Andrew Haig, M.D., professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, has received the Distinguished Clinician Award from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The award honors physiatrists who have achieved distinction through teaching and performance in physiatric patient care activities. Haig’s clinical interests focus on low back and neck pain, electroneuromyography and general rehabilitation. The academy is the national medical society representing more than 7,500 physicians who are specialists in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Professor of Psychiatry Sean Joe, Ph.D., is the 2009 recipient of the Edwin Shneidman Award from the American Association of Suicidology, honoring Joe’s outstanding contributions in research to the field of suicide studies. The association, which is a leader in advancing scientific and programmatic efforts in suicide prevention, includes mental health and public health professionals, researchers, suicide prevention and crisis intervention centers, school districts, crisis center volunteers, survivors of suicide, and a variety of lay persons who have an interest in suicide prevention.
Seven U-M faculty members are among 486 newly elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications; six of the seven hold Medical School appointments. Daniel Klionsky, Ph.D., professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, was recognized for innovations in teaching cell biology and for research defining the mechanisms and cellular role of autophagy, the process of self-digestion by a cell through the action of enzymes. Steven Kunkel, Ph.D., endowed professor of pathology research, was elected based upon seminal discoveries in immunology and his contributions in numerous university administrative positions. Alan Saltiel, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and of molecular and integrative physiology in the Medical School and director of the Life Sciences Institute, was honored for distinguished research toward understanding the specificity of signal transduction and insulin action, and for life sciences leadership. Jochen Schacht, Ph.D., professor of biological chemistry and director of the Kresge Hearing Research Institute, was recognized for his work with antibiotics and hearing loss; his team determined that aspirin helps ward off hearing loss caused by the widely used antibiotic gentamicin. Professor of Microbiology and Immunology David Sherman, Ph.D., was honored for his work in the field of natural product biosynthesis. Sherman studies the natural chemical compounds made by microorganisms, pursuing drug-discovery opportunities for infectious diseases and cancer. Stephen Weiss, M.D., the E. Gifford and Love Barnett Upjohn Professor of Internal Medicine and Oncology, was elected in recognition of his research into understanding protease function and remodeling of the extracellular matrix, and for academic leadership. Founded in 1848, AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science.
Howard Markel (M.D. 1986), Ph.D., the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine, director of the Center for the History of Medicine, and professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases and of psychiatry; and Juanita Merchant, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and of molecular and integrative physiology, are among 65 new electees to the Institute of Medicine, a prestigious organization which is part of the National Academies and serves as a national resource for independent scientifically informed analyses and recommendations on health issues. Markel’s work examines the parallels between medical history and modern medicine, including topics as diverse as pandemic influenza preparedness planning; politics and medicine; and immigration, disease and public health. Merchant’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying normal and cancerous epithelial cell growth in the luminal gastrointestinal tract. Membership in the IOM is extended only to those who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements and commitment to service, and is one of the highest honors in the field of medicine and biomedical research.
Richard R. Neubig
Richard R. Neubig, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and associate professor of internal medicine, is a recipient of the 2009 ASPET-Astellas Award in Translational Pharmacology. The award recognizes individuals whose research has the potential to lead to the introduction of novel pharmacologic approaches or technologies that may offer significant future advances in clinical medicine. Neubig is recognized nationally and internationally as a leading authority on RGS proteins and has been at the forefront of work to develop the RGS family as therapeutic drug targets. The award is made possible by a grant to the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics from the Astellas Foundation.
Gilbert S. Omenn
Gilbert S. Omenn, M.D., Ph.D., professor of human genetics and of internal medicine and director of the Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, has received the Walsh McDermott Medal for distinguished service from the Institute of Medicine. Since his election to the IOM in 1979, Omenn has been an enthusiastic and outgoing contributor to its work on multiple levels. Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine is both an honorific and advisory organization that provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector and the public.
John J.G. Tesmer
Pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly & Co. has named John J.G. Tesmer, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology, the recipient of the 2009 John J. Abel Award. The award is given to a young investigator for original, outstanding research contributions in the field of pharmacology. Tesmer’s research seeks not only to resolve the atomic structures of large signaling complexes, but also to test hypotheses derived from these structures using a broad range of biochemical, biophysical and genetic tools, with the goal of opening new opportunities for the design or discovery of novel therapeutic agents.
John J. Voorhees
John J. Voorhees (M.D. 1963, Residency 1969), the Duncan O. and Ella M. Poth Distinguished Professor of Dermatology and chair of the Department of Dermatology, received the 2009 Eugene J. Van Scott Award for Innovative Therapy of the Skin from the American Academy of Dermatology, and delivered the Phillip Frost Leadership Lecture at the plenary session of the academy’s annual meeting. The award was given in recognition of Voorhees’ research into the molecular mechanisms of aging and photoaging skin and the biochemical manner in which topical retinoids and other agents improve both photoaged skin and the wrinkling associated with natural skin aging. Voorhees has also studied the immunologic mechanisms of psoriasis, leading to greater use of immunosuppressive therapies for treatment of the disease.
James O. Woolliscroft
Dean of the Medical School James O. Woolliscroft, M.D. (Residency 1980), has received the Merrel Flair Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The purpose of the award is to honor an individual who has made a major contribution over a significant period of time to the process or administration or transmission of information regarding medical education in North America. Woolliscroft, who is also the Lyle C. Roll Professor of Medicine and served for seven years as executive associate dean, has done extensive work with the National Board of Medical Examiners in developing new assessment methods; chaired the AAMC Group on Educational Affairs; chaired the program planning committee for the AAMC Research in Medical Education section; was a founding member and served as president of the Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine; and originated one of the first clinical skills assessment exams in the country at the U-M Medical School. Woolliscroft is nationally known for his innovation in education.
Jeff Jentzen: Examining Forensic Medicine
“We deal a lot more with the living than we do with the dead,” says Jeffrey Jentzen, M.D., director of Autopsy and Forensic Services and an assistant medical examiner for Washtenaw County. “People say we just deal with dead people,” he adds. “but we have a lot of contact with families, police, funeral directors, politicians, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the media.
“Many have an opinion that we turn into our work,” he says. “That’s not necessarily the case. I would describe myself as pretty normal.”
What’s exceptional about this normal guy who enjoys watching sports and listening to music, especially Motown, is his commitment to the future. It’s one of the reasons he came to the U-M last year after 21 years as Milwaukee’s chief medical examiner, starting when he was 33 — the youngest person ever to hold such a position in a major metropolitan area.
Says Jentzen, “We’re renovating and expanding the morgue area in partnership with Washtenaw County, in part so we can handle all its medical examiner cases. We want to develop a center of excellence for forensic medicine; I don’t think there’s any better place to do it than here. I’m also looking forward to developing a program to help train forensic pathologists — there’s a nationwide shortage — and I’m interested in creating a partnership with the School of Public Health so we can capture more information and get a better understanding about the deaths that we investigate.”
Jentzen is no stranger to partnerships. He co-founded the Arab Countries Conference on Forensic Pathology after meeting the assistant medical examiner for Amman, Jordan, and realizing they had much to learn from one another. Attendance at the 2006 conference was more than quintuple that of the first.
But he’s far from dismissing the past. History is another of his passions, and he holds a Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin, in addition to his medical degree from Wayne State University. His dissertation, Death Investigation in America: Coroners, Medical Examiners and the Pursuit of Medical Certainty, has been accepted for publication by Harvard University Press.
Just four years after he became Milwaukee’s chief medical examiner, Jentzen headed one of history’s most famous death investigations: the Jeffrey Dahmer case.
“It was more like dismantling someone’s museum than an actual crime scene,” he says. “He was assisting in the investigation, so as we did the autopsies, we could ask him questions directly about our findings. It was interesting to have that kind of access. Initially I thought it was pretty weird stuff, but over time you come to know that a lot of things are weird in forensic medicine.”
In June 2007, before making the move to Ann Arbor, Jentzen was involved in a case that will forever be a tragic part of U-M history. He investigated the deaths of six Michigan Transplant Team and Survival Flight Team members who perished in a plane crash in Lake Michigan while returning from an organ procurement mission in Milwaukee.
He says he tells residents, “I’ve never done an autopsy I regret doing, and I learn something on every autopsy I do.” Which is, after all, the point. “In 40 percent of autopsies, we identify a major finding that could change the cause of death,” Jentzen says. “That has been stable for a hundred years. So despite all of our advanced diagnostic resources, we still need autopsies to help find out why people die.” —JEFF MORTIMER