Daniel R. Vasgird, PhD
December 30, 1945-January 30, 2020
I 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.
Over 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.
In 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.
We 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.
Authored by Debbie Schaller-Demers, Senior Director, Research Outreach and Compliance
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center