News Release

ASA recognizes Ru-Rong Ji, Ph.D., with its Excellence in Research Award

Grant and Award Announcement

American Society of Anesthesiologists

CHICAGO - The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) today presented Ru-Rong Ji, Ph.D., with its 2020 Excellence in Research Award in recognition of his extensive research career focused on understanding the molecular and cellular basis of pain. His research has further defined and refined several important mechanisms underlying chronic pain.

Dr. Ji is a distinguished professor of anesthesiology, professor of neurobiology and of cell biology, and co-director of the Center for Translational Pain Medicine at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

A dedicated researcher with a lifelong passion for exploring how the nervous system perceives pain, Dr. Ji's research at Duke is focused on mechanisms in the body that cause pain to transition from transient to persistent, expanding his research from neurons to glial cells and immune cells. He focused his initial research on acupuncture, as he's always been fascinated with the fact that something so seemingly minor as a tiny needle could have profound analgesic effects. His most recent work has focused on how non-neuronal cells can contribute to pain and how cancer cells can suppress the immune system and pain perception.

Dr. Ji's self-proclaimed career-defining moment was when he was recruited to work with Dr. Clifford Woolf in the Neural Plasticity Research Group, Department of Anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. There, he discovered the role of a specific enzyme called MAP kinase in the spinal cord that's tied to the development of chronic pain. This enzyme is part of a critical process that creates "memory of pain" in the body that leads to an eventual transition from acute to chronic pain. Dr. Ji's research found that stopping this process reduced pain in various animals and has led to improved understanding of the reasons humans feel pain and has expanded knowledge and the effectiveness of pain treatments.

"It is an honor to present Dr. Ji, an international leader in anesthesiology pain management research, with the 2020 Excellence in Research Award," said ASA President Mary Dale Peterson, M.D., MSHCA, FACHE, FASA. "His extraordinary career has spanned three continents and his research on pain has brought insight into how we can better understand the mechanisms of chronic pain so we can provide better treatments for the millions of Americans afflicted with chronic pain, including treatments like acupuncture."

To further demonstrate his commitment to the medical community, Dr. Ji has served on numerous domestic and international Review Panels and received the National Institutes of Health Transformative Award. Over the past 20 years, he has served as a mentor for more than 60 individuals, ranging from high school students to undergraduates, residents, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and physician anesthesiologists - many of whom have gone on to major faculty positions in other institutions around the world.

Dr. Ji received his doctorate in neurobiology at Shanghai Institute of Physiology, , China, and completed his first postdoctoral fellowship at Beijing Medical University (now Peking University), China. He then completed his second postdoctoral fellowship at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and a third postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

Dr. Ji's research has been included in more than 200 peer-reviewed publications and in every major neurobiology journal in the world, as well as Anesthesiology, the British Journal of Anaesthesia and others. He serves on editorial boards of Anesthesiology, Pain and Journal of Neuroscience. He is also listed as 2018 and 2019 Highly Cited Researchers from the Web of Science. Additionally, he received the 2020 American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) Founder's Award, recognizing his outstanding contributions to the science or practice of pain medicine.



Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 54,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Join the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2020 social conversation today. Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter and use the hashtag #ANES20.

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