Elizabeth Penniman Named Chief of Communications at HHMI

Elizabeth Penniman joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as Chief of Communications, effective January 8, 2024. In this role, Penniman designs and leads HHMI’s external and internal communications strategy to advance the Institute’s mission, vision, and culture.

“Elizabeth is an accomplished leader with a tremendous wealth of experience spanning nonprofit and human health communications,” says Erin O’Shea, president of HHMI. “Her expertise and her demonstrated ability to lead innovative communications campaigns will be a tremendous asset to the entire HHMI community. I am thrilled to welcome her to our leadership team, and I look forward to working closely together to further HHMI’s mission to advance the discovery and sharing of scientific knowledge for all.”

A communications professional with more than 25 years of expertise in team leadership, internal and external communications, and reputation and crisis management, Penniman most recently served as vice president of communications for the American Red Cross for nearly eight years. Prior to this role, she was senior creative director and vice president at Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations firm. 

Penniman also previously served as vice president of global communications at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, where she developed communications strategies to support program, policy, and fundraising efforts in the US, Europe, and 14 countries in Africa. Earlier in her career, Penniman was a member of two US presidential administrations, serving on the White House speechwriting staff, as a policy analyst for the National Security Council, and as director of communications for the US Surgeon General. She holds a BA in political science from the University of Southern California. 

Executive search firm Bridge Partnersexternal link, opens in a new tab managed the search for HHMI.


HHMI is the largest private biomedical research institution in the nation. Our scientists make discoveries that advance human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. We also invest in transforming science education into a creative, inclusive endeavor that reflects the excitement of research. HHMI’s headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC.


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