October 18, 2006

Photograph of Dr. Steven Zeisel

Photograph of Dr. Steven Zeisel

Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD , Kenan Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and Pediatrics and associate dean for research at the School of Public Health, has been named winner of the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson Freedom to Discover Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutrition Research.

Zeisel was recognized for landmark contributions to the understanding of metabolism and the function of choline, an essential nutrient that influences human development and brain, liver and muscle function. His work on human requirements for this nutrient resulted in the establishment of dietary guidelines for choline and the development of information on the choline content of foods.

An independent panel selected Zeisel for the award, which includes a $50,000 cash prize and a silver commemorative medallion. Eighteen previous winners also have won Nobel Prizes.

“I am delighted that Dr. Zeisel, one of UNC’s leading researchers, has been selected for this prestigious award,” said Tony G. Waldrop, UNC Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development, and professor of cell and molecular physiology. “His pioneering research has been recognized internationally and has had a significant impact on the quality of life for citizens in North Carolina and throughout the world.”

In a career spanning more than a quarter century, Zeisel has conducted research that serves as the basis for significant public health policies. He conducted the first studies in humans demonstrating that choline deficiency is associated with liver dysfunction and liver cell death, effects that are reversed when choline is added back to the diet. In the area of child development, he has shown that choline plays a critical role during fetal and infant development, particularly in normal brain development.

“Through his extensive, creative and groundbreaking research both at the basic science and clinical levels, Dr. Zeisel has demonstrated why choline is essential to the human diet,” said Robert J. McMahon, PhD, senior principal research scientist at Mead Johnson & Company. “He is also recognized as a leader within the nutrition research community and has significantly contributed to the establishment of nutrition education within the medical school curriculum.”

Zeisel received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1975 and a doctorate in nutrition from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980. In 1982, he joined the faculty of Boston University School of Medicine and became professor of nutrition and pediatrics at the UNC Schools of Public Health and Medicine in 1990. He served as chair of the Department of Nutrition in the Schools of Public Health and Medicine from 1990 – 2005.

“Our School benefits tremendously from Dr. Zeisel’s leadership – as a teacher, researcher, leader and as a colleague who reaches out to other universities, industries and institutions throughout the world,” said UNC School of Public Health Dean Barbara K. Rimer. “Steve exemplifies the translational scientist whose work spans the continuum from basic biologic research to clinical and public health applications. Steve’s work is elegant and has great impact. We are extremely proud of his many accomplishments, including this latest award.”

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For more information, contact Ramona DuBose, director of communications for the UNC School of Public Health, by telephone at 919-966-7467 or by email at ramona_dubose@unc.edu.



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