2016-05-18 17:24:39 UTC

Dr. Donowitz Awarded Distinguished Achievement Award

May 22, 2016

Mark Donowitz, MD, AGAF, received Distinguished Achievement Award in Basic Science during DDW® 2016.

AGA bestows the Distinguished Achievement Award in Basic Science to Mark Donowitz, MD, AGAF. Dr. Donowitz has dedicated his career, spanning over 40 years, on determinedly and effectively deciphering the basic mechanisms that underpin and regulate intestinal Na absorption. His extraordinary body of work has markedly improved our understanding of Na transport. His elegant analyses are exacting in their standards, fearlessly use state-of-the-art approaches, and are characterized by exquisitely detailed molecular insights into key cell biological responses that are nonetheless directly relevant for our understanding of diarrheal diseases. Dr. Donowitz has brought together many consortia of basic, translational and clinical scientists, both at his home institution and internationally, to ensure the application of his ground-breaking work to patients. He is exemplary in his leadership and commitment to moving the field forward for all involved.

A true testament to his achievements throughout his career, Dr. Donowitz holds many prestigious appointments. Dr. Donowitz is LeBoff Professor for Research Disorders and Digestive Diseases at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, as well as the director for the Hopkins Center for Epithelial Disorders, the director of basic research, GI division and the director of the Hopkins Conte Digestive Diseases Basic & Translational Research Core Center. In addition to these positions, he has trained several generations of new investigators interested in intestinal epithelial biology, ensuring that his brilliance and novel ideas continue for decades to come.  His work continues to be recognized within the field, evidenced as having been published exclusively in journals of the highest quality, including Gastroenterology, JCI, JBC, Nature and Science. Dr. Donowitz acknowledges the important mentoring in his career provided by Geoffrey W.G. Sharp, DSci, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, and Henry J. Binder, MD, AGAF, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.  

Dr. Donowitz has worked selflessly for AGA in many capacities. From 2006-2007, he served as president of AGA. He is currently on the board of editors of Gastroenterology and serves as a mentor for the AGA Future Leaders program. Dr. Donowitz has served as the chair and a member of numerous AGA committees including the Research Policy Committee, the Public Affairs and Advocacy Committee, the Training & Education Committee, and Ethics Committee, among others.

Dr. Donowitz has been single-minded in his pursuit of enhancing knowledge of the function and regulation of intestinal Na absorption. This commitment is seen through his decades of contributions, discovery and changes in how the field approaches understanding and therapies for patients.

His career-long emphasis on the mechanisms of intestinal Na absorption can be considered to have advanced through several stages. First are his studies of regulation of intestinal Na absorption, initially using in vivo and in vitro mammalian systems. Next was his molecular identification of the intestinal Na absorptive proteins, NHE3 and NHE2. Dr. Donowitz’s lab was one of the first to use molecular biologic approaches to understand the identity and function of specific intestinal transporter. The data and knowledge that came from this have placed the molecular physiology of Na absorption on a solid footing within our understanding of the pathophysiology of diarrhea, even finding support for the idea that a lack of NHE3 function may predispose to IBD. Further was the molecular identification of NHERF2 and recognition of the NHERF family of scaffolding proteins, all of which contribute to NHE3 regulation and discovering that regulatory complexes are involved in acute NHE3 regulation. These complexes, in addition, represent potential drug targets for treating diarrhea. Dr. Donowitz’s career is characterized by the fearless application of new models and systems that often have uncovered unanticipated insights. Most recently this has included the use of enteroid and enteroid-derived monolayers, in essence “mini-guts” derived from human intestinal stem cells, which is forcing the field to revisit existing models of the arrangement and regulation of intestinal transport machinery. 

Dr. Donowitz received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, and his medical degree from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he also completed his internship and junior residency. He was a senior assistant resident in internal medicine at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, NY, and then moved on to a fellowship in gastroenterology at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.  

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