In The Know

NIH celebrates holidays with gingerbread house contest

NIH Clinical Center

Employees of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are showing off their creative skills for the agency’s annual Gingerbread House Decorating Contest.

This year’s competition has a record 76 entries, with the gingerbread houses displayed in the NIH Clinical Center’s atrium.

The house designs, all thought up by NIH staff, include a number of unique themes, from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Green Eggs and Ham.” The majority of the houses were created by NIH employees.

{mosads}“We don’t tell you what your team should look like. It just needs to be a group of people. They each take a house kit, and they turn it into a variety of creations,” NIH nursing service chief Ann Marie Matlock said.

“Some will take the traditional house and create a scene around it. Others will actually use their creativity.”

A number of this year’s entries showcase the work of the teams that built them.

The Lab of Brain and Cognition used its materials to create a house resembling a human brain. The NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars, meanwhile, designed a house that featured a replica of Big Ben.

“My most favorite ones are the ones that tell a story. They’re not usually the ones that win because they’re not sort of the wow factor for children. But we have one that talks about how the HPV vaccine goes from a cow in through a farm and becomes a vaccine,” Matlock said.

NIH staff, patients and members of the public can vote for their favorite house with an in-person ballot, on the NIH app or through the NIH Clinical Center Facebook page. Voting began on December 3 and will end on December 13, 2018.

“It’s not the most diplomatic voting. Don’t hold me on any recounting of the ballots,” NIH spokeswoman Molly Freimuth joked.

The 15-year-old competition drew more entries than ever before this year.

The contest started in 2004 based on an idea from NIH nurse recruiter Madeline Cooper. With the opening of the new Clinical Center in 2005, three distinct nursing units combined into one.

Cooper “had seen an idea at Georgetown where they had done a gingerbread house contest. She thought that might be a really neat way for people to start to work together.”

In the first years of the competition, only nurses participated. Today, any employee of the NIH can create a house.

The Foundation for the NIH, a nonprofit organization meant to raise funds for the government agency, gifts the gingerbread needed for each year’s contests.

This year’s houses will remain on display until January 2, 2019.



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