Office of the Ombudsman

Confidential - Neutral - Independent - Informal

About Us

 

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 www.ombudsassociation.org


Meet the Staff

Julie A. Muroff, J.D., LL.M. 
Acting Director 

Julie

Julie A. Muroff, J.D., LL.M., is Acting Director of the Center for Cooperative Resolution/Office of the Ombudsman. Julie has served the NIH community for 14 years, including on a past detail to the Center as an associate ombuds.  She is an accomplished lecturer, presenter, and practitioner in conflict management/alternative dispute resolution, with extensive experience as a seasoned mediator, facilitator, and executive coach within and beyond the Federal Government, including in past positions in the private sector and in academia. 

Julie is an active contributor to the field through her leadership in professional development initiatives, conferences, and committees.  She is a published author of journal articles and reference book chapters, and she has designed and delivered a broad range of courses, programs, and trainings. Julie has been intrigued by the interplay between health and conflict since her undergraduate work in psychology, focusing on school-based initiatives to overcome depression in adolescents and on community-based initiatives that she led in West Philadelphia. 


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.


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.


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: https://www.ombudsassociation.org/IOA_Main/media/SiteFiles/jioa-ce/JIOA-2018-3_Research-Agenda-for-the-Organizational-Ombuds-Profession.pdf

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. http://www.pmrjournal.org/article/S1934-1482(15)00266-X/

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.


Brochure

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