By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn
The National Academy of Sciences recently announced the election to membership of Dr. Beth Levine, professor of internal medicine and microbiology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
This represents one of the highest honors attainable by an American scientist, according to a UT Southwestern statement. With Levine’s election, UT Southwestern has 20 members of this society among its faculty.
“I am thrilled to be acknowledged by my fellow researchers with such a prestigious honor,” Levine said. “I am extremely appreciative to those who have supported me along the way and for all those who have helped contribute to the scientific discoveries in our lab.”
Levine directs the Center for Autophagy Research in Internal Medicine and holds the Charles Cameron Sprague Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science.
“Most of all, I appreciate the freedom I have enjoyed throughout my career to pursue new scientific ideas — as this freedom has been at the root of our discoveries,” she said. “We hope to use our discoveries to improve the prevention and treatment of human disease.”
Levine’s research explores a cellular process called autophagy, in which cells devour their own damaged or unneeded components. Her laboratory identified the first known gene in mammals that is responsible for autophagy. Her research has since shown that defects in the expression or function of this specific gene, called beclin 1, may contribute to cancer, aging, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and infectious diseases.
Conversely, beclin 1 activity and the autophagy pathway appear to be important for protection against breast, lung, ovarian, and perhaps other cancers, as well as for fighting off viral and bacterial infections, and protecting individuals from neurodegenerative diseases and aging.
Levine’s current research focuses on the role of autophagy in normal development and control of lifespan, the mechanisms by which autophagy genes suppress tumors, the biochemical mechanisms that regulate beclin 1 function, and the role of autophagy as a defense mechanism against certain viruses and bacteria.
“Levine’s groundbreaking work has identified fundamental biological pathways with broad importance for understanding the pathogenesis of many of the most significant disease challenges of our time,” said UT Southwestern president Dr. Daniel Podolsky. “This award is a well-deserved acknowledgement of her accomplishments and another shining example of the strength of UT Southwestern’s research community.”
Levine received her medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. She completed her residency at Mount Sinai Hospital, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was a faculty member at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons before joining the UT Southwestern faculty in July 2004. A recipient of the American Cancer Society TIAA-CREF Award for Outstanding Achievements in Cancer Research, Levine was elected to membership in the American Society of Clinical Investigation in 2000 and the Association of American Physicians in 2006.
“This is terrific news. Beth is an extraordinary physician scientist, and her work in autophagy has defined an entirely new area that has fundamental importance across medicine and biology. This election is so well deserved, and I think the best is yet to come,” said Dr. J. Gregory Fitz, executive vice president for academic affairs, provost and dean of UT Southwestern Medical School.
In 2008, Levine received one of four Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas. The annual award honors researchers in science, medicine, engineering and technology innovation whose work seems destined for international prominence at the highest level.
“Beth is justly deserving of this latest honor based on her remarkable scientific achievements. She is such an amazing mentor and a superb role model for our young physician-scientists. We are incredibly proud to have her as a colleague in medicine,” said Dr. David Johnson, chairman of internal medicine.
In all, the NAS announced the election of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates. One other new member is from a Texas institution, which makes for a total of 31 NAS members at Texas academic medical centers, almost two-thirds of them at UT Southwestern. The election of new NAS members was announced during the 150th annual meeting of the academy in Washington. The NAS is a private, nonprofit society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research.
Other UT Southwestern faculty who are members of the NAS and the years they were appointed are:
Dr. Ronald Estabrook, 1979; Dr. Michael Brown, 1980; Dr. Joseph Goldstein, 1980; Dr. Jean Wilson, 1983; Dr. Jonathan Uhr, 1984; Dr. Alfred Gilman, 1985; Dr. Roger Unger, 1986; Dr. Steven McKnight, 1992; Dr. Ellen Vitetta, 1994; Dr. Johann Deisenhofer, 1997; Dr. Eric Olson, 2000; Dr. Joseph Takahashi, 2003; Dr. Masashi Yanagisawa, 2003; Dr. Melanie Cobb, 2006; Dr. David Russell, 2006; Dr. Helen Hobbs, 2007; Dr. Bruce Beutler, 2008; Dr. David Mangelsdorf, 2008; and Dr. Luis Parada, 2011.
Connecting and reconnecting
Mazel tov to David H. Hoffman, who will graduate with honors from Albert Einstein Medical College May 29 at Avery Fisher Hall in New York.
David is a 1999 graduate of Akiba Academy and a 2003 graduate of Yavneh Academy. He also graduated from Yeshevat LevHatorah in 2009 and Yeshiva University in 2009. David will begin his residency in general surgery at NYU in June.
His wife, Yaffa, and daughter, Talia, are sharing the excitement as they begin the next chapter in their lives. David is the son of Kathleen Hoffman and Jeffrey and Jaine Hoffman. Proud grandparents are Sydelle “Cookie” Hoffman of Wellington, Fla., and Jean Rooke Carter of Austin, Dilford and Sigrid Carter of College Station and the late Frank Hoffman of Wellington, Fla.
Joining David, Yaffa and Talia for the festivities will be David’s parents; Yaffa’s parents, Steven and Sarah Karp of Elizabeth, N.J.; and Bernie Laderman of Wellington. The Hoffman and Karp families will celebrate David’s graduation with a special dinner in his honor.
Is there a doctor in the house?
Paul Fenyves and Ilana Bragin and their 19-month old daughter, Michelle Lior, of New York recently spent a week with Paul’s parents, Steve and Sheila Fenyves. Paul and Ilana, who are board-certified internists, each have private practices on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Ilana is a former contributing writer to the TJP.
While in Dallas, Paul, Ilana and Michelle enjoyed visiting with Paul’s sisters and their families — Kari Fenyves Bernstein and children, Shauna and Ryan; and Lauren and Seth Margolies and their children, Ethan and Sari. Ilana is the daughter of Bella and Alex Bragin of Westchester, N.Y. Proud great-grandparents are Edith and Julius Fenyves of Toronto.
Calling all mah jongg players
Kathryn Kaplan of Anshai Torah Sisterhood dropped us a note saying that the sisterhood is now accepting registration for its annual mah jongg tournament, which will be held at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, June 9 at the Plano synagogue, 5501 W. Parker Road. Play begins promptly at 1 p.m.
The tournament uses the National Mah Jongg League rules, and players should be able to complete four games per hour to qualify. Prizes will be awarded to the top seven to 10 winners, round winners and the last-place finisher. Among the top prizes are hotel stays, restaurant gift certificates, artwork, jewelry and spa services.
For information, contact Lisa Olschwanger at email@example.com.
Tributes for graduation
The Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association can help simplify graduation gift dilemmas. DHFLA executive director Deborah Dana said a contribution to the organization is an outstanding way to honor a graduate. It is a gift that keeps on giving, as DHFLA has interest-free loans that help students pursue their studies.
When the loans are repaid, the funds are loaned to another student. There are many ways to send tributes. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.