The University Record, November 5, 2001

Four faculty members elected to Institute of Medicine

From Health System Public Relations

For the second time in three years, four faculty from the University are among the 60 new members of the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM). Election to the IOM, the medical arm of the National Academy of Sciences, is an honor reserved for those who have made distinctive contributions to health through biomedical or social sciences research or leadership in the health professions.

Allen S. Lichter, Stephen J. Weiss, George A. Kaplan, and David R. Williams join 23 other U-M faculty in the IOM, which has a total active membership of 632. Only Harvard University and its several affiliated hospitals had more faculty elected this year than did the U-M.

Election to the Institute is both an honor and an obligation to assist the organization in its governance and policy studies. Members make a commitment to devote a significant amount of time as volunteers on committees engaged in a broad range of studies on health policy issues.

Current IOM projects include studies on improved care for dying children and their families, the protection of public health in the 21st century, the safety and effectiveness of the anthrax vaccine for the U.S. military, the causes and prevention of adolescent and adult suicide and the consequences of having a large population without health insurance.

“Election to IOM membership is a major professional honor. The IOM also provides a mechanism for bringing together talented individuals committed to improving the health of our country’s population,” says Gilbert S. Omenn, executive vice president for medical affairs. “Allen Lichter and Stephen Weiss exemplify the highest standards in patient-oriented medical research. George Kaplan and David Williams are recognized internationally for their studies of the social context of health and disease. The fertile interdisciplinary culture of the U-M helps faculty and students realize the multiple interacting causes of illness and injury. We are fortunate to be able to contribute four such talented individuals this year and a total of 13 new members in the past four years.”

One-fourth of IOM members are drawn from outside the traditional health professions, reflecting a very desirable diversity of disciplines and professions among Institute members.

The following brief summaries describe the distinctive contributions that led to each election.

Allen Lichter, is dean of the Medical School and the Newman Family Professor of Radiation Oncology in the Department of Radiation Oncology. He has specialized in the treatment of breast cancer and lymphoma and has clinical research interests in the treatment of breast cancer, radiation therapy treatment planning and conformal, computer-controlled radiation.

Lichter is a former director of the radiation therapy section of the National Cancer Institute’s Radiation Oncology Branch. He was an early advocate of the lumpectomy approach to the treatment of breast cancer and conducted one of the trials that found the use of the lumpectomy and radiation therapy to be as effective as the traditional treatment of mastectomy.

Stephen J. Weiss is the E. Gifford and Love Barnett Upjohn Professor of Internal Medicine and Oncology in the Medical School. He holds joint faculty appointments in the Medical School’s Cell and Molecular Biology Program and the Department of Internal Medicine’s Division of Hematology and Oncology.

Weiss studies what happens to the extracellular matrix—a molecular scaffold that links cells together—during inflammatory disease and invasive cancer. He has discovered a previously unknown mechanism for tissue damage in humans involving a highly destructive class of metalloproteinase enzymes. These enzymes are involved in the spread of malignant cells to different parts of the body—a process called metastasis—and in the growth of blood vessels to cancerous tumors.

George Kaplan is professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health and a senior research scientist at the Institute for Social Research. In addition, he is director of the Michigan Initiative on Inequalities in Health, the Michigan Interdisciplinary Center on Social Inequalities, Mind and Body, and the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health.

Kaplan is best known for his work on inequalities in health, and has published more than 180 papers on the role of behavioral, social, psychological and socioeconomic factors in disease prevention and health promotion. A major theme in his work is the role of upstream and downstream factors in maintaining health, delaying disease and improving function.

David R. Williams, is a professor of sociology in LS&A, a senior research scientist at the Institute for Social Research and a faculty associate in the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies.

The author of more than 100 scholarly papers, Williams’ research has identified the mechanisms and processes by which racism, at both the societal and individual level, can impair physical and mental health. He has contributed to the understanding of why higher rates of disease, disability and death persist for economically disadvantaged persons, in general, and for racial and ethnic minority populations, in particular. He has provided theoretically informed descriptions and empirical illustrations of the ways in which multiple dynamic dimensions of socioeconomic status can affect the incidence, prevalence and course of disease. Williams’ research has appeared in leading journals in sociology, psychology, medicine, public health and epidemiology.