Office of the Ombudsman

Confidential - Neutral - Independent - Informal

About Us

Ombudsman Staff

Mission Statement

To facilitate collaborative processes and the creative resolution of conflict for the entire NIH community.

The NIH Office of the Ombudsman

The NIH Office of the Ombudsman provides assistance to members of the NIH community in addressing lab- and work-related issues. We are a resource that is neutral, independent, confidential, and informal (our standards of practice).

Our staff are trained professionals with extensive experience in identifying and resolving both individual and organizational conflicts. We use our knowledge of conflict theory and organizational dynamics to identify the underlying causes of disputes and provide visitors with tools and resources to resolve their concerns. We can also act as intermediaries to facilitate communication when appropriate, and if requested.

We tailor our approach to each situation and will not take action without approval of the person visiting our office. To resolve sensitive issues, our ombudsmen (a gender-neutral term) employ conflict-resolution practices such as conflict coaching, mediation, shuttle diplomacy and group facilitation.

We also identify systemic conflicts, raising attention to NIH leadership those practices, norms, policies, and aspects of NIH culture that appear to exacerbate tensions or create problems for people working at NIH.

The Office of the Ombudsman is a central component of the Center for Cooperative Resolution.  The Center for Cooperative Resolution is an integrated framing structure for building conflict resolution capacity across the NIH.  

History of the Office of the Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman was established in April 1997 as a pilot program supported by five Institutes representing a cross-section of the NIH population, including the Office of the Director; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute on Drug Abuse; and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The goals of the pilot program were to:

- Further scientific research through efficient, effective, and innovative conflict management and resolution methods.

- Provide an alternative to traditional grievance and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint processes.

- Improve the work environment, preserve workplace relationships and enhance the quality of work life by increasing participant satisfaction with dispute resolution outcomes.

- Reduce the costs associated with and time committed to traditional dispute processing.

After the pilot period ended, an evaluation team determined that the Office was effective in reducing disputes and offered a valued means to enhance conflict management at NIH. In response to a greater-than-expected demand for services, NIH expanded the staffing of the Office and extended its services to the entire NIH community in 1999.

Standards of Practice

The NIH ombudsmen are committed to integrity and the highest professional standards. We operate under the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice enunciated by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA); we are neutralindependentconfidential, and informal.

For more information about the IOA, please visit

Meet the Staff

J. Kathleen Moore, Ph.D.
NIH Ombudsman, Director

Kathleen MooreHer educational background in Neuroscience (BA), Counseling Psychology (MS) and Human and Organizational Psychology (PhD) inform her strong behavioral approach to addressing organizational conflict. With more than 16 years' experience in scientific and organizational conflict resolution, she has an established reputation for collaborative, creative problem resolution, and for identifying and addressing systemic and equity concerns. She has been responsible for implementing new programs to effect positive outcomes in organizational life, including the Peer Resolution Program, which she helped to develop. In addition, Dr. Moore has published on gender equity issues in science, as well as published extensively on ombudsman practice issues in science organizations.

David Michael, J.D.
Deputy Ombudsman

David Michael David Michael is the Deputy Ombudsman of the Center for Cooperative Resolution/Office of the Ombudsman. His areas of expertise include conflict practice (mediation, group facilitation, coaching, and consensus-building), training, strategic planning, performance management, program design, communication, and evaluation.

Prior to 2011, David was a commissioner with the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution/International Services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, where he specialized in organizational conflict practice and training in the federal and international sectors. David provided organizational consulting services to federal agencies and nonprofits through Consensusworks, LLC from 2008-2010. In this capacity he also provided technical assistance in judicial reform and governance initiatives to judges, lawyers, journalists, and other leaders in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. David was the Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Mediation Service from 2005-2008, a nonprofit community dispute resolution center that provides mediation and workshops to facilitate community-based conflict engagement and resolution.

He also served as the Director of the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Multi-Door") from 1997-2004, an internationally recognized model for court-based alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Multi-Door delivers alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in more than 7,000 cases annually in civil, landlord-tenant, small claims, tax, probate, workplace, family, community, and child protection cases. David formerly managed the Virginia Mediation Network, later served on its board of directors and was a partner with the consulting group Conflict ReSolutions. He was an attorney with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and in a mid-sized Washington, D.C., law firm. David has served as a guest lecturer at area law schools and graduate programs. He is a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution, the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution, and the Virginia Mediation Network. He has spoken on panels at local and national conferences about ADR design, management, marketing, and assuring program integrity.

Linda M. Brothers, J.D.
Senior Associate Ombudsman

Linda BrothersLinda M. Brothers is a senior associate ombudsman at the Center for Cooperative Resolution, Office of the Ombudsman. Prior to coming to NIH, she was Director of Equal Opportunity and Ombudsperson at Wellesley College, where she established the college's first ombuds office and served as the co-director of MERI (the Multicultural Education Research Initiative). A conflict analyst and ADR practitioner, her areas of special focus include perceived difference and racial /intercultural conflict, systems change, and role boundary conflation. She has designed numerous systemic interventions for corporations, universities, and federal offices and is the author of many training and educational programs addressing interpersonal and institutional dispute resolution.

Linda has written and presented on the role of conflict in shaping organizational identity, most recently at the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution Annual Conference (Peacemaker in a Sick Society:the Role of Conflict in Defining Group and Organizational Identity). She consults frequently and is a former board member of the New England Association for Conflict Resolution. Linda holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from NYU.

Jason Byron, M.A.
Lead Associate Ombudsman

Stephen Kotev

Jason Byron is the Lead Associate Ombudsman at NIH. He has an extensive background in conflict management in healthcare settings. Before joining NIH, he managed the bioethics mediation service at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He also led the palliative care and chaplain services at UPMC Shadyside. In these roles, he facilitated the resolution of several thousand conflicts involving patients, family members, nursing and medical staff, post-graduate fellows, and others. He also regularly guest lectured at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and School of Law on medical ethics and alternative dispute resolution in healthcare. Prior to this work, he taught scientific reasoning, logic, and the history of science to undergraduate students at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. He was also a research assistant in a molecular phylogenetics lab at the University of Maryland, where he worked on avian evolution and ecology. He is a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution, International Ombudsman Association, and American Society for Bioethics and Humanities.

Lisa Witzler, Ph.D.
Associate Ombudsman

Lisa Witzler, Ph.D.

Lisa Witzler is an Associate Ombudsman in the Office of the Ombudsman. She earned her Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University and a Master of Arts Degree in Dispute Resolution from the University of Massachusetts. Lisa completed an internship in the Office of the Ombudsman in December 2010 and was asked to remain on staff as an associate ombudsman beginning in 2011. Prior to NIH, Lisa served as the Program and Web Coordinator for the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Lisa became interested in managing conflict in a scientific organization during her time at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University where she learned about the unique needs of scientists, fellows and administrators.

Lisa is an active member of the International Ombudsman Association. She served on the IOA Board of Directors and was the Vice President in 2014-2015. Lisa has presented at multiple IOA conferences and has taught several courses in the IOA Professional Development Program. She has served as Chair of the Annual Conference Committee, Co-Chair of the Title IX Task Force, Member of the Communications Committee, and Member of the Professional Development Committee. Lisa served on the multi-agency advisory committee to the Administrative Conference of the United States for the Project “The Use of Ombuds in Federal Agencies.”  Lisa is a lead instructor for the Foundation for Advancement in Education in the Sciences for the Introduction to Negotiation course. She enjoys leading workshops for the NIH community and working with large and small groups to manage change and conflict.

Tyler Smith, M.A.
Associate Ombudsman

Tyler SmithTyler Smith is an associate ombudsman in the Office of the Ombudsman at NIH. He earned a Master's Degree in Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution from Salisbury University. Prior to becoming an associate ombudsman in July 2014, Tyler was an intern at the NIH Office of the Ombudsman from January 2014 to May 2014. He has been trained extensively as a mediator, facilitator and conflict coach; he received the highest level of mediator certification through Community Mediation Maryland's Performance Based Evaluation Program. Prior to joining the NIH community, Tyler spent several years working as a staff member, AmeriCorps volunteer and Graduate Assistant at The Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution in Salisbury, Maryland - a nonprofit organization that fosters local, national and international peace building through the teaching, training and research of conflict analysis techniques and skills. Tyler is an active member of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) and the Coalition of Federal Ombudsman (COFO).

Judith Gail
Associate Ombudsman

Rita CallahanJudith Gail is an associate ombudsman and international consultant and practitioner with over 20 years’ experience in organization development and change management. As a core Organization Development practitioner Judith facilitates organizations through interventions for strategic planning, conflict management, leadership development, group dynamics, diversity management, and other organization change initiatives.

Her work in the field of change and transformation has provided her the opportunity to work with leaders at all levels of system, across multiple industries, and around the world. What particularly leads her to smile is the deep awareness that comes as organizational members meet themselves anew after confronting risks or reaching beyond their comfort zone to overcome a challenge they once saw as insurmountable.

As a life-long learner Judith’s education has been her on-going reality. She holds an undergraduate degree is in Business Administration and graduated from American University with a MS in Organization Development. Her postgraduate studies in Ethical and Creative Leadership, and Gestalt help to create the foundation of her work.

Raised in Motown (Detroit) music has had a great impact on her life, that and sports. She now lives in the Nation’s capital where the intersection of politics, social justice and youth leadership has captured her attention. When not developing recipes for a cookbook, she’s writing or working on her screenplay, while trying to better her golf game, which in her opinion is a great equalizer. A trip to Broadway is always on her joy continuum.

Sarah R. Kith, M.S., MSOD
Associate Ombudsman

Sarah R. Kith, M.S., MSOD

Sarah R. Kith, a life-longer learner, is an Associate Ombudsman at the Center for Cooperative Resolution, Office of the Ombudsman. Prior to joining the NIH Community, she was Principal Convener, Dispute Resolution at the Library of Congress. During the past 20 years, Sarah has worked with people at all levels of systems with many organizations such as the Inova Health System, the American Red Cross, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. federal agencies. She is passionate about people and finds joy and excitement when individuals and groups discover options and move forward in alignment with their purposes and the organization’s mission and goals.

Sarah is completing her Narrative Coach Certification with Dr. Drakes and WBECS. Narrative Coaching is a mindful, relational, and experiential process of change that uses people’s own stories. It is based in decades of research and practice all over the world. She holds a Master of Science degree in Organization Development from the American University and a Master of Science degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from the George Mason University. Additionally, she holds an Executive Certificate in Facilitation from the Georgetown University Institute for Transformational Leadership and is a Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner (CO-OP®) with the International Ombudsman Association.

Stephen Kotev

Stephen Kotev Stephen Kotev has dedicated his professional career to the practice and study of conflict resolution. His first exposure to conflict resolution began as a high school peer mediator over twenty years ago and his interest in the theory and practice of conflict resolution continues to this day. He has over 1,400 hours of mediation and conflict resolution training, encompassing EEO and workplace disputes, cross-cultural communication, interest-based negotiation and advanced facilitation skills. He holds a Master of Science degree from George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution and certificates in conflict coaching and leadership coaching from Dr. Tricia Jones of Conflict Coaching Matters LLC and Georgetown University. Since 2007, he has served as an Adjunct Professor for George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in Arlington, Virginia where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on how to better manage the stress of high-conflict interventions. He is the Chair of the Association for Conflict Resolution Taskforce on Safety in ADR and holds rank in the Japanese martial art of Aikido and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Staff Publications and Presentations

Bingham, S., Smith. T., Burton S., and Elkerson, D. (2018), The Research Agenda for the Organizational Ombuds Profession: A Living Document. Journal of the International Ombudsman Association. Retrieved From:

Kathleen Moore, J. (2016), The Art of Ombudsing: Using Multiple Frames to Resolve Conflict. Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, 9 (1), 8-22.

Gadlin, H. (2014), Toward the Activist Ombudsman: An Introduction. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 31: 387–402. doi:10.1002/crq.21099

C Levine, JM Hoffman, J Byron, R Arnold, A Kondrat, D Mukherjee. 2015. "Surrogate decision making and truth telling in a rehabilitation case." Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 7(7): 762-69.

Kathleen Moore, J. (2014), The Reflective Observer Model. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 31: 403–419. doi:10.1002/crq.21094

Brothers, L. M. (2014), Identity and Culture in Ombudsman Practice. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 31: 421–434. doi:10.1002/crq.21095

Levine-Finley, S. (2014), Stretching the Coaching Model. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 31: 435–446. doi:10.1002/crq.21097

Myers, L. and Witzler, L. (2014), Two Perspectives on Learning the Organizational Ombudsman Role. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 31: 447–462. doi:10.1002/crq.21096

Michael, D. E. (2014), Prioritizing Practice in Ombudsman and ADR Programs. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 31: 463–476. doi: 10.1002/crq.21098

Smith, T. (2014), Ombuds & Mediation: Frequency, Circumstances and Differences Amongst Backgrounds. Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, 7 (3), 48-67.


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