National Academy of Medicine elects five new members from Penn 

Kurt T. Barnhart, Christopher B. Forrest, Susan L. Furth, Desmond Upton Patton, and Robert H. Vonderheide are among 100 new Academy members elected this year, one of the highest honors in health and medicine.

Top row, from left to right: Kurt Thomas Barnhart, Christopher B. Forrest, and Susan L. Furth. Bottom row, left to right: Desmond Upton Patton and Robert H. Vonderheide. (Images: Courtesy of Penn Medicine; Desmond Patton image by Eric Sucar)

Five experts from the University of Pennsylvania have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), one of the nation’s highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Desmond Upton Patton, along with Kurt T. Barnhart, Christopher B. Forrest, Susan L. Furth, and Robert H. Vonderheide from the Perelman School of Medicine are among the 100 new members, elected by current NAM members. They join 83 other Penn members who are part of the prestigious group of health care thought leaders, clinicians, and researchers. 

Election to the Academy recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health.

Kurt T. Barnhart specializes in the clinical and epidemiologic aspects of reproduction including ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and infertility. He is the William Shippen Jr. Professor Obstetrics and Gynecology and a professor of epidemiology in biostatistics and epidemiology at the Perelman School of Medicine. He also is the director of the Women’s Health Clinical Research Center and the vice chair of research within the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Barnhart’s research focuses on the novel preparation of biomarkers for disease processes, for use as predictors or diagnostic aids, as well as on efficacy and safety outcomes after clinical interventions. Through his research and clinical care focused on evidence-based medicine, Barnhart has helped to set the standard of OB-GYN and fertility care worldwide. 

Christopher B. Forrest is a professor of pediatrics and the director of the Applied Clinical Research Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). He is also the executive director of PEDSnet, a national pediatric learning health system. Forrest was instrumental in advancing the PROMIS Pediatric Global Health measure, which provides a system for children to report on their own health and experiences. Another area of focus for Forrest is the new field of life course health science, which will seek to include children more often in lifespan research with the goal of facilitating better understanding of chronic disease. 

Susan L. Furth is the principal investigator of the Chronic Kidney Disease in Children Study, National Institutes of Health-funded effort—the largest study of children with chronic kidney disease every conducted in North America designed to study the effect of kidney function decline on child development. Furth is the chief scientific officer and an executive vice president of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine. She is also the Edmond F. Notebaert Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research at CHOP. She was president of the Society for Pediatric Research and named to the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars. Furth is also the principal investigator for the Pediatric Center of Excellence in Nephrology Award. 

Desmond Upton Patton is a pioneer in the interdisciplinary fusion of social work, communications, and data science. A Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor, Patton is the Brian and Randi Schwartz University Professor with joint appointments in the School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) and the Annenberg School for Communication, and with a secondary appointment in the Perelman School of Medicine. Patton is also the founding director of SAFELab, a research initiative affiliated with Annenberg and SP2 that examines how to support youth of color in navigating grief and violence in social media environments and researches innovative methods to promote joy and healing in digital contexts. At SP2, he is also chief strategy officer and the director of the Penn Center for Inclusive Innovation and Technology

Robert H. Vonderheide is a distinguished scientist and clinician who has deciphered mechanisms of cancer immune surveillance and is well recognized for developing novel cancer therapeutics, particularly in pancreatic and breast cancer. Vonderheide is the director of the Abramson Cancer Center and the John H. Glick, MD, Abramson Cancer Center’s director professor in the Perelman School of Medicine. He is vice dean and vice president for Cancer Programs at Penn Medicine. Vonderheide is well-recognized for driving the development of cancer immunotherapies including agonist CD40 antibodies and for discovering telomerase as a universal tumor antigen. He is leading efforts to develop telomerase vaccination for both cancer therapy and prevention, as well as work to improve access to clinical trials.