Dr. Audrey Shields Penn is the first African-American woman to become acting director of a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH). From a young age, she had a keen interest in chemistry and helping others, so she pursued a medical degree at Columbia University. She specialized in neurology and taught at Columbia. Her main focus of research was myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease that causes muscle weakness and fatigue. In 1995, she became the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) where she served for 10 years and helped establish a Specialized Neuroscience Research Program for minorities in neuroscience.