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National Academy of Medicine honors members for outstanding service

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

WASHINGTON -- The National Academy of Medicine (NAM), formerly the Institute of Medicine, honored members Alan Leshner, chief executive officer emeritus, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C.; Jonathan M. Samet, distinguished professor and Flora L. Thornton Chair, department of preventive medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; and Susan C. Scrimshaw, president, The Sage Colleges, Troy, N.Y., for their outstanding service. The three received medals during the NAM's anniversary gala on Oct. 18 in Washington, D.C.

"These members are the epitome of dedication to improving health and furthering science," said NAM President Victor J. Dzau. "The countless hours they have volunteered have helped the National Academy of Medicine and Institute of Medicine address critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors."

Leshner received the Walsh McDermott Medal, awarded to a member for distinguished service over an extended period. His leadership for more than 14 years across a multitude of Institute of Medicine (IOM) program activities -- now operating under the umbrella of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine -- demonstrates a level of commitment beyond that of many of his peers. He enhanced and furthered the mission of the NAM and the Academies by serving as an officer, councilor, committee chair, committee member, and board member. Leshner recently completed two three-year terms on the Council of the NAM, serving for most of that time as vice chair. In that role, he helped shape countless activities for the IOM and NAM. His vision to establish a neutral venue for discussions of issues related to neuroscience research led to the establishment of the Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders, which served as a model for the expansion of the IOM's work as a convener and facilitator for various groups of stakeholders. Leshner also chaired other Academies activities, including two consensus committees -- the Committee to Review the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the Committee on Priorities for a Public Health Research Agenda to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence. Leshner has been an important asset for NAM members through his active participation on the Academy's Neuroscience Interest Group. His belief in the mission and unhesitating willingness to work toward its advancement continue to benefit the NAM, the Academies, and the health of people in the U.S. and around the world.

Samet received the David Rall Medal, which is given to a member who has demonstrated distinguished leadership as chair of a study committee or other such activity, showing commitment above and beyond the usual responsibilities of the position. His long record of highly effective leadership dates back 30 years and spans 10 major committees. From 1998 to 2004, Samet chaired an Academies committee that addressed research priorities for airborne particulate matter. The four reports of this committee had a major impact on research conducted on air pollutants, and ultimately, helped set the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and other criteria pollutants. From 2006 to 2007, he chaired the Committee on Evaluation of the Presumptive Disability Decision-Making Process for Veterans. The conclusions of the committee had far-ranging consequences on disability decisions for veterans, and also for other populations with medical disabilities. Starting in 2010, he chaired two Academies committees in parallel: the Committee to Review EPA's Draft Integrated Risk and Information System (IRIS) Assessment of Formaldehyde and the Committee to Develop a Research Strategy for Environmental Health and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials. The recommendations for the EPA's draft IRIS report on formaldehyde have impacted how it develops risk assessments on a broad range of chemicals. Both committees addressed important and highly contentious issues requiring input from individuals drawn from a wide spectrum of disciplines, including engineers, physical scientists, basic biological scientists, toxicologists, risk assessors, and experts from various medical specialties. Samet has consistently guided such diverse groups of individuals into effective collaborations -- not only allowing each committee member to provide input but also steering the debate to a close so the committee's evaluation and recommendations could be committed in writing. Under his direction, committee reports have been written clearly, reviewing and synthesizing the relevant literature and succinctly stating useful conclusions understandable to the public and policymakers.

Scrimshaw was presented with the Adam Yarmolinsky Medal, awarded to a member from a discipline outside the health and medical sciences. Her service encompasses nearly 40 years of participation in panels, workshops, committees, and boards. In all of these activities, she brought her outstanding skills as a social scientist to address critical issues related to improving all aspects of health. Virtually all of the 25 study committees on which she has served have focused on issues related to improving the health of disadvantaged individuals, including those who have language or literacy barriers, are from medically underserved racial or ethnic groups, or are from populations in low- and middle-income countries. Reports from these committees are examples of the impact multi-disciplinary approaches can have on health and well-being. Some of the notable reports she contributed to are: The Unequal Burden of Cancer: An Assessment of NIH Research and Programs for Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved; Speaking of Health: Assessing Health Communication Strategies for Diverse Populations; and Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion. Scrimshaw's effectiveness as both a leader -- chairing several workshops and committees -- and team member has catalyzed investment at IOM and NAM in global health and national resilience to hazards and disasters. Like all good leaders, she effectively brings people together and lets credit accrue to the collective efforts of interdisciplinary groups. Her service extends from contributions to the governance of NAM (known then as IOM), having served on its Council from 2006-2011. During her term as councilor, she organized and chaired the 2008 IOM annual meeting. The theme of that meeting -- "Is Biology Destiny?" -- aptly demonstrated her passion for interdisciplinarity in health, as the sessions in the meeting addressed the interplay between biological and social determinants of health. Her contributions continue through her current service as co-chair of the Forum on Health Professions Education. Scrimshaw embodies and models the commitment to service that is expected of all members upon election to the NAM.


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit


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