Communications Branch (CB)

What We Do:

The Communications Branch is responsible for NIDA’s information dissemination activities:

  • Conducts NIDA's media outreach activities
  • Responds to information inquiries from the public
  • Leads NIDA’s public information activities and public education campaigns, including National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week 
  • Coordinates content development and review of all NIDA science-based messaging disseminated to the public
  • Assesses needs and designs materials for specific populations
  • Collaborates with other Federal agencies to promote dissemination and application of NIDA research
  • Manages the development and dissemination of NIDA publications
  • Provides graphic support services to Institute staff to enhance dissemination of the science.
  • Publishes NIDA Notes newsletter about NIDA-supported research activities.

The Digital Communications Section is responsible for the technical operations of NIDA Web sites, social media platforms, and supporting technologies:

  • Manages and maintains NIDA websites
  • Manages and maintains NIDA social media platforms
  • Provides audiovisual support production services of science based messaging
  • Manages compliance across all Institute digital communications platforms
  • Provides recommendations and implementation of digital information policy, standards, guidance and tools for NIDA
  • Coordinates, manages and maintains Web content related to NIDA organization structure role(s) with other service components of NIH

Staff:

Anne Rancourt, Communications Director, Branch Chief
Ms. Rancourt oversees NIDA’s communications activities and serves as the Chief, Communications Branch in the Office of Science Policy and Communications. Prior to joining the NIDA team in 2020, she worked at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as a section chief responsible for communications on HIV, allergy, and immunology. Ms. Rancourt previously served as the communications director for the Office of Research on Women’s Health and at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute where she directed media and digital strategy for The Heart Truth campaign, which raised awareness of heart disease in women. Before coming to NIH, Ms. Rancourt was a Presidential Management Fellow in the Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, where she directed communications strategies on the Department’s $167 billion Recovery Act investment. She has also worked in brand management, behavior change campaigns, and marketing on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and began her career as a journalist at The Washington Post and NBC News. Ms. Rancourt has a bachelor of arts in English from Georgetown University and a master’s in strategic public relations from George Washington University.
Mark Fleming, Section Chief, DCS
Mr. Fleming joined the Communications Branch (CB) in December 2000.  He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in zoology from Miami University in Ohio and a Master of Arts in visual communications from Ohio University. He has worked for NIDA since 1986, both as a contractor and now as a federal employee. He established the Visual Media Unit to provide photographic and graphic arts support for NIDA intramural research. In addition, he established the NIDA web site in 1995 and has worked since then to increase its scope and exposure.  Recently, his work has focused on the completion of NIDA's migration to content management systems, cloud hosting, and responsive design.   As NIDA’s 508 coordinator, Mr. Fleming and his support team work with NIDA staff to ensure all information products meet accessibility regulations.
Janet Linton, Deputy Section Chief, DCS
Ms. Linton joined the Communications Branch (CB) in March of 2009 to provide web support to the NIDA Webmaster. Her primary tasks include: ensuring NIDA’s content is compliant with 508 regulations, provide web, graphic, and social media support, maintain the NIDA for Teens, including the National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week® sites, and creates short animations for infographics and social media as needed. She also manages NIDA’s Research Translation & Dissemination for Adolescents (NIDA for Teens) and Educational Outreach to Middle and High School Students on Substance Use (Scholastic Heads Up) contracts. Ms. Linton has more than 20 years of experience managing/developing web/graphic projects and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Animation from Westwood College and a Master of Science in Management from University of Maryland.
Shirley Simson, Press Officer
Ms. Simson joined the Communications Branch (CB) in March of 2006.  She has more than 25 years of experience developing, managing, and implementing successful public relations programs, with an emphasis on health communication and social marketing. As Press Officer, Ms. Simson leads the NIDA press team in responding to daily inquiries from national and local print and broadcast media on a wide variety of issues related to drug addiction research; scheduling and preparing NIDA spokespeople for press interviews; conducting proactive media outreach activities in support of NIDA-funded scientific research, press events and meetings; and writing and editing press materials. Prior to joining NIDA, Ms. Simson provided communication expertise at public relations firms on behalf of a number of federal agencies, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. She also spent two years as a media spokesperson on breaking news about disaster relief and fundraising for the national headquarters of the American Red Cross. Shirley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Josie Anderson, Digital Media Manager/Audiovisual Production Specialist, DCS
Ms. Anderson joined the Communications Branch (CB) in October of 2012. Currently, she works directly with the Digital Communication Section, while also augmenting NIDA's Office of the Director and Office of Science Policy and Communications Branches. She has over 18 years of federal civilian and active duty military service in public affairs, digital media management, and broadcast journalism. As NIDA's audiovisual production specialist, Ms. Anderson serves as the institute's primary video content producer and multimedia manager. She also supports NIDA's website, as well as both traditional and social media needs. Josie attended the Defense Information School with a background in Public Affairs, Broadcast and Interactive Journalism. She also received BA degrees in Political Science and Anthropology from Rutgers University and an MA from American University’s School of Communication.
Michelle Corbin, Public Health Analyst
Ms. Corbin joined the Communications Branch (CB) in January 2017 to manage and coordinate NIDA’s outreach program to clinicians (NIDAMED.) She works with clinical groups and other stakeholders  to ensure NIDA’s science based information on drug use and health is integrated into medical education, including information on screening for opioid misuse. Ms. Corbin was a long time Public Health Analyst at HRSA, coordinating communications and recruitment efforts for the National Health Service Corps (including the NURSE Corps), which recruits and provides clinicians to the most underserved communities in the United States. Michelle has a great deal of experience with outreach to all varieties of clinicians; has helped to grow NHSC numbers; is skilled in building partnerships; has experience in legislative affairs; and has many years of experience developing and testing audience specific communication materials. She has also worked closely with program officials who manage HRSA’s Federally Qualified Health Centers.  Michelle has an MBA with a marketing specialty from American University.
Kimberly DiFonzo, Deputy Press Officer
Ms. DiFonzo joined the Communications Branch (CB) in April 2008 with over 20 years of public relations experience working for trade associations, non-profit organizations and public relations firms. Her experience combines a broad knowledge of healthcare communications and media relations, as well as educational program development and execution. Kim is a member of the NIDA press team and responds daily to inquiries from national, local and social media on a wide variety of issues related to drug addiction research. She prepares spokespeople for media interviews, assists with the implementation of media outreach campaigns and events, and writes and edits various press materials. Prior to NIDA, Kim worked in the public relations office at the American Psychological Association, wrote public relations materials on behalf of the President of the American Nurses Association, served as a national spokesperson for the blood services program at the American Red Cross, and managed the Campaign on Clinical Depression while at Burson-Marsteller.  Kim received a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, VA.
Tara Garwood, Social Media Strategist, DCS
Ms. Garwood joined the Digital Communications Section in January of 2017. She supports NIDA’s public outreach using social media to raise awareness of NIDA’s research and programs. Her prior government experience includes acting as the sole Video Production Specialist in a large training division at the Food and Drug Administration and working on the U.S. Secret Service video production team
Judith Lavelle, Technical Writer/Editor
Ms. Lavelle joined the Communications Branch in June of 2020. Judy oversees the NIDA content management team—responsible for many of NIDA’s publications and webpages—and is a member of the NIDA press team. She is passionate about providing science-driven, non-stigmatizing information on substance use disorders and substance use research to those who need it most. Prior to NIDA, Judy served as a science writer for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where she created content on COVID-19, HIV, allergy, immunology, and transplantation research and supported media relations. Judy received a Master of Science degree in Science Journalism from Boston University. Her science writing and multimedia work have appeared in the Boston GlobeChemical & Engineering NewsScientific American OnlineNPR and on the walls of Philadelphia's Mütter Museum.
Brian Marquis, Program Analyst
Mr. Marquis joined the Communications Branch (CB) in January 2002 as the Information Center Manager. He is now the NIDA Public Liaison Officer and connects with organizations across the country with the help of NIDA publications and Web sites. Prior to joining the branch, Mr. Marquis worked at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Publications Clearinghouse and as a contractor at National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  He has a B.S. in Family Studies from University of Maryland, College Park.
Simona Combi, Media Relations Specialist (Contractor)
Ms. Combi joined the Communications Branch (CB) in October 2019 as a contractor for the press office. She supports the press team in responding to reporter requests for interviews with NIDA spokespeople about a variety of drug use and addiction topics and is responsible for facilitating and preparing spokespeople for media interviews. She also processes research papers for press outreach consideration, assists the press team with outreach campaigns and events, and writes submissions for internal and external publications. Simona is the Earned Media Manager contractor from IQ Solutions. Prior to coming to NIDA, Simona was the Media Relations Director for First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization, where she generated media coverage for the organization’s signature report, “Children’s Budget: 2018.” Before that, she was the Media Relations Manager at the Center for Global Policy Solution, a policy research and advocacy organization that focused on racial inequalities in health, particularly before and after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. She developed and executed the media outreach plans for the Center’s studies, edited and placed op-eds and letters to the editor, and prepared experts for media interviews. Previously, she worked at the Urban Institute on a wide range of public policy issues, mostly related to poverty and the safety net. She earned her Master’s in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Bucharest, Romania.
Michelle K. Griffin, Health Publications Copy Editor (Contractor)
Ms. Griffin joined the Communications Branch (CB) in November 2018, as the health publications editor (contractor). She is responsible for developing, writing, copyediting, design, language translation, revising, and helping execute the writing and editing tasks for NIDA’s consumer publications. Prior to joining OSPC, Ms. Griffin served as an ORISE Health Communications Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, GA, where she gained extensive health science experience and public health experience. Additionally, she has worked in higher education for Vanderbilt University, The University of Alabama, and Longwood University prior to her fellowship at the CDC. She received a B.A. in Communications (Public Relations and Organizational Communication concentration) from Longwood University, and a Master of Arts in Health Studies, Department of Health Sciences from The University of Alabama.
Aaron Martinek, Web Analyst, DCS (Contractor)

Mr. Martinek has been a contractor with NIDA since 1999. Originally a Graphic Artist at NIDA’s Intramural Research Program (IRP) in Baltimore, he switched his role to Web Analyst, and moved to Office of Science Policy and Communications in 2005 to focus on NIDA's websites. Mr. Martinek handles everything from web development to design for digital/print materials. He holds a Graphic Artist degree and has over 25 years’ experience in the field of design.
Molly Natchipolsky, Content Support (Contractor)
Ms. Molly Natchipolsky joined the Communications Branch (CB) in January 2019, serving as the lead contractor for NIDA’s communications contract. For the last eight years, Molly has been the sole proprietor of Kitchen Table Communications, LLC, which specializes in non-profit, first-responder, and health issues. As a communications specialist, she has been writing and developing strategic marketing and communication plans and materials for clients, including articles, press releases, speeches, and social media content. She has almost 20 years working in the communications field; having managed public relations and communications programs for several non-profit organizations including the American Red Cross, National Osteoporosis Foundation, the International Food Information Council and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Molly received her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Communications, with a minor in Public Relations from Frostburg State University.
Ann Rea, Web Analyst, DCS (Contractor)
Ms. Rea has been a contractor with NIDA since 1993. Originally a Medical Photographer at NIDA’s Intramural Research Program (IRP) in Baltimore, she switched her role to Graphic Artist and then to the role of Web Analyst in 1999. Ms. Rea works on the main NIDA site, specifically with NIDA Notes, International, NACDA, and publications. She has also taken a major role in the ongoing task of ensuring that the NIDA website and all of the smaller sites meet the Section 508 Guidelines. Ms. Rea holds a M.A. in English from Morgan State University.