Two HSPH professors honored with election to Institute of Medicine for their scientific contributions

For immediate release: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Boston, MA – Two members of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) faculty have been elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on human health issues. Election to its membership is a high honor in the fields of health and medicine. Louise Ryan is Chair of the HSPH Department of Biostatistics. Phyllis Kanki is Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at HSPH.

Ryan and Kanki are two of 65 new members and five foreign associates who were announced by the IOM in a press release. Photos of Ryan and Kanki are available on request to

“It is a great pleasure to welcome these distinguished and influential individuals to the Institute of Medicine,” said IOM President and former HSPH Dean Harvey V. Fineberg in the release. “Members are elected through a highly selective process that recognizes people who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health.”

Ryan works on statistical methods related to environmental risk assessment for cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and other adverse health effects. She has been involved in evaluations by the National Academy of Sciences of several high-profile environmental issues, including risks associated with arsenic and drinking water as well as methylmercury. She is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and is an advocate for diversity in higher education.

Said Barry R. Bloom, Dean of Harvard School of Public Health: “Louise Ryan has made important contributions to the field of environmental biostatistics and enormous contributions to our School. She is an outstanding scholar, teacher, and School citizen.”

Said James H. Ware, Dean for Academic Affairs and Frederick Mosteller Professor of Biostatistics at HSPH: “Professor Ryan’s election to the IOM is well-deserved. It is a great honor for her, the School, and the Department of Biostatistics, which she leads with such energy and vision. She is a leader in statistical research, an outstanding mentor to students and junior faculty, and a wonderful colleague.”

Kanki’s description of a human virus related to Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) in healthy West African individuals led to a research collaboration lasting more than 20 years with Senegalese scientists on the natural history of HIV-2, determinants of pathogenesis, and protection and interaction with new HIV-1 virus variants. In addition, she has coupled her research and international training efforts with public health initiatives for HIV prevention and treatment. She directs the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria, established by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Harvard PEPFAR program.

Said Dean Bloom: “Phyllis Kanki, an outstanding virologist who early on recognized a new form of HIV — HIV-2, with a different pattern of disease — perceived the threat of AIDS to Africa. With great courage she undertook overall leadership of our major program under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has successfully trained thousands of health professionals in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Botswana, assuring prevention, care, and treatment for thousands of individuals in those countries.”

Added Dean Ware: “This, too, is wonderful news. Professor Kanki has made remarkable contributions to research on HIV. Working under challenging conditions, she has guided Harvard’s PEPFAR program to remarkable achievements in prevention, education, and support for those engaged in clinical care. I am really pleased that her achievements have won this recognition.”

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences. With their election, members make a commitment to volunteer a significant amount of time as members of IOM committees, which engage in a broad range of studies on health policy issues.


For more information:
Christina Roache 
(617) 432-6052

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