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In Memoriam: Remembering Daniel Vasgird

By SRAI News posted 02-13-2020 09:29 AM


Daniel R. Vasgird, PhD
December 30, 1945-January 30, 2020

Remembering Dan

dv_1.jpgI started my career in research administration in September 2002 at what was then known as Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University. In early 2003, my boss, Jeffrey Cohen, PhD asked me to help coordinate a multi-institutional / multi-federal agency conference called “Respect for All.” One of our partner institutions was Columbia University (CU) and it was there that I met Dr. Daniel Vasgird for the first time. Dan was in charge of the Responsible Conduct of Research office at CU and was a peer colleague to my boss Jeff.

Dan never stood on ceremony, he treated me as an equal partner in this project and we connected immediately. In those days, I knew very little about research ethics, integrity, and compliance. I learned everything on the job, and I was extremely fortunate to have a boss who understood the value of professional development. He introduced me to many of his colleagues, Dan chief among them and so began my 18-year journey into research management.

In the early days there was a group called RCREC – Responsible Conduct of Research Education Consortium. Jeff and Dan were members as were colleagues such as Michael Kalichman and Frank Macrina. I learned so much from these guys – unlike the four of them, I was not a scientist, a physician, or an academic, yet they were open and receptive and eager to teach me everything I needed to be an effective RCR educator/administrator.

dv_2.jpgOver the years, institutions, jobs, and cities changed, yet the RCR ties that held us together only got stronger. Dan and I would meet in various cities and countries for conferences and in 2009 I asked him to deliver some RCR content for a Society of Research Administrators International (SRAI) Northeast Section meeting in Philadelphia at the last minute, when the original facilitator had to cancel. My assistant back then, Dominic Nunziato, took his workshop as part of the Research Integrity certificate and was in awe. He came out raving about the smart entertaining speaker with the great voice – he became an instant fan.

dv_3.jpgIn 2013, I invited Dan to participate in a two-day Research Compliance meeting I was developing for SRAI. I think this was the first time that we co-facilitated side by side. It was always easy with Dan – the two of us did not have to stick to a script, we could just bounce ideas off one another and totally engage the audience at the same time. As my involvement with SRAI grew, I would depend on Dan time after time to present, create, or critique research integrity curriculum. Almost every presentation I give or paper I write cites Dan’s words. A few years back, Dan was inducted as SRAI Distinguished Faculty, an honor bestowed for ongoing scholarly contributions to the Society.

dv_4.jpgWe had the extreme pleasure of touring Rio de Janeiro together after the 2015 World Congress on Research Integrity (WCRI) and that is where I got to finally meet his wife Susan Schenk. We had a great time climbing up to see Christ the Redeemer and sharing NYC stories. We got to hang out again at WCRI 2017 in Amsterdam and a few short weeks later, Dan was one of our supporting faculty for an ORI Conference we presented at George Mason University, where the two of us shared the stage once again.

In summary, Dan was more than a colleague and mentor. I would not be where I am today, the Senior Director of Research Outreach and Compliance at perhaps the premier Cancer Center in the world, if not for his generous spirit as a scholar, teacher, and friend. I will miss him terribly but know that he has left his mark on the world and there are far more ethical research professionals in it because of his educational legacy.

Debbie Schaller-DemersAuthored by Debbie Schaller-Demers, Senior Director, Research Outreach and Compliance
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center




02-14-2020 06:00 PM

This is beautiful, Debbie! I know, having written one of these for one of our colleagues just two years ago, how difficult they are but what an honor it is to be asked to do it. You captured Dan perfectly. Those of us that had the chance to present with him will always cherish those moments. Sending my best to you as you move forward. It takes time for us to do that, but I know we will never forget his lessons and friendship. We get to carry those with us. That is a true gift.

02-14-2020 02:39 PM

Debbie, thank you so much for sharing this remembrance of your colleague.  I had the pleasure (or maybe the pain since it is a tough subject) of seeing Dan present at a conference.  I will never forget the powerful impression he made on me about the sometimes dark history and critical importance of research ethics.  He seemed so young too and full of energy. He will be greatly missed.