Explore the NIH Campus from Anywhere in the World

two scientists checking out the NIH Virtual Tour website

Guest post by Renate Myles, MBA, Acting Director of the NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL).

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, around 230,000 people visited the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, each year. The sprawling 320-acre campus includes more than 25,000 staff working in support of NIH’s important mission of turning scientific discoveries into health. Visitors would tour one or more of NIH’s 100 buildings, one of which is the NIH Clinical Center, the world’s largest clinical research hospital where everyone is on a research protocol. Among our countless guests are families visiting loved ones enrolled in research studies at our hospital, scientists attending lectures and meetings, members of Congress and the press meeting with experts to discuss progress on research initiatives, and students coming to gain scientific experience.

In March 2020, all but essential business came to a halt. Like the rest of the world, when in-person meetings and large gatherings were no longer feasible, NIH quickly pivoted to virtual technologies to stay connected. Through that experience, we recognized that this technology could allow people who don’t have the means or time to visit NIH in person—or who simply want to “visit” us no matter where they are—to experience who we are and what we do.

While we’ve resumed limited in-person campus tours in 2023, NIH is excited to now offer a virtual tour of our Bethesda campus, a project nearly two years in the making and that will continue to evolve. It features 20 stops with narrated videos, photos, and links to related content. It also spotlights members of the NIH community who share their experiences working at NIH: from Keith Ameyaw, a Postbaccalaureate Fellow, who uses microscopic imaging tools to understand what’s going on inside cells, to Dr. Larry Tabak, Acting NIH Director, who explains how everyone works together as a team to improve the health of the nation.

Are you interested in NLM’s buildings? View Building 38, the main NLM building, and Building 38A, Lister Hill Center.

The virtual tour is entirely flexible—users can either select specific buildings on the map or choose one of three paths: the full tour, a tour for patients and caregivers, or a tour for researchers and those interested in research. Additionally, people coming to the NIH campus can get information ahead of their visit about parking, transportation, cafeterias, and more.

Importantly, all aspects of the project comply with digital accessibility standards so people who are blind or have low vision can fully experience the tour. These include text descriptions of images and transcripts and audio descriptions for our videos. We also plan to launch a Spanish-language option this fall, and we hope to expand the tour to cover more facilities and people, including those not on the Bethesda campus.

I have worked at NIH for nearly 15 years, and even I learned a lot while developing the virtual tour. I especially enjoy the video on the Zebrafish Facility, which includes half a million fish that scientists use to study genetic mutations so we can better understand how human diseases occur. And to really understand the impact of NIH research, I encourage you to listen to one patient’s experience of being in a cancer clinical trial at the NIH Clinical Center.

Although biomedical research is complex, it is our mission to communicate clearly with the public about the important work happening at NIH. We hope the virtual tour will serve as a comprehensive resource that will help more people gain a better understanding of the role NIH plays in enhancing the health and well-being of all Americans.

Renate Myles

Acting Director, NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison

Ms. Myles manages communications on NIH programs and activities to NIH staff, the public, the media, and interest groups. Located in the NIH Office of the Director, NIH OCPL coordinates its activities with communication offices within NIH’s 27 Institutes and Centers and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. Ms. Myles has more than 30 years of communication experience, including senior communication management positions in the health care, global high-tech, and non-profit industries. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Auburn University in Alabama and an MBA from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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