Prof. Jeffrey Whitsett

International Awards

Grand Hamdan International Award - Neonatal Medicine
2011-2012
Personal Details/Academic Background:
 
A native of the United States of America, 65-year-old Prof. Jeffrey Whitsett is acknowledged as an international expert with a distinguished track record of research and recognition in the Neonatal Medicine. Married with four children he holds several academic and administrative responsibilities in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
 
Responsibilities and Assignments:
 
  • Kindervelt Professor of Pediatrics.
  • Chief, Section of Neonatology, Perinatal and Pulmonary Biology.
  • Director of the Division of Pulmonary Biology.
  • Vice-Chairperson for Research.
  • Co-Director of the Perinatal Institute of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
 
Professor Whitsett is among the most accomplished physician-scientists currently active in the world.
His accomplishments have made a profound, positive impact upon the health and wellbeing of newborn infants everywhere. Professor Whitsett has made the neonatology program in Cincinnati Children’s consistently recognized as one of the best of its kind, receiving more extramural research funding and caring for more patients than any other in the United States.
 
Research and Achievements
 
Prof. Whitsett’s seminal studies of pulmonary surfactant biochemistry and structural biology are now generally recognized as the basis for the successful widespread application of surfactant treatment for neonatal respiratory distress syndrome. This breakthrough changed the face of neonatal intensive care, providing clinicians with the first useful treatment for this devastating consequence of preterm birth. This work would be reason enough to warrant recognition for outstanding contributions to neonatal medicine.
However for Prof. Whitsett, this was just the first stage of a remarkable scientific career. Subsequent work has led to new fundamental understanding of lung-specific gene expression, surfactant metabolism, alveolar proteinosis, vertebrate developmental biology, cystic fibrosis, and control of gestational duration.
Along the way, Prof Whitsett has been extraordinarily generous with his time and expertise, freely sharing reagents generated in his laboratory with colleagues around the world.
 
Professional Milestones
 
During the last 30 years, Dr. Whitsett’s outstanding and seminal research on the pulmonary surfactant system, on developmental and molecular lung biology has most essentially contributed to our current knowledge on fetal and neonatal lung biology.
Dr. Whitsett successfully identified and purified the two hydrophobic surfactant proteins SP-B and SP-C, which are absolutely crucial for surfactant function. He cloned and sequenced genes for coding these proteins and identified structure and the interaction with phospholipids. 
These exceptional discoveries have been recognized worldwide as the basis for the successful use of natural surfactant preparations in preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome. Surfactant replacement therapy has revolutionized neonatal respiratory care and drastically reduced mortality of preterm infants. 
Since the introductions of surfactant replacement therapy in the mid of the 1980s, more than one million of preterm infants have received this life saving surfactant replacement and many hundred thousands of babies have survived worldwide. In his subsequent highly innovative research, Dr. Whitsett’s work resulted in the discovery of a new group of surfactant deficiency diseases of genetic origin which can now be diagnosed in the newborn. By developing cutting edge techniques, he identified transcription factors and promoter elements that control these genes. By now, he has identified networks of genes that define and control lung development.
Dr. Whitsett’s research is of greatest clinical relevance since it offers the unique opportunity to define means by which acute and chronic lung disorders of preterm and term infants may be prevented or effectively treated.
 
Awards and Recognition
 
Dr. Whitsett is an outstanding and unique scientist and clinician who has achieved the highest international level in his field by virtue of his original, independent, and extraordinary creative contributions. His service and contribution to neonatal medicine worldwide is exceptional and outstanding. Therefore, Dr Whitsett received numerous awards and has been invited as a visiting professor to centers in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions in pioneering work on the pulmonary surfactant system and the significant achievement in lung research which resulted in the discovery of a new group of surfactant-deficiency diseases, Prof. Jeffrey Whitsett truly deserves the Grand Hamdan International Award for the 2011-2012 term.
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