Nestler and Shaywitz Elected to Prestigious Institute of Medicine

Two Yale School of Medicine faculty members – Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D., and Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D. – have been elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM). Chosen for their major contributions to health and medicine, they will devote a significant amount of volunteer time on committees engaged in a broad range of studies on health policy issues.

Current IOM projects include studies on cancer research among minorities and the medically underserved; research and development needed to improve civilian medical response to chemical or biological terrorist incidents; the prevention of perinatal transmission of HIV; the medical use of marijuana; and a continuing series of reports on dietary reference intakes, which will replace the 1989 Recommended Dietary Allowances.

Nestler, who is the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Neurobiology, received his B.A. degree in 1976, Ph.D. in 1982, and M.D. in 1983, all from Yale University. After completing residency training in psychiatry at McLean Hospital and Yale in 1987, he joined the Yale faculty. Since 1992, Nestler has served as director of the Abraham Ribicoff Research Facilities and of the Division of Molecular Psychiatry.

Nestler is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Pfizer Scholars Award (1987), Sloan Research Fellowship (1987), McKnight Scholar Award (1989), Efron Award of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (1994), and Pasarow Foundation Award for Neuropsychiatric Research (1998). He serves on the board of scientific counselors of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and on the scientific advisory boards of the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression and of the National Alliance for Autism Research.

The goal of Nestler’s research is to better understand the ways in which the brain responds to repeated perturbations under normal and pathological conditions. A major focus of the research is drug addiction: to identify molecular changes that drugs of abuse produce in the brain to cause addiction, and to characterize the genetic and environmental factors that determine individual differences in the ability of the drugs to produce these changes. This work is based on the view that a greater knowledge of the neurobiological basis of drug addiction will lead to more effective treatments and preventive measures. Similar work is underway in the areas of depression, psychosis and stress.

Sally E. Shaywitz is co-director of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention and professor of pediatrics. A native New Yorker, Shaywitz was graduated with honors from the City University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and received her M.D. degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Following her residency in pediatrics and a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental/ behavioral pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Shaywitz interrupted her career for eight years to raise her three young sons. She joined the Yale faculty in 1979 as founder and director of the Learning Disorders Unit in the Department of Pediatrics, and co-directs the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention with her husband, Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D.

Sally Shaywitz has a special interest in how children learn, in the development of learning from early childhood through adulthood, and in the neurobiology of reading. Her research has examined learning, and particularly reading, from a broad perspective, including epidemiologic, cognitive, educational and neurobiological influences.

Shaywitz is the principal investigator of the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, a prospective study of reading development based on a representative sample of school children followed since kindergarten. This on-going study, begun in 1983, has provided the fundamental empiric framework for an informed public policy on reading and reading disability (dyslexia). She and her research group use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the functional organization of the brain for higher cognitive functions including reading.

An early finding emerging from this work was the discovery of sex differences in the functional organization of the brain for language. Most recently, Shaywitz and her research group reported differences between dyslexic and nonimpaired readers in the neural circuitry of the brain for reading. In addition to her interest in reading in children and adults, Shaywitz is currently examining the influence of sex hormones on cognitive function in postmenopausal women. Another of her interests is medical education, both in the preclinical as well as the clinical years.

Among her accomplishments, Shaywitz was selected as the 1998 recipient of the Clinical Service Award of the Society for the Advancement of Women’s Health Research and was the recipient of the 1995 Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She currently serves on the Congressionally mandated National Reading Panel and served on the Committee to Prevent Reading Difficulties in Young Children of the National Research Council.

Shaywitz is frequently invited to serve in an advisory capacity on issues relating to science and public policy; she participated in the National Summit on Learning Disabilities and has served as a special advisor to the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. She currently serves as a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, and as a consultant to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

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