Kenneth Polonsky elected to Institute of Medicine

Kenneth S. Polonsky, M.D., has been elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors medical scientists in the United States can receive. Polonsky was honored for his professional achievement in the health sciences, specifically in the area of diabetes.

Kenneth Polonsky
Kenneth Polonsky

The Institute of Medicine serves as a national resource for independent analysis and recommendations on issues related to medicine, biomedical sciences and health. It was established in 1970 as part of the National Academy of Sciences, which advises the federal government on science and technology issues.

Polonsky is the Adolphus Busch Professor and head of the Milliken Department of Internal Medicine. He also is physician-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and a member of the Washington University Faculty Practice Plan board of directors.

A renowned diabetes researcher, Polonsky studies factors that influence the health of pancreatic beta cells, which secrete insulin. Defects in the secretion process and in the hormone’s ability to stimulate glucose uptake by cells are hallmarks of noninsulin dependent (type 2) diabetes.

His studies have revealed that people who are not diabetic but have mild defects in glucose tolerance already have malfunctioning beta cells. He also has demonstrated that one form of diabetes could result from an impairment in beta-cell function that is associated with a defect on chromosome 20. He currently is studying genes that increase the risk for type 2 diabetes and is evaluating drugs that stimulate insulin secretion.

A member of numerous professional societies including the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation, Polonsky also has served on national and regional committees for the American Diabetes Association and other organizations.

He is the author or co-author of more than 230 scientific articles.

Polonsky graduated cum laude with a medical degree from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He completed a fellowship in endocrinology at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine in 1978 and then joined the school’s faculty in 1981. In 1990, he was named the Louis Block Professor of Medicine and also served as chief of that institution’s endocrinology section and director of its Diabetes Research and Training Center.

He joined Washington University in 1999 as the Adolphus Busch Professor and head of the Milliken Department of Internal Medicine.

Polonsky is among 65 members whose elections to the Institute of Medicine were announced by the National Academy of Sciences Oct. 9. As a member, Polonsky makes a commitment to devote a significant amount of volunteer time on committees engaged in a broad range of health-policy issues.

Washington University School of Medicine’s full-time and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.