Dr. Alessia Fornoni Named Chief of Division of Nephrology and Hypertension

Alessia Fornoni, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine, and molecular and cellular pharmacology, Co-Director of Novel Methods for the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Associate Director of the M.D./Ph.D. Program, has been named Chief of the Department of Medicine’s Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She succeeds Oliver Lenz, M.D., M.B.A., professor of clinical medicine and Medical Director of Jackson Memorial Hospital nephrology clinics, who has served as Interim Chief since 2013.

“My vision for the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension is to re-establish it as one of the top nephrology programs in the country and facilitate the advancement of the division to the forefront of clinical and experimental innovation,” said Fornoni. “This will include the creation of an interdisciplinary and multi-departmental Renal Disease Center to translate discovery research into patient care. I will promote increased collaboration and a strengthened relationship with the Miami Transplant Institute, our basic science departments and our research institutes to foster team science approaches to patient care.”

Fornoni received an M.D. and a Ph.D. in medical pharmacology from the University of Pavia, Italy. She did her internal medicine residency and nephrology fellowship training at the Miller School of Medicine, and joined the faculty in 2005. In 2013, after she received her second R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, she was awarded tenure and was named Director and Chair of the Peggy and Harold Katz Drug Discovery Center, which has 30 faculty and staff members with a primary research focus on kidney and cardiovascular disease. She also has a joint appointment at the Diabetes Research Institute.

“I have worked with Dr. Fornoni since the early days of her time here at the Miller School,” said Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., Interim Dean of the Miller School of Medicine. “She is a talented and committed physician-scientist, and with this new role and support has the opportunity to build a wonderful Division of Nephrology and Hypertension within the Department of Medicine and to facilitate the research growth of the Peggy and Harold Katz Drug Discovery Center.”

Fornoni will focus the clinical resources of the division on complex, tertiary patient case volume with particular emphasis on prevention of chronic kidney disease. She envisions an expansion of the division’s research enterprise to include new initiatives in rare diseases such as adult polycystic kidney diseases and further development of her own program on podocytes biology and drug discovery. In the education realm, she plans to expand the division’s fellowship program, and to expand the interest in nephrology among undergraduate students and medical students through dedicated summer programs.

Fornoni’s research, which has been NIH funded for the past 10 years, focuses on podocytes and mechanisms of proteinuria, lipid biology and insulin signaling, drug development and target identification. Her clinical interests are in the area of diabetic nephropathy and of rare glomerular disorders, and in 2008 she established a Diabetic Nephropathy Clinic at the University of Miami. As a mentor, Fornoni has trained more than 20 pre- and postdoctoral research fellows, several of whom have gone on to faculty or academic/research positions. She also has published more than 85 original articles in high-impact journals and serves on several editorial boards. She gives lectures nationally and internationally on new molecular mechanisms and treatment of glomerular disorders. She has been the organizer of continuing medical education programs for the Miller School and other institutions on these topics, she is a standing member of NIH study sessions, she is involved in developing a new strategic plan to promote innovation across schools at UM, and she serves as an international consultant for multiple entities.

“We are delighted that Alessia has accepted this position,” said Roy E. Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., Kathleen and Stanley Glaser Distinguished Chair in Medicine and Chair of the Department of Medicine. “As a physician-scientist, she epitomizes the trajectory of the Department of Medicine, with nephrology under her leadership, to be at the forefront of clinical care, new discoveries and training in the cure of kidney diseases.”

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