Cincinnati Children’s honors 14 for outstanding work

A pioneer in the development of artificial surfactant – which has helped a generation of infants survive premature birth – has received the first Career Achievement Award bestowed by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, co-director of the Perinatal Institute, was honored for decades of excellence in neonatology and pulmonary medicine. He received the award Feb. 3 along with 14 other outstanding physicians and scientists at Cincinnati Children’s who were recognized for their leadership in clinical care, research, entrepreneurship, mentoring, teaching, service and community advocacy.

More than 40,000 premature infants in the United States, and many more worldwide, are alive today thanks in large part to Whitsett’s contributions to surfactant research.

During the 1980s, research conducted by Whitsett and Timothy Weaver, PhD, led to the successful  cloning of surfactant proteins considered vital to surfactant replacement therapy. Over the years, Whitsett’s lab also has helped identify a number of genes critical for lung formation and function. He continues to investigate transcriptional controls and signaling cascades that guide respiratory tract development as well as gene mutations that can trigger lung disease in infants and adults.

Since joining Cincinnati Children’s in 1977, Whitsett’s remarkable career in neonatology and pulmonary medicine includes publishing more than 400 peer-reviewed papers and training a generation of neonatologists who oversee nearly every birth in Greater Cincinnati. He has excelled as a mentor, an entrepreneur and as an outspoken advocate for children.

Whitsett is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He has received the Mead Johnson Award, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Merit Award, the first Julius Comroe Lectureship in Pulmonary Research from FASEB, the William Cooper Procter Award from Cincinnati Children's, and the Amberson Lecture Award of the American Thoracic Society. In 2001, Whitsett also received the Daniel Drake Medal, the highest honor awarded by the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, in recognition of his many scientific contributions.

Other leaders honored by Cincinnati Children’s: