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2005 Faculty Awards: Whitsett's Baby Breakthroughs Bring Him A Rieveschl

Babies around the world with breathing problems have benefited from the research of Jeffrey Whitsett from UC's Department of Pediatrics. His breakthrough treatments helped earn him a 2005 George Rieveschl, Jr. Award for Distinguished Scientific Research.

Date: 5/10/2005 12:00:00 AM
By: Dama Kimmon
Phone: (513) 558-4519
Photos By: Andrew Higley

UC ingot   One in eight babies are born early. Those born prematurely run the risk of serious complications and often have underdeveloped lungs.

Saving the lives of those babies born before their lungs can catch up has been the focus of one UC doctor.

Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, professor in UC’s Department of Pediatrics and chief of the section of neonatology, perinatal and pulmonary biology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is internationally recognized for his research on lung development that has impacted the treatment of babies around the world. This year, he's being recognized with the university's top research award, the George Rieveschl, Jr. Award for Distinguished Scientific Research.

When infants are born early, lung function is often limited because proteins called surfactants are not yet being made. Without these proteins, oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange cannot occur.

Dr. Whitsett set out to study these proteins.

The result of years of work—he synthesized these proteins in a form that could be administered to babies, saving their lives.

Dr. Whitsett’s study of lung development has not been isolated to preemies alone. His research spills over into the understanding and treatment of many lung defects including cystic fibrosis.

"His accomplishments have placed UC at the forefront of pulmonary medicine and his mentorship has produced a generation of scientific talent that enriches scientific communities around the globe," says Frank McCormack, MD, director of the pulmonary and critical care division of UC’s Department of Internal Medicine.

Among his colleagues, Dr. Whitsett is respected not only for his groundbreaking research and the attention he has brought to UC and Cincinnati Children’s, but also his willingness to share his knowledge and tools.

Called by one colleague a "very unassuming individual," Dr. Whitsett credits his success to those around him.

"The work we have accomplished reflects the talents and contributions of many wonderful colleagues and trainees that have made each day joyful and exciting for many years here at UC and Cincinnati Children's," says Dr. Whitsett.

Dr. Whitsett received his medical degree from Columbia University, in New York, and has been a faculty member since 1977. He is internationally known for his research in pulmonary medicine, as well as for his clinical expertise in neonatology.

He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences and is the recipient of the Mead Johnson Award, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Merit Award, the first Julius Comroe Lectureship in Pulmonary Research from FASEB, the William Cooper Procter Award from Cincinnati Children's, the Amberson Lecture Award of the American Thoracic Society, and the prestigious Daniel Drake Medal for scientific contributions from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Dr. Whitsett is the author of over 400 papers in both the basic science and clinical literature.

Outside of work, Dr. Whitsett enjoys horseback riding, music, natural history, bird watching and gardening. Most importantly he says though is spending time with his wife and four children.

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