Clemente Britto-Leon, MD, assistant professor of medicine (pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine) at Yale School of Medicine (YSM), received the Carol Basbaum Award from the Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (RCMB) Assembly of the American Thoracic Society (ATS). The award was presented at the ATS International Conference, on May 22, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
The award was created in memory of Carol B. Basbaum, PhD, a preeminent scientist, leader, and mentor known for her selfless contributions to her trainees and colleagues. It is the highest scientific recognition within the assembly for early- and mid-career physician-scientists.
“I am humbled to receive this prestigious recognition,” Britto-Leon said. “I look forward to continuing my work to earn my place among past recipients and to honor Dr. Basbaum’s memory.”
Britto-Leon investigates the effects of lung inflammation and infection in patients with cystic fibrosis. His most recent work focuses on how sex differences in these patients influence their response to cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator modular therapy, a treatment that has transformed the care of cystic fibrosis patients by decreasing their symptoms and increasing their lifespan.
“His seminal work is continuing to transform our understanding of immune cell dysfunction in cystic fibrosis using cutting-edge techniques and patient samples,” said Elizabeth Redente, PhD, ATSF, associate professor at National Jewish Health, who chaired the planning committee charged with selecting award recipients.
“Despite his relatively young career, he has already assumed status as a key opinion leader in cystic fibrosis disease mechanisms and management,” said Enid Neptune, MD, RCMB assembly chair and associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Erica Herzog, MD, PhD, John Slade Ely Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary) and professor of pathology at YSM, pointed to Britto-Leon’s many accomplishments in his research and beyond. “His scientific achievements in cystic fibrosis-related airway inflammation, mentoring history, leadership potential, and assembly contributions render him uniquely qualified for this recognition,” she said.
As a member of the ATS Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology Assembly since 2012, Britto-Leon has served in the Executive, Planning, and Nominating committees, the Early Career Professionals Working Group, and the Science and Innovation Center, which he currently co-chairs. Within the assembly, he implemented the RCMB Mentorship Program, contributing to the creation of the Andy Tager and International RCMB awards, and conceived and implemented the Recognition of Early Academic Achievement Award for early career members.
“With all of his contributions—between his ATS leadership and service, his scientific research—I think he very much deserved this award,” said Charles Dela Cruz, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine (pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine) at YSM. “It's a nice recognition for him at this stage.”
Beyond his professional success, Redente said, Britto-Leon exemplifies other character attributes shared by Dr. Basbaum. “He is a generous, honest, and an exceptionally kind person who uses his scientific discoveries to advance and advocate for the care of his patients,” she said.
Naftali Kaminski, MD, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary) and chief of Yale-PCCSM, remarked on the rewarding aspect of seeing Britto-Leon—along with other former PCCSM fellows—transition to faculty and attain success. “We are all excited about his work and achievements,” Kaminski said.
The other 2023 ATS award winners from Yale-PCCSM are Lauren Ferrante, MD, MHS, assistant professor of medicine, who received the American Thoracic Society (ATS) Jo Rae Wright Award for Outstanding Science, and Katie McAvoy, MD, clinical fellow, who won the award for top abstract by the Innovation in Fellowship Education Working Group.
Previous ATS awards received by Yale-PCCSM faculty include the Assembly on Nursing Early Career Achievement Award, the Assembly on Pulmonary Infections and Tuberculosis Junior-level Peer Recognition Award, the Assembly on Pulmonary Infections and Tuberculosis Mid-career Recognition Award, the Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishments, the Assembly on Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology Andy Tager Award for Excellence in Mentoring, the James Burns Amberson Lecturer, the Distinguished Achievement Award, the Assembly on Environmental, Occupational and Population Health John Peters Award, the Assembly on Pulmonary Rehabilitation Recognition Award, the Assembly on Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology Recognition of Early Academic Achievement Award, the Assembly on Clinical Problems Annual Educator Award, and the Thoracic Oncology Assembly Lifetime Achievement Award.