Campus & Community

Two HSPH professors honored for their scientific contributions

3 min read

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. The IOM was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, and membership is a high honor in the health and medicine fields. Those elected 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.

Louise Ryan, Henry Pickering Walcott Professor of Biostatistics and chair of the HSPH Department of Biostatistics, and Phyllis Kanki, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at HSPH, are two of 65 new members and five new foreign associates who were announced by the IOM.

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. Ryan is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and an advocate for diversity in higher education.

“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,” said James H. Ware, HSPH dean for academic affairs and Frederick Mosteller Professor of Biostatistics.

Phyllis 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-II, determinants of pathogenesis, and protection and interaction with new HIV-I 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 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program.

“Phyllis Kanki, an outstanding virologist who early on recognized a new form of HIV — HIV-II, with a different pattern of disease — perceived the threat of AIDS to Africa,” said HSPH Dean Barry R. Bloom. “With great courage she undertook overall leadership of our major program under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, 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.”