Professor Dr Aravinda Chakravarti of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who is president-elect of the American Society of Human Genetics, and Professor Dr K Ranga Rama Krishnan of the Duke University Medical Center, who is now setting up a medical school in Singapore for Duke, have been elected to the Institute of Medicine, one of the three components of the National Academy of Sciences.
'Election [to the IOM] is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health,' according to IOM President Harvey V Fineberg. 'Members are elected through a highly selective process that recognizes people who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health,' he noted.
Dr Chakravarti is the director, Center for Complex Disease Genomics and professor of medicine, pediatrics, molecular biology and genetics, and biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr Rama Krishnan is professor and chair, department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, and executive vice dean, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore.
They are among the 65 members elected recently, which raised IOM's members to 1,538, which, with the election of four individuals as foreign associates, bringing the total members in that category to 84. With another 70 members holding emeritus status, IOM's total membership is now 1,692.
The new members are elected from among candidates nominated for their professional achievement and commitment to service. The Institute's charter assures an unusual diversity of talent, for which it gets at least one-quarter of the membership selected from outside the health professions, from the natural, social, and behavioral sciences, as well as law, administration, engineering, and the humanities.
The IOM is unique in being an honorific membership organisation and an advisory organisation that advises the nation on ways to improve health. Established in 1970 by the NAS, it is recognised as a national resource for independent scientific analysis and recommendations on human health issues. Elected members commit themselves to volunteering as members of IOM committees, which engage in a broad range of studies on health policy issues.
"I am delighted to be elected to the IOM which is one of medicine's highest honors,' Dr Chakravarti said. "This shows how far our Indian-American community has come in the US and how much further we have to travel."
Dr Chakravarti was a key participant in the Human Genome Project and an architect of the International HapMap Project. His research is aimed at analysis of the human genome, computational analysis of gene variation and function, and understanding the molecular genetic basis of common genetic disorders.
He received his doctoral degree in human genetics from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston in 1979 and continued postdoctoral training at the University of Washington in Seattle during 1979-1980. He earned his bachelor of statistics (honors) from the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1974. He started his career as a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh (1980 to 1993). He went on to become the James H Jewell Professor of Genetics at Case Western Reserve University (1994-2000), and the inaugural director and Henry J Knott Professor of the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins (2000 to 2007).
Dr Chakravarti is one of the founding editors-in-chief of Genome Research, and serves on the advisory and editorial boards of numerous national and international journals, boards and societies. He is a former member of the National Institutes of Health's national advisory council of the National Human Genome Research Institute, chaired the NIH Subcommittee on the third five-year Genome Project Plan, and continues to serve on numerous NIH panels.
Dr Rama Krishnan is also executive vice dean of medical school in Singapore, which is established in partnership with the National University of Singapore. The school, which will grant a Duke degree, has students from seven countries, including India and US, in its first batch, which began the program in August.
The Department of Psychiatry at Duke that Dr Krishnan heads has more than 490 faculty members, conducts more than 270 human-subject studies a year and a similar number of in-vitro and in-vivo animal studies, and receives approximately $40 million of research funding annually.
He earned his medical degree and completed a rotating internship at the Madras Medical College in Chennai and completed his residency and held a fellowship in neurobiology at the Duke University Medical Center. He has created a research center for depression in the elderly, the only such center in the US funded by NIH.
Dr Krishnan received the 2007 Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry in recognition of his contributions to biomedical science. He serves or has served on many editorial boards of scientific journals and has received numerous other awards.
Image: Dr K Ranga Rama Krishnan
Photograph: Duke University Medical Center