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. Regina Cunningham, Elizabeth Howell, Steven Joffe, Katalin Karikó, and Drew Weissman from the Perelman School of Medicine are among the 100 new members, elected by current NAM members. They join 78 other Penn members who are part of the prestigious group of health care thought leaders, clinicians, and researchers.
The Academy, formerly the Institute of Medicine, was established in 1970 to advise the nation on medical and health issues, working across disciplines to advance knowledge and accelerate progress in science, medicine, policy, and health equity. New members are elected by current members through a process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health.
This year’s new Penn members:
Regina Cunningham serves as chief executive officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and adjunct professor and assistant dean for clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing. She is recognized for leadership in advancing outcome-driven improvements in quality, health equity, and clinician well-being through the development of advanced care-delivery models and innovative interprofessional roles.
Her research interests include the effect of nursing on outcomes, clinical trials, and innovative models of care delivery. Cunningham was selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow in 2006 and was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2014. Most recently, Cunningham oversaw the opening of Penn Medicine’s 1.5 million-square-foot hospital facility, the Pavilion, and the opening of HUP-Cedar Avenue, part of the Public Health Management Corporation Public Health Campus on Cedar.
Elizabeth Howell is the Harrison McCrea Dickson President’s Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. She is recognized for her work illuminating the extent and origin of racial and ethnic disparities in women and children’s health and shaping interventions to remedy these disparities through her pioneering health services research, leadership, and advocacy.
Her major research interests include the intersection between quality of care, disparities in maternal and infant mortality, and morbidity, as well as postpartum depression and its impact on underserved communities.
Steven Joffe is the Art and Ilene Penn Professor, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy, and a professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine. He is recognized as a leading expert in research ethics and for developing the most widely used instrument for measuring the quality of research informed consent, for re-conceptualizing grounding the ethics of human subjects research in scientific experimentation rather than medical care, and for building a world-leading medical ethics division.
His major research interests address the many ethical challenges that arise in the conduct of clinical and translational investigation, such as the roles and responsibilities of principal investigators in multicenter randomized trials, accountability in the clinical research enterprise, children’s capacity to engage in research decisions, return of individual genetic results to participants in epidemiologic cohort studies, and the nature and challenges of learning health systems.
Katalin Karikó is an adjunct professor of neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine. She is recognized for her foundational mRNA vaccine research with Drew Weissman that led to the first two FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines, pivotal discoveries that opened the door to ending the global pandemic. The vaccine platform may also revolutionize the delivery of efficacious and safe vaccines, therapeutics, and gene therapies.
Karikó has received numerous awards including the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Princess of Asturias Award, Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, and Vilcek Prize for Excellence in Biotechnology.
Drew Weissman is the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research and director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovation in Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine. He is recognized for his work alongside Katalin Karikó in discovering the modified mRNA technology, which has launched a new era of vaccine development. Their mRNA research breakthrough has been used in both the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and has revolutionized the field of vaccine development.
Weissman’s current research focuses on developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine to stop the next coronavirus epidemic, a universal flu vaccine, cancer therapeutics, and a vaccine to prevent herpes. Weissman has also received many awards including the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Princess of Asturias Award, and Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research.
“This extraordinary class of new members is comprised of exceptional scholars and leaders who have been at the forefront of responding to serious public health challenges, combatting social inequities, and achieving innovative discoveries,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau. “Their expertise will be vital to informing the future of health and medicine for the benefit of us all. I am truly honored to welcome these esteemed individuals to the National Academy of Medicine.”