Dr. Alexander was named NICHD Director on February 5, 1986, after serving as Acting Director. Dr. Alexander, a pediatrician, had been NICHD Deputy Director for three years and an assistant to the Director since 1978.
Much of his career has been centered at the NICHD. With the exception of several special assignments, Dr. Alexander has been with the NICHD since 1968, following his residency in the department of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He came to NICHD as a clinical associate in the Children's Diagnostic and Study Branch. Following his assignment in that branch, Dr. Alexander returned to Hopkins as a fellow in pediatrics (developmental disabilities) at the John F. Kennedy Institute for Habilitation of the Mentally and Physically Handicapped Child. He returned to the NICHD in 1971 as Assistant to the Scientific Director. In that capacity, he directed the NICHD National Amniocentesis Study that established the safety and accuracy of amniocentesis for prenatal diagnosis. That test is now widely used to detect numerous genetic defects and inborn errors of metabolism.
From 1974 to 1978, Dr. Alexander served as medical officer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health in what is now the Department of Health and Human Services. He also was the physician on the staff of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. The commission's recommendations are the basis for current DHHS regulations for the protection of human subjects in research.
An officer in the PHS, he has received several PHS awards. These include a Commendation Medal in 1970, a Meritorious Service Medal, and a Special Recognition Award in 1985, and the Surgeon General's Exemplary Service Medal in 1990.
Dr. Alexander received his undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1962 and his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1966. He also served his internship at Hopkins. A diplomat of the American Board of Pediatrics and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Developmental Pediatrics, and the Association for Retarded Citizens, he has authored numerous papers and book chapters, most relating to his research in developmental disabilities.