News

Awards & Recognition: May 2018

Stuart Orkin

Stuart Orkin, the HMS David G. Nathan Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, received the 2018 Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science at Northwestern University, which is given to a physician-scientist whose body of research exhibits outstanding achievement in their discipline as demonstrated by works of lasting significance. Orkin has devoted his career to illuminating the development and function of the blood system, the control of stem cells and the molecular basis of inherited blood disorders.

Orkin discovered mutations responsible for beta-thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder that reduces the production of hemoglobin that provided a foundation for better diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Orkin and his collaborators were the first to use the laboratory technique of positional cloning to identify a gene for a human disease. He has also had a transformative impact on the understanding of normal blood cell development (hematopoiesis), identifying the master transcriptional regulator of the process, called GATA-1, as well as many other transcription factors critical for blood cell development. More recently, Orkin’s laboratory characterized the molecular switch from fetal to adult hemoglobin, solving a long-held problem in the field. The team identified the BCL11A gene as a major regulator of fetal hemoglobin levels and demonstrated the potential of targeting the gene for the treatment for sickle cell anemia and beta-thalassemia. 

Orkin, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, will deliver a public lecture and participate in other scholarly activities at Feinberg in the coming year in connection with this award.


John Sharp, HMS lecturer on psychiatry, part-time, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, received the Cynthia N. Kettyle Teaching Award for medical student education in psychiatry, which is presented to faculty members who have demonstrated outstanding and enduring commitment to teaching, mentorship and leadership in psychiatric education.


Joan MillerJoan Miller, the HMS David Glendenning Cogan Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at and the Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital, was named to receive two awards recognizing her significant contributions to the field of retina and ophthalmology: the 2018 Charles L. Schepens, MD, American Academy of Ophthalmology Award and the Gertrude D. Pyron Award from the Retina Research Foundation.

Miller is the first woman to receive the Charles L. Schepens, MD/AAO Award, which recognizes vision scientists who have contributed new knowledge of the visual process of vitreoretinal diseases and/or have made special contributions to prevent and decrease blindness. Miller will receive the award and deliver the Charles L. Schepens Lecture at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting’s Retina Subspecialty Day in October.

Miller was also selected by the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) as the recipient of the Retina Research Foundation 2018 Gertrude D. Pyron Award, which is awarded to outstanding vision scientists whose work contributes significantly to knowledge of the retina. Miller will receive the award and present the 23rd Annual Gertrude D. Pyron Award Lecture at the American Society of Retina Specialists annual meeting in July.


Luk Vandenberghe, HMS assistant professor of ophthalmology and director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center at Mass. Eye and Ear, and Luca Biasco, HMS assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, were named to receive Outstanding New Investigator Awards from the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy. They will be honored during the organization’s annual meeting in May.


HMS physician-scientists were honored by the American Academy of Neurology at the organization’s 2018 meeting in April. The awards and awardees from HMS are as follows:

Michael Ronthal, HMS professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
A.B. Baker Teacher Recognition Award

William Renthal, instructor in neurobiology at HMS
Harold Wolff-John Graham Award: An Award for Headache/Facial Pain Research

Aaron Berkowitz, HMS assistant professor of neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Mridha Spirit of Neurology Humanitarian Award

Scott Plotkin, HMS professor of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital
Neuro-Oncology Scientific Award

Lily Grossman, HMS fellow in neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital
Safety and Quality Award

Matthew Bevers, HMS instructor in neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Clinical Research Training Scholarship

Archana Patel, HMS instructor in neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital
Practice Research Training Scholarship

Katharine Nicholson, HMS instructor in neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital
Clinical Research Training Scholarship in Muscular Dystrophy


The following HMS faculty members have been named 2018 William Silen Lifetime Achievement Excellence in Mentoring Awards recipients from Harvard Medical School's Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership:

Gary Fleisher, the HMS Egan Family Foundation Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital
Elizabeth Ginsburg, HMS professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Isaac Kohane, the Marion V. Nelson Professor of Biomedical Informatics and head of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at HMS
Jane Newburger, the HMS Commonwealth Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital
Jeremy Ruskin, HMS professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital


Gerhard Wagner

Gerhard Wagner, the Elkan Blout Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at HMS, was awarded the 2018 Gunther Laukien Prize, which recognizes innovative NMR research.

The award recognizes Wagner’s contribution to developing NMR methods critical in structure determination and understanding dynamics of biomolecules, including procedures for advanced sampling and data reconstruction, and methods to exploit the TROSY effect while detecting low-gamma nuclei in solution NMR spectroscopy.


M. Amin Arnaout, HMS professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, was selected to receive the 2018 Homer W. Smith Award from the American Society of Nephrology.

Arnaout discovered a class of cell adhesion molecules on leukocytes, now known as leukocyte β2 integrins, whose inherited deficiency causes life threatening bacterial infections (NEJM, 1982). He then pioneered a structure-based approach to the biology of integrins, which culminated in his elucidation of the 3-dimentional structure of these receptors. His work was editorialized in Science as "one of those spectacular results that will change a field.”  Arnaout is using integrin structure to address a major drawback in current anti-integrin drugs, namely the inadvertent drug-induced proadhesive shape-shifting activity in these receptors that has been linked to major adverse outcomes in patients. Dr. Arnaout developed first-in-class orthosteric inhibitors that are not partial agonists and has recently shown the effectiveness and safety of one such inhibitor in preventing fibroinflammatory kidney failure in nonhuman primates. These recent studies are rekindling interest in development of safer anti-integrin drugs to treat common diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and cancer. 

The top international award presented by ASN recognizes “an individual who has made outstanding contributions which fundamentally affect the science of nephrology.” In the 54-year history of this award, this is the second time it goes to an HMS physician scientist at Mass General.


Seven Harvard Medical School students are among the 66 exceptional medical, dental and veterinary students from schools throughout the U.S. who have been selected to receive the 2018-2019 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Medical Research Fellowships, a program which aims to develop the next generation of physician-scientists.

The six first-time HHMI Medical Research Fellows from HMS, who will all complete their research at the School, are London Society students Uday Agrawal, Erik BaoMin Young Jang and Patrick Lee, as well as Peabody Society student Aaron Cheng. Cannon Society student Sean Wang will do research at HMS with support from the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Cannon Society student Bennet Cho, who was a 2017–2018 Medical Research Fellow, has been funded for an additional year in the program.

All HHMI Med Fellows have prior experience with bench research, but the year-long fellowship offers students the opportunity to take a year away from their training to immerse themselves in a mentored laboratory-based research project that they have proposed. Each fellow receives $43,000 in grant support.


Alden LandryAlden Landry, associate director and advisor for the Castle Society and faculty assistant director of the Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership, has been named to receive the Alfred Frechette Award and the Michael Shannon, MD, MPH, Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA).

Landry teaches cultural competency to medical students and residents and works with numerous organizations to eliminate health disparities and increase diversity in the health care workforce. His accomplishments include founding Motivating Pathways, a nonprofit that promotes careers in the health professions, and being co-director for the Tour for Diversity in Medicine. His research involves emergency department utilization trends, disparities in care and quality of care.

The Alfred Frechette Award is presented annually to a young person (age 40 or younger) of high accomplishment and promise in the health field in Massachusetts, and the Michael Shannon, MD, MPH, Excellence in Mentoring Award recognizes the efforts of individuals who have made significant contributions to mentoring socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

Landry, who is also HMS assistant professor of emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a senior faculty member at the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, will be honored at the MPHA’s 16th Annual Spring Awards Breakfast on June 1 in Boston.


Elisa Cheng, HMS instructor in psychiatry, part-time, at Cambridge Health Alliance, has been selected to receive the 2018 Jonathan F. Borus Outstanding Early Career Educator Award, which is awarded by the HMS Psychiatry Executive Committee to a junior faculty member at HMS who has demonstrated exceptional promise, initiative and commitment in the area of psychiatric education. Cheng is a co-recipient of the award with Alex Keuroghlian, HMS assistant professor of psychiatry, part-time, at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Cheng and Keuroghlian received their awards at the Harvard Medical School Symposium on Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at the Harvard Faculty Club on April 26.


Clockwise from top left: Arlene Sharpe, Daniel A. Haber, Christopher A. Walsh and Dennis KasperFour Harvard Medical School faculty were among 84 members and 21 foreign associates elected in 2018 to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of “their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research,” the NAS announced on May 1.

The newly elected HMS members include Daniel A. Haber, the Kurt J. Isselbacher Professor of Oncology at HMS, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Dennis Kasper, the William Ellery Channing Professor of Medicine and professor of microbiology and immunobiology at HMS; Arlene Sharpe, the George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology and co-chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology at HMS, senior scientist in the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and associate member of the Broad Institute; and Christopher A. Walsh, the Bullard Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at HMS, chief of the Division of Genetics and Genomics at Boston Children’s Hospital and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The NAS is a nonprofit organization of the country’s leading researchers that provides independent, science-based advice to the U.S. government on scientific and technological issues. Scientists are elected by their peers.