Four Physician-Scientists Elected to Prestigious Honor Society

Four Miller School of Medicine physician-scientists have been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), one of the nation’s oldest and most respected medical honor societies. Jeffrey Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology, Michael Kapiloff, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics and medicine, Mustafa Tekin, M.D., associate professor of genetics, and Stephan Zuchner, M.D., associate professor of genetics, were introduced as new members at the organization’s annual meeting on April 15 in Chicago.

Since members must be 45 or younger at the time of their election, their membership generally reflects research accomplishments made early in their scientific career. Typically, not even one individual is elected per U.S. medical school.

“Since 2009, the Miller School has had nine faculty members invited to join the ASCI, and this shows how fast our talent pool is growing in relation to other universities,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School and CEO of UHealth-University of Miami Health System. It is quite an honor for these four faculty members to be recognized for their research achievements and for all of us to have these brilliant physician-scientists as colleagues.”

Dr. Goldberg has focused his research on why optic nerve stroke, trauma or neurodegeneration such as glaucoma, leads to permanent vision loss. He has defined a separate way of looking at regenerative failure, namely, that there is an intrinsic problem in the neurons themselves. In a pair of papers published in the journal Science, he helped create a new focus on understanding the failure and developing new treatments to overcome it.

“It’s an honor to be elected to the ASCI,” said Goldberg. “There are relatively fewer clinician-scientists in ophthalmology in the organization, but I am certainly excited about the advances in this field being translated into clinical care.”

The research of Dr. Kapiloff on A-kinase anchoring proteins, in particular mAKAP, has helped transform the concept of a cell from one involving primarily soluble biochemical reactions, to one that is regulated by localized, functionally differentiated multimolecular signal complexes. He has contributed to our understanding of intracellular signaling pathways, including how they may be composed of different sets of the same signaling molecules and how pathways may participate in crosstalk while specifically regulating cellular function.

“It is a great honor and quite humbling to be recognized by one’s peers, especially the esteemed American Society for Clinical Investigation,” said Kapiloff. “We hope that our research into the basic mechanisms of cardiac signal transduction will continue to bring new insights to light that help drive forward the frontiers of clinical cardiology.”

As a clinical geneticist, Dr. Tekin is focused on the phenotypic and genotypic characterization of a variety of Mendelian disorders, including the genetics and genomics of hearing loss. His laboratory has identified mutations in SERPINB6, FGF3, and MASP1 as causes of nonsyndromic and syndromic forms of hearing loss and demonstrated the fundamental roles the products of these genes play during embryonic development and for the maintenance of physiological functions.

“I am excited to hear about my election to the ASCI, as I feel honored and privileged to join this respected society of physician-scientists,” said Dr. Tekin. “I am deeply thankful to all my nominators, and to the Miller School of Medicine for its strong support.”

Trained as a neurologist, Dr. Zuchner has a longstanding research focus in the genetic basis of neurological and psychiatric diseases. Among his major achievements is the identification of two genes for peripheral axonal neuropathies, a gene for hereditary spastic paraplegia, as well as two candidate genes for the obsessive compulsive spectrum of disorders. Dr. Zuchner has also pioneered applications for next-generation sequencing, including exome sequencing, deep mitochondrial sequencing and animal model sequencing.

“It was wonderful to hear that I have been elected to the ASCI, but it is also a recognition of the people around me who have been extremely supportive over the years,” said Dr. Zuchner. “It also reaffirms what a great place the Miller School of Medicine really can be for a physician-scientist.”

New inductees into the ASCI must be nominated by current members of the organization. Dean Goldschmidt served as the primary nominator for Dr. Kapiloff, and Louis J. Elsas, M.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and pediatrics, served as the primary nominator for Dr. Tekin. Joel Schuman, M.D., Eye and Ear Foundation Professor and chairman of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, nominated Dr. Goldberg and James Lupski, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, nominated Dr. Zuchner.

“Dr. Tekin is the paradigm of the 21st century physician-scientist who uses his clinical acumen to define a syndrome, his molecular and technical skills to find the causative gene and its dysfunction and return to treat the patient,” said Dr. Elsas.

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