University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, has been named the 2012 winner of the prestigious Norbert Freinkel Lecture Award, presented by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). As this year's honoree, Reece delivered the Norbert Freinkel Award Lecture at the association's 72nd Scientific Sessions on June 10 in Philadelphia. Reece's lecture, titled "Unraveling the Biomolecular Mechanisms of Diabetic Embryopathy," examined how diabetes can potentially harm a fetus during pregnancy.
Reece is an accomplished physician-scientist and obstetrician/gynecologist with subspecialty in maternal fetal medicine and who has devoted his clinical and research career to treating and exploring problems in high-risk pregnancies in general, and diabetes and its complications in particular. He directs a National Institutes of Health multimillion-dollar research laboratory group studying the biomolecular mechanisms of diabetes-induced birth defects.
His laboratory has determined that there are specific cytoarchitectural changes at the epithelial level of cells associated with these anomalies. Some of these biochemical changes include depletion in membrane lipids and phospholipids as well as excess "free radicals." His group also studies the molecular mechanisms, and methods to prevent these anomalies. He and his colleagues also have developed the technique of embryofetoscopy for early prenatal diagnosis and eventually for curative fetal therapy. He is a sought-after visiting professor and lecturer at numerous institutions both nationally and internationally.
The late Norbert Freinkel, MD, was a world-renowned expert in diabetes and endocrinology who once served as president of the ADA. Freinkel was also professor and director of the Center for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. The annual award that bears his name honors a researcher who has made outstanding contributions, including scientific publications and presentations, to the understanding and treatment of diabetes and pregnancy.
"Dr. Freinkel was truly a pioneer in the study of diabetes and pregnancy," says Dean Reece, who is also vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor at the School of Medicine. "It is an honor to deliver this lecture and accept this award in the name of such a distinguished and revered physician-scientist who impacted so extraordinarily our common field of research."
Freinkel was an inspiration to the young research scientists in his field, Reece recalls. "Dr. Freinkel's seminal paper, 'The Honeybee Syndrome,' published in 1984, is unforgettable," he says. "It demonstrated for the first time how devastatingly harmful hyperglycemia in the mother's blood can be to the developing fetus. Using methodology very similar to Dr. Freinkel's, my laboratory has identified at least three target sites in the cell for the activity of hyperglycemia in causing harm to the fetus. Each of these sites could potentially become molecular targets for therapies to prevent harm to the developing fetus, and preserve healthy pregnancies in diabetic women."
Originally from Jamaica, West Indies, Reece completed a Bachelor of Science degree with honors (Magna Cum Laude) from Long Island University; a MD degree from New York University School of Medicine; a PhD degree in biochemistry from the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica; and a MBA degree from the Fox School of Business & Management of Temple University. He completed an internship and residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, and a postdoctoral fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. He remained on the full-time faculty at Yale for almost 10 years, during which he served as clinical instructor from '82 to '84; assistant professor from '84 to '87; and received accelerated promotion to associate professor in 1987. In November 1990, at the age of 39, he was recruited by Temple University to serve as the Abraham Roth Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. Between 2001 and 2006, he served as vice chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and dean of the College of Medicine. In 2006, he was recruited by the University of Maryland to serve in his current capacity. In 2010, Reece served as acting president of the University of Maryland.