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National Academy of Medicine elects six new members from Yale

Basic science, clinical care, and public health are all represented by the honorees

At a ceremony celebrating their selection to the National Academy of Medicine, (l-r): Nita Ahuja, Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, Akiko Iwasaki, Jorge Galán, and Nenad Sestan. Absent from photo: David Schatz.
Photo by Anthony DeCarlo
(l-r): Nita Ahuja, Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, Akiko Iwasaki, Jorge Galán, and Nenad Sestan.
At a ceremony celebrating their selection to the National Academy of Medicine, (l-r): Nita Ahuja, Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, Akiko Iwasaki, Jorge Galán, and Nenad Sestan. Absent from photo: David Schatz.

Six School of Medicine faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the organization announced Oct. 21 at its annual meeting.

They are among 100 new members elected by NAM to receive the honor, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service in the fields of health and medicine.

At a ceremony on Oct. 22 to celebrate the winners, Robert J. Alpern, MD, dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine, said those who receive this honor are the best of the best. “For every one person that gets in, there are 10 outstanding people who don’t get elected that year. So, the competition is incredible, and I think it is a real honor when somebody gets elected to the National Academy of Medicine.”

Established originally as the Institute of Medicine in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, NAM addresses important issues in health, science, medicine, and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors. NAM works alongside the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.

Yale Honorees:

  • Nita Ahuja, MD, chair and William H. Carmalt Professor of Surgery, and chief of surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital. Ahuja is internationally recognized for her expertise in gastrointestinal cancers, including gastric, rectal, and pancreatic cancers and for being a passionate advocate for mentorship of trainees, staff, and faculty. Ahuja is also a leader in translational epigenetics, and initiating clinical trials in colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and other solid tumors. In addition, she has developed biomarkers for early detection of colorectal and pancreatic cancers.
  • Jorge E. Galán, PhD, chair and Lucille P. Markey Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis and professor of cell biology. Galán studies the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis of Salmonella and Campylobacter, which cause the majority of food-borne illnesses in the world. His lab uses a multidisciplinary approach to study the interface between pathogen and host. He discovered that such bacteria as Salmonella use a needle-like complex of more than 30 proteins to infect and replicate within host cells.
  • Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, professor of dermatology, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Iwasaki’s research focuses on the mechanisms of immune defense against viruses at the mucosal surfaces. Her laboratory is interested in how innate recognition of viral infections leads to the generation of adaptive immunity, and how adaptive immunity protects against subsequent viral challenge. She recently showed that a new vaccine strategy can provide preventive and therapeutic protection against viral infections.
  • Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, PhD, professor of public health (social and behavioral sciences), director of the Office of Public Health Practice, and director of the Global Health Concentration at the Yale School of Public Health. Pérez-Escamilla has launched public health nutrition and food security research programs around the world, which have been credited with the improvement of many measurements of health including breastfeeding outcomes and iron-deficiency anemia in infants. His health disparities research has focused on the impact of community health workers in improving behavioral and metabolic outcomes among Latinos with type 2 diabetes.
  • David G. Schatz, PhD, chair and Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology, and professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Schatz has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms that assemble and diversify the genes that encode antibodies and T cell receptors.
  • Nenad Sestan, MD, PhD, Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Neuroscience, professor of comparative medicine and of genetics and psychiatry, as well as executive director of the Genome Editing Center. Sestan studies the molecular and cellular basis of brain development, exploring how neurons acquire distinct identities and form proper synaptic connections in the cerebral cortex, a part of the brain that is essential for cognition, perception, and behavior.