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Robert S. Sherwin, MD: A consummate physician and scientist

Yale Medicine Magazine, Autumn 2023 (Issue 171) Obesity Special Report
by Jenny Blair, MD

Contents

Robert S. Sherwin, MD, C.N.H. Long Professor of Medicine, Emeritus, passed away March 31, 2023, at age 80. He was a prolific and influential endocrinology and diabetes researcher, and a beloved clinician and mentor.

“Bob was the consummate physician-scientist, linking what he observed in patient care to asking fundamental questions in research, and then learning from his research findings to help provide even better patient care,” wrote Silvio Inzucchi, MD, professor of medicine (endocrinology), in a comment on Sherwin’s obituary.

Added a patient, “He helped me with my diabetes. He was always there to listen to all my concerns. I truly miss...his caring, thoughtfulness, and understanding.”

Sherwin’s over 400 scientific papers have been cited roughly 35,000 times. His key contributions included foundational work in glucose metabolism; the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes; autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes; and metabolic function in children with obesity.

He devised crucial research tools as well as patient-care innovations. Early in his career, he developed glucose clamps, which became indispensable techniques in studies of glucose metabolism and diabetes drug development. He also helped pioneer the insulin pump. Mid-career, he helped make Yale a global center of research into autoimmunity and diabetes.

“It is hard to imagine that anyone will have the credentials to fill Bob’s shoes in the future,” wrote William Tamborlane, MD, professor of pediatrics (endocrinology), in a 2021 career tribute in Diabetes Journal.

Born in New York City in 1942, Sherwin graduated from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1967. In 1972, following residency at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and the National Institutes of Health, he came to Yale, joining the faculty two years later.

By 1995, he was head of the Endocrinology & Metabolism section. A decade later, he became the inaugural leader of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, an early recipient of the NIH’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards that nurtured human subject research at Yale.

Sherwin also directed the Endocrine Fellowship beginning in 1984 and Yale’s federally funded Diabetes Center from 1993 until he retired in 2018.

Sherwin also played national roles, leading the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and serving on many journals’ editorial boards. Among his many honors were three from the ADA alone: the Banting Medal for Service in 2001, the Banting Award for Lifetime Scientific Achievement in 2007, and the Albert Renold Award for Mentoring in Diabetes Research—an acknowledgment of his having mentored more than 200 trainees.

Said one of those mentees, Assistant Professor of Medicine Janice Hwang, MD, to the Yale Daily News upon Sherwin’s retirement, “He never forgot the North Star, which was to help patients.”