The IOM/NAM 50th Anniversary

Celebrating a legacy of impact. Forging a healthier future.

The National Academy of Medicine was founded in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine under the congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences to provide independent, evidence-based health advice to the nation at a time of rapid social change. In the ensuing decades, the IOM/NAM established an enduring reputation as a trusted and influential advisor with, as the New York Times put it, the power “to transform medical thinking around the world.”

Among its many historic impacts, the IOM/NAM established the public health research agenda for HIV/AIDS; catalyzed the quality and patient safety movement in U.S. health care; established dietary reference intakes for Americans; upheld the safety of childhood vaccinations; helped shape the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; and advised global organizations’ response to outbreaks of Ebola and Zika. In 2017, the NAM debuted a new mission statement: To improve health for all by advancing science, accelerating health equity, and providing independent, authoritative, and trusted advice nationally and globally.

Throughout our anniversary celebration, we will highlight examples of the IOM/NAM’s impact in the past half-century and thank the members, volunteers, sponsors, and staff who make our work possible. As we celebrate our legacy, we will also examine the critical challenges of the future and redouble our commitment to serve the health of the public for decades to come.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NAM’s anniversary activities have been extended through 2021.


A Half-Century of Progress in Health: The NAM at 50

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the National Academy of Medicine, the New England Journal of Medicine is publishing a monthly series that explores the enormous progress the nonpartisan organization has helped to achieve through rigorous, independent analysis of scientific evidence. Highlighting advances in health and biomedical science, each monthly article features an Academy member’s expert synopsis of a field of medicine, including breakthroughs, historic milestones, and future expectations. Read now >>

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Celebrating Our Members

The NAM has more than 2,100 U.S. and international members elected by their peers in recognition of outstanding achievement in health, medicine, and biomedical sciences. NAM members are the architects of scientific breakthroughs; domestic and global policymakers; leaders of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations; and dedicated clinicians and educators. Nearly 50 NAM members are recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine, Chemistry, or Peace. Through a commitment to volunteer service, our members guide the work and advance the mission of the NAM and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM).

“The NAM is the premier health policy body in the United States. Because its members are outstanding scientists, leaders, and policy-makers, and because its products are evidence-based and rigorous, the NAM can uniquely influence the course and direction of health and healthcare.”

Steven Schroeder (Class of 1983)

Director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, University of California, San Francisco

Honoring Our Volunteers

Every year, over 7,000 dedicated individuals serve without compensation on study and oversight committees or as reviewers of NASEM reports. Many are members of the NAM, National Academy of Sciences, or National Academy of Engineering, and many are not. Their service is valued, honored, and appreciated both within our organization and by the nation. The National Associates program, established in 2001, exists to formally recognize the NASEM’s most dedicated volunteers for their outstanding contributions. In the space below, we offer a rotating feature of National Associates who have made important contributions to the work of the IOM/NAM since 1970. 

Malden Nesheim volunteers with the Food and Nutrition Board at the National Academies because, as a member of the U.S. academic nutrition community, he felt he had a responsibility to participate when he was invited to serve on the board. To Malden joining the board was an opportunity to be involved in guiding the critical decisions that needed to be made about nutrition and to keep abreast of new developments. It also gave him the opportunity to interact with colleagues in the field. Malden served on the board for 9 years and went on to chair 2 studies initiated by the board. Malden is proud of his role on the sub-committee that revised and eventually published the 10th edition of the Recommended Dietary Allowances.

Recognizing Our Staff

The exceptional staff of the IOM/NAM and the National Academies work alongside members and volunteers to produce consensus studies, facilitate roundtables and forums, plan and execute public workshops, and more. We are grateful for the indispensable leadership and dedication of our staff since 1970. The Cecil Award, established in 2000, recognizes staff from throughout the National Academies who have demonstrated superb skill and commitment in furthering the mission of the NAM. Below, we offer a rotating feature of Cecil Award winners.

Susan Barron joined the Institute of Medicine in 1974. From 1988 until her retirement she served as executive assistant to five executive officers. She assisted leaders in accomplishing the task for shaping the IOM into the organization it is today. Barron did this by ensuring the projects ran smoothly by overseeing the drafting and submission of documents integral to the approval, proposal preparation, funding, hiring of staff,  committee appointments, compliance with FACA, report preparation/review/publication/release, and closeout of various projects. Throughout her time with The Academies, Barron worked with countless staff members and said, “I am most proud that I was given the opportunity to work with such dedicated staff and that they were willing to work with me.” In 2001, Barron earned a Cecil Award and in 2011 she retired.

Thanking Our Sponsors

As an independent, nonprofit organization, the NAM relies on philanthropic dollars to advance its mission. Gifts from generous individuals, foundations, corporations, federal agencies, and other organizations are essential to realize our vision for a healthier future. Contributions help the NAM provide expert advice to the nation, inspire bold ideas around the globe, and build leadership capacity for the future of health and health care. We are deeply grateful for the generous support of our sponsors. 

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