Washington Update

FASEB 2019 Excellence in Science Award Recipient is Barbara B. Kahn, MD

By: Todd Bentsen
Thursday, June 28, 2018

Barbara B. Kahn, MD, will receive the 2019 FASEB Excellence in Science Award. Dr. Kahn is the George R. Minot Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Vice Chair for Research Strategy in the Department of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. One of few physician-scientists to receive this award, Dr. Kahn leads a highly successful research laboratory that has made seminal contributions to understanding the pathogenesis of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“FASEB is thrilled to honor Dr. Kahn and her myriad research contributions in the field of type 2 diabetes, one of our nation’s most serious health problems,” said FASEB President Thomas O. Baldwin, PhD. “An accomplished physician-scientist, Dr. Kahn has made outstanding contributions to the translation of research from the lab to patients’ bedsides.”

The Excellence in Science Award recognizes women whose outstanding career achievements in biological science have contributed significantly to the understanding of a particular discipline through scientific achievements, training of students and postdoctoral fellows, and contributions to the broader scientific community. Award recipients receive an unrestricted research grant of $10,000.

Dr. Kahn has been at the leading edge of research on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying type 2 diabetes and the link between obesity and diabetes. The work of her lab has shed light on the fundamental regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and how dysregulation impairs insulin action at the cellular and organismal levels. This work has revealed paradigm-shifting insights into how different metabolically important tissues communicate and coordinate responses to metabolic challenges. In recognition of her seminal work, Dr. Kahn was awarded the Banting Medal from the American Diabetes Association in 2016, the highest award for scientific achievement in diabetes research.

A dedicated mentor throughout her career, she’s made an important impact on a large number of junior faculty and trainees; in her lab, she’s mentored nearly 100 postdocs and students. In her leadership positions at Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess including as Chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, she has supported and developed junior faculty. As a founding member of the American Diabetes Association Mentor Advisory Board, Dr. Kahn plays an active role in developing the next generation of diabetes researchers.

Dr. Kahn is a member of four FASEB societies: the American Federation for Medical Research, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology,  the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Endocrine Society. In her role planning scientific sessions for Endocrine Society and American Diabetes Association – and as chair of national and international conferences for FASEB and other scientific organizations – she seeks to promote diversity and give junior faculty opportunities in high-visibility positions.

Dr. Kahn received a master’s in Health Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, and a medical degree from Stanford Medical School. She completed internship and residency training in Internal Medicine and a General Medicine Fellowship at the University of California, Davis Medical Center.

She completed an Endocrine Fellowship in the Experimental Diabetes, Metabolism and Nutrition Section at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, where she worked with Dr. Samuel Cushman. Dr. Kahn made some of the earliest observations of the dysregulation of glucose transporter gene expression and cellular function in altered nutritional and metabolic states such as obesity and diabetes.

Dr. Kahn joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School in 1986. She rose to the rank of full professor and was recognized with the George R. Minot endowed Chair in Medicine at Harvard Medical School in 2006. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine and an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Since 1989, FASEB has awarded the Excellence in Science Award to outstanding women scientists in recognition of their achievements in research, mentorship, and service. In addition to the unrestricted research grant, awardees present a special award lecture at the annual meeting of a FASEB member society of their choosing. Additional details, including a list of former honorees, are available here.