CUMC Faculty Among 70 Scientists Elected to the Institute of Medicine

October 20, 2014

Four Columbia University Medical Center faculty members and an adjunct faculty member have been elected to the elite Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences.

Election to the IOM is one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health. These new elected members—Gerard Karsenty, Michael Shadlen, Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, and Quarraisha Abdool Karim—are in the Class of 2014 announced today. Adjunct professor James J. Cimino also was elected.

CUMC now has 61 faculty members in the IOM.

The new members are:

Gerard Karsenty, MD, PhD, Paul A. Marks Professor of Genetics & Development, Professor of Medicine, and Chair, Department of Genetics & Development

Dr. Karsenty, who was trained as an endocrinologist, has used clinical data, evolutionary history, and mouse genetics to study all aspects of skeletal biology. After identifying the master gene of bone formation, Dr. Karsenty turned his attention to the physiology of the skeleton. His laboratory postulated and demonstrated the existence of a coordinated control of bone mass accrual, energy metabolism, and reproduction. In testing this overarching hypothesis, his laboratory was the first  to demonstrate the existence of a central control of bone mass, to uncover its road map, and to establish that bone is an endocrine organ. In this latter aspect of his work, Dr. Karsenty showed that the bone-derived hormone osteocalcin is necessary, in mice and in humans, for glucose homeostasis, male fertility, and cognitive functions.

Michael Shadlen, MD, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience

Dr. Shadlen, who is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a member of Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, investigates the neural basis of decision making and cognition by studying neurons that process information to give rise to interpretations, decisions, and plans for behavior. His experiments combine electrophysiological, behavioral, and computational methods to advance knowledge of higher brain function. His work could eventually help patients with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, or other brain disorders by using knowledge of how the brain is supposed to work as a basis for efforts to correct its malfunctions.

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, PhD, Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Medical Sciences (in Medicine) 

Dr. Vunjak-Novakovic was a Fulbright Fellow at MIT when she became interested in the use of tissue engineering and emerging technologies to improve and save human lives. At Columbia, she directs the Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, which works on engineering human tissues for application in regenerative medicine, stem cell research, and disease modeling. Her work is extensively published and highly cited; she has more than 70 licensed, issued, and pending patents, has founded two biotech companies, and is a frequent adviser to government and industry. Among her many recognitions, she is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the Biomedical Engineering Society; a founding Fellow of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society; a member of the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame, Academia Europaea, and the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts; and the first woman from Columbia University to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Quarraisha Abdool Karim , PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at CUMC (elected as a foreign associate)

Dr. Karim is associate scientific director for the Center for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa. She is an infectious diseases epidemiologist whose main research interests are in understanding the evolving HIV epidemic in South Africa; factors influencing acquisition of HIV infection in adolescent girls; and sustainable strategies to introduce HAART—highly active antiretroviral therapy—in resource-constrained settings. Since 1998 she has played a central role in building the science base in southern Africa through the Columbia University-Southern African Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Programme. She is the PI of the landmark CAPRISA 004 trial that demonstrated that 1 percent tenofovir gel can prevent HIV infection.

James J. Cimino, MD, Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Informatics

Dr. Cimino is chief of the Laboratory for Informatics Development at the NIH Clinical Center and the National Library of Medicine; he was a professor of biomedical informatics and medicine at P&S before joining the NIH. His primary research interests include medical concept representation and using it to support clinical decision-making. After training in medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, he completed a research fellowship in medical informatics at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard. As chief of the Laboratory for Informatics Development he directs the development of the Biomedical Translational Research Information System, an NIH-wide repository of data collected over the past four decades of clinical research.

The IOM is part of the National Academies, which also includes the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Research Council. The IOM is unique in its role as both an honorific membership group and an advisory organization. Members are expected to volunteer on study committees that serve as national resources for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on issues related to human health. More information is available at the IOM website.