiologic Society of North America Annual Meeting (RSNA) and SPIE. Through his actions, Lee elevated the role of imaging within the scientific community. Lee always kept his great sense of humor and commitment to making his study sections a positive experience for all who served. He took a personal interest in the careers of the study section members and followed their promotions and achievements as they moved through their academic careers. He also took an interest in their personal lives and became friends with many of the study section participants. Lee worked long hours to make the study sections enjoyable for the reviewers, and he operated as effectively as possible for the grantees within the NIH guidelines. He insisted on fairness and thoroughness in the reviews and served as an outstanding role model to all those who knew him. Lee’s outstanding leadership, remarkable ability to recruit the best and brightest to serve, and his ever present sense of good humor will be greatly missed.
Lee will be missed by his wife Barbara, his son Robert, his daughter Jennifer, and his two grandchildren. We will miss you too, Lee.
Children’s National Medical Center, USA
Johns Hopkins University, USA
Emory University, USA
Robert M. Nishikawa
University of Pittsburgh, USA
University of California, Los Angeles, USA
The University of Chicago, USA