Sir David Weatherall to Receive Prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award
August 2, 2013 – The American Society of Hematology (ASH) will present the Society’s highest honor, the 2013 Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology, to Professor Sir David Weatherall, MD, who has a long history of important work in thalassemia. The ASH press release, which is excerpted below, states that this award to the University of Oxford professor is for his more than 50-year career in hematology combining seminal discoveries, visionary translational research leadership, and a passion for global health initiatives that have together helped improve clinical care for thousands throughout the developing world.
The Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology is bestowed on an individual who has been a vital contributor to the field of hematology, demonstrating lifetime achievement and leadership in research, practice, and education. 2013 ASH President Janis L. Abkowitz, MD, of the University of Washington will present Sir David with his award on Sunday, December 8, during the 55th ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans.
A true pioneer in the field, Sir David has paved the way for other physicians and scientists in refining the understanding of inherited blood disorders, particularly thalassemias and tropical diseases. Sir David began his career in 1962 after graduating with his medical degree from the University of Liverpool. After medical school, he went on serve in the British Army, receiving an assignment in the children’s ward of a British military hospital in Singapore, where, after observing the plight of children with thalassemia, he began to develop a keen interest in the inherited disease.
Sir David sought additional training and research experience in the United States at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In a truly groundbreaking and transformative 1965 report, Sir David and colleague John Clegg identified imbalanced globin chain production as the cause of thalassemia, a discovery that was essential to developing improved treatments and designing disease prevention efforts at both the clinical and population levels. Following this important observation, Sir David conducted additional investigations yielding improvements in prenatal diagnoses and iron chelation therapy. He also studied the role of thalassemia trait and sickle cell trait in ameliorating the symptoms of malaria. In 2002, Sir David wrote a report on the application of genomics to global health for the World Health Organization. Throughout his career, Sir David’s research has exemplified the power of a genetic and molecular approach to the investigation of human inherited diseases. His thalassemia work demonstrates the complexity of genotype-phenotype correlations and that an understanding of the molecular and cellular underpinnings of human disease is an essential step in developing better treatments.
Inspired by his own experience combining clinical care and research, Sir David began to see opportunity for young clinicians and scientists to train together in a collaborative environment, a fusion of disciplines that had not yet been employed elsewhere in Europe, and in 1989 established Oxford University’s Institute of Molecular Medicine. The Institute was renamed the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine in 2000 upon Sir David’s retirement and further rebranded to the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine in 2011 following the signing of a strategic alliance between the Medical Research Council and the University.
Through his groundbreaking work in thalassemia, a disease that disproportionately affects inhabitants of developing countries, Sir David has helped thousands of children with this disease throughout the developing world. Over the past 40 years, Sir David has built a successful framework of international clinical and research partnerships and led development efforts to build new treatment and diagnostic centers in developing countries. One of Sir David’s most significant efforts includes his establishment in the late 1990s of the National Thalassamia Center in Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, a national program dedicated to blood disease research and management.
Sir David has pursued an active role in educating other physicians, scientists, and students. He is the author of 14 books and hundreds of journal articles, and is credited with creating and editing the Oxford Textbook of Medicine, now in its fifth edition. In addition to his written work, Sir David was a founding member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. In 1992 he assumed his current role of Regius Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Oxford. Today Sir David continues to spread awareness about thalassemias around the world.
The Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology commemorates the innovative spirit, visionary leadership, and entrepreneurship of Wallace Henry Coulter, who was an inventor most widely known for the development of the Coulter Principle – an established methodology for counting, measuring, and evaluating cells and microscopic particles suspended in fluid. Mr. Coulter’s revolutionary technique provided the medical community with a new method for screening diseases through basic blood tests. The significance of Mr. Coulter’s research is commemorated each year, through the prestige of this award.
“For five decades Professor Sir David Weatherall has worked tirelessly as a physician, scientist, teacher, and statesman, and is a world-renowned leader in the field of hematology,” said ASH President Janis L. Abkowitz, MD. “His transformative work unveiling the molecular basis of inherited hematologic disorders has established him as a role model with a legacy that will endure for future generations of hematologists.”
Sir David is the recipient of many prestigious honors and awards, most recently the Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award of the American Association of Blood Banks, the Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award, and the Mendel Medal of The Genetics Society. He has served as president of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland, the International Society of Hematology, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He was knighted in 1987.
CAF congratulates Sir David on this latest honor and thanks him for his remarkable commitment and dedication to thsoe with thalassemia.