Vivian W. Pinn, MD, was the inaugural full-time director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was associate director for research on women’s health (NIH), positions she held from 1991 until her retirement in 2011. Under her leadership, this new office develop into a leader in the implementation of research inclusion policies, developing the first strategic plans for women’s health research and developing and funding research and career development programs in collaboration with NIH Institutes and Centers. During that time, she established and co-chaired the NIH Committee on Women in Biomedical Careers with the NIH Director. Since her retirement, she has been named as a Senior Scientist Emerita at the NIH Fogarty International Center of the NIH.
She came to the NIH from Howard University College of Medicine, where she had been Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology since 1982, the 3rd woman in the US to hold such an appointment. Dr. Pinn also previously held teaching appointments at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University where she was also Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. A special tribute by Senator Olympia Snowe on Dr. Pinn’s retirement was published in the Congressional Record in November 2011 commending her contributions during her NIH tenure. The Association of American Medical Colleges awarded her a Special Recognition Award for exceptional leadership over a forty year career. She has received numerous honors and recognitions, and has presented her perceptions of women’s health and sex/gender research, minority and women’s health and health disparities as well as challenges in biomedical careers, to audiences both nationally and internationally. Her implementation of the Congressional mandate to include women and minorities in clinical research funded by the NIH continues to be an effort that she champions.
She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (IOM) in 1995. A graduate and Alumna Achievement Award recipient as well as former Trustee of Wellesley College, she earned her M.D. in 1967 from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the only woman and only minority in her class. She completed her post-graduate training in Pathology at the Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard University before joining the faculty of Tufts.
A native of Lynchburg, Virginia where she attended segregated public schools, Dr. Pinn has received 15 Honorary Degrees of Science, Law and Medicine, the most recent in May of 2018 from Howard University. The University of Virginia School of Medicine has named one of its four advisory medical student colleges as ‘The Pinn College’ in her honor. Tufts University School of Medicine in 2011 announced the ‘The Vivian W. Pinn Office of Student Affairs’, named for her at the time her former medical students dedicated a scholarship in her name. She has held leadership positions in many professional organizations, including that as the 88th President of the National Medical Association (NMA) and is currently Chair of the NMA Past Presidents Council. Dr. Pinn serves on the Board of Trustees/Advisors of Thomas Jefferson University and Tufts University School of Medicine. She was elected to Modern Healthcare’s Hall of Fame, the first African American woman to be so honored and is also a recipient of the New York Academy of Medicine Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Health Policy. Among other recent honors, she received a special Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership of Drexel University in 2017, and she also served as the 2017-2018 Leader-in-Residence at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies of the University of Richmond. Lectures in women’s health and/or health disparities named for her have been established at the National Institutes of Health, the National Women’s Health Congress, and the National Medical Association.
One of her greatest honors has been the announcement by the University of Virginia in the fall of 2016 that a medical research and education building was renamed for her as “Pinn Hall.” And in December 2016, the UVA medical school also announced the inaugural Pinn Scholars program to support and recognize mid-level faculty in efforts to take their research in novel directions. Her oral history is included in the National Library of Medicine’s exhibit on women physicians, ‘Changing the Face of Medicine’; in the University of Virginia’s project ‘Explorations in Black Leadership’ conducted by Julian Bond; and, in The HistoryMakers collection which is now housed in the Library of Congress.