three Columbia University scientists elected in 2021 to National Academy of Medicine

Three Columbia Researchers Elected to National Academy of Medicine

The National Academy of Medicine today announced that three members of the Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons faculty—René Hen, PhD, Elisa E. Konofagou, PhD, and Jennifer Manly, PhD—have been elected to the academy.

Membership in the National Academy of Medicine, formerly known as the Institute of Medicine, is one of the highest honors bestowed in the field of medicine. Members of NAM are elected by their peers in recognition of outstanding achievement.

“We are delighted that Drs. Hen, Konofagou, and Manly have been elected to membership in the National Academy of Medicine,” said Anil K. Rustgi, MD, Interim Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.  “These three researchers have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service, and their election to the academy reflects on the quality of scholarship that distinguishes VP&S.”

Hen is a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Molecular Pharmacology & Therapeutics at VP&S. Konofagou is the Robert and Margaret Hariri Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and professor of radiology at VP&S. Manly is professor of neuropsychology in the Department of Neurology at VP&S, the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, and the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain.

"Dr. Konofagou's pioneering research and translation effort is a true testament to the impact of cross-disciplinary collaboration between engineering and medicine," says Shih-Fu Chang, PhD, interim dean of Columbia Engineering. "Her work in therapeutic ultrasound is widely acknowledged as breaking new ground in medical practice and treatment. This is a great honor for Elisa, for Columbia Engineering, and for the University as a whole."

The new Academy members from VP&S are:

René Hen, PhD, Columbia neuroscientist

René Hen

René Hen, PhD

René Hen was elected to NAM for discovering the role of neurogenesis in the mechanism of action of antidepressant medications and making seminal contributions to our understanding of serotonin receptors in health and disease.

His lab studies mood disorders and memory deficits and has found a commonality between chronic stress and age-related memory problems, both of which lead to a drop in the production of new neurons.

Hen also is director of the Division of Systems Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry. In 2019, he received the Goldman Rakic Prize from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation for outstanding achievement in cognitive neuroscience research.

Elisa Konofagou, PhD, professor of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University

Elisa E. Konofagou

Elisa E. Konofagou, PhD

Elisa E. Konofagou designs and develops ultrasound-based technologies that measure the mechanical and electrical properties of soft tissues in vivo such as the heart, aorta, carotid, breast, pancreas, and the brain. Her team also develops ultrasound-based treatments such as breast tumor ablation, brain drug delivery, immunomodulation, and neuromodulation in the central and peripheral nervous systems; and pioneered ultrasound-based methods for noninvasive early detection of cardiovascular disease and tumors.

Konofagou was elected to NAM for her leadership and innovation in ultrasound and other advanced imaging modalities and their application in the clinical management of significant health care problems such as cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer, through licensing to the major imaging companies. 

Jennifer Manly, PhD, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University

Jennifer Manly

Jennifer Manly, PhD

Jennifer Manly's research has explored how early life inequalities, including school policies and educational opportunities, influence the risk of cognitive decline among Black and Hispanic older adults.

She was elected to NAM for her pioneering work improving detection of cognitive impairment among racially, culturally, and socio-economically diverse adults, which has had a profound impact on the field of neuropsychology, and her visionary research on the social, biological, and behavioral pathways between early life education and later life cognitive function.

As a leader in the examination of the role of cultural and educational experience in cognitive test performance, Manly has found that ethnic minorities are more likely to be misdiagnosed or misclassified as having cognitive impairment as compared to whites.

Manly is one of the lead investigators for several large Alzheimer’s studies that include adults from diverse racial, ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, including the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project (WHICAP). She has served on the Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and is a member of the National Advisory Council on Aging.