Newswise — Samuel Achilefu, Ph.D., the incoming Inaugural Chair of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s new Department of Biomedical Engineering, is among 100 members elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) this year.

The NAM cited Dr. Achilefu for his outstanding contributions in the field of optical imaging for identifying sites of disease and characterizing biologic phenomena noninvasively.

“Dr. Achilefu’s election to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine recognizes his trailblazing contributions to cancer imaging that have translated to improvements in identifying and treating tumors and valuable guidance for surgeons to ensure more complete removal of cancerous tissue,” said W. P. Andrew Lee, M.D., Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean of UT Southwestern Medical School. “Along with his demonstrated success in innovative research and clinical impact, he brings the leadership and vision needed to launch our newest Department to foster transformational research in biomedical engineering and related fields at UT Southwestern.”

Dr. Achilefu’s research interests include image-guided cancer surgery, portable imaging devices, and nanotechnology. Recruited to UTSW from the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, he pioneered the design and use of innovative fluorescent materials for cancer imaging. His seminal work in this field of study resulted in the clinical translation of a method to identify and treat most cancer types, especially breast tumors. Dr. Achilefu also developed a wearable cancer-imaging goggle system that highlights cancer cells, providing real-time guidance to surgeons in the operating room to ensure the complete removal of cancerous tissue.

“I am thrilled by this recognition, which was made possible by the contributions and support of many trainees and associates, and especially the invaluable support of the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology and the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University over the years,” Dr. Achilefu said. “I look forward with excitement to working alongside the incredible team of students, staff, investigators, and senior leadership at UT Southwestern to build the new Biomedical Engineering Department in collaboration with neighboring engineering schools in North Texas.”

Dr. Achilefu will join 16 NAM members already at UT Southwestern when he arrives in January 2022. Election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. New members were elected at the Academy’s annual meeting this week. 

 “Their contributions to health and medicine are unmatched – they’ve made groundbreaking discoveries, taken bold action against social inequities, and led the response to some of the greatest public health challenges of our time,” Victor J. Dzau, M.D., President of the NAM, said in welcoming new members. “This class represents many identities and experiences – all of which are absolutely necessary to address the existential threats facing humanity.”

Since 1970, UT Southwestern has had 28 NAM members. Current NAM members at UT Southwestern and the year of their induction are: Ralph DeBerardinis, M.D., Ph.D. (2020); Sean Morrison, Ph.D. (2018); Joseph Takahashi, Ph.D. (2014); Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D. (2009); Bruce Beutler, M.D. (2008); Luis Parada, Ph.D. (2007); Ellen Vitetta, Ph.D. (2006); Steven McKnight, Ph.D. (2005); Helen Hobbs, M.D. (2004); Eric Olson, Ph.D. (2001); Norman Gant, M.D. (2001); Kern Wildenthal, M.D., Ph.D. (1999); Carol Tamminga, M.D. (1998); Scott Grundy, M.D., Ph.D. (1995); Michael Brown, M.D. (1987); and Joseph Goldstein, M.D. (1987). 

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 25 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,800 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 117,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 3 million outpatient visits a year.