Institute of Medicine Inducts RWJF Alums

    • January 10, 2010

A number of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) alumni received one of the highest honors in their field in the fall: election to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the esteemed arm of the National Academy of Sciences that advises lawmakers, policy-makers and other public and private sector leaders on matters relating to health and medicine.

On October 12, the Institute announced the names of 65 new members, including three alumni of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program, which provides support for medical professors from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, and threealumni of the Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research Program, which supports outstanding health and health policy researchers.

The Institute also drafted Susan Dentzer, a prominent health care journalist who is a member of the Investigator Awards Program National Advisory Committee, as well as other health care experts with connections to the Foundation.

The news reflects well on the caliber of the scholars, said Harold Amos Program Director James Gavin, M.D., Ph.D. “It says that we’ve generated a pretty attractive corps of scholars by some very, very stringent criteria,” he said. “We’ve come up with a really attractive group of winners.”

Institute members volunteer their time to provide independent, objective and evidence-based advice to policy-makers and health care professionals on pressing scientific issues. The Institute’s total membership is now 1,778.

The Harold Amos Program gives four-year mentored career development research awards to junior faculty who are racial or ethnic minorities, come from low-income families, or face other kinds of social barriers.

Harold Amos Program alumni elected to the Institute last fall are Michael DeBaun, M.D., M.P.H., a professor in pediatric medicine at Washington University in St. Louis; Griffin Rodgers, M.D., director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.; and Selwyn Vickers, M.D., a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis.

The Investigator Awards Program supports researchers whose innovative ideas are unlikely to receive funding elsewhere. Program alumni who were elected last fall are Amy Finkelstein, Ph.D., a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Ichiro Kawachi, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of social epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health; and William Sage, M.D., J.D., the vice provost for health affairs at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, Texas.

“Each of these new members stands out as a professional whose research, knowledge and skills have significantly advanced health and medicine and who has served as a model for others,” Institute of Medicine President Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., M.P.P., Ph.D., said in a statement when the new members were announced. “The Institute of Medicine is greatly enriched by the addition of our newly elected colleagues.”

Institute of Medicine Gives Special Honor to Investigator Awards Program Director

The Institute also honored another health expert involved with the Foundation—David Mechanic, Ph.D.—at its October meeting in Washington, D.C. A professor at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and director of the Investigator Awards Program, Mechanic received the Institute of Medicine’s 2009 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health. It carries a $20,000 prize.

He earned the award for helping to define and build the field of medical sociology and, in particular, for his efforts to understand the causes and factors of mental health. In addition to directing the Foundation’s Investigator Awards Program, Mechanic serves on the National Advisory Committees for the Foundation’s Health and Society Scholars and Scholars in Health Policy Research Programs.

“Dr. Mechanic has greatly influenced thinking in areas ranging from mental health to health policy, providing a sociological perspective that has complemented and enriched medical and psychological approaches to these subjects,” Fineberg said.