Mark J. Manary, M.D., has been named the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“Mark Manary is an outstanding choice for the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Dr. Manary has developed innovative approaches to improving the lives of children in Africa. He is a credit to his field and most deserving of this generous honor supported by an endowment gift from Helene B. Roberson.”
“Mark is an internationally recognized expert and advocate for severely malnourished children whose pioneering clinical studies reshape our approach to this profound health issue,” said Alan L. Schwartz, Ph.D., M.D., the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and head of Pediatrics. “Further he is an outstanding clinician, educator, citizen of Washington University and colleague.”
“I am very, very honored to receive the Roberson chair,” said Manary, professor of pediatrics and a specialist in emergency medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Mrs. Roberson’s vision is about having a better future for children, which is coincident with what we have going on in our Department of Pediatrics as well as the kind of work that I embrace. We want to not only offer the very best to the kids with whom we have contact everyday, but to those who will never come to our facility or to St. Louis.”
Manary has spent several years devoted to researching the effectiveness of a simple yet revolutionary peanut-butter mixture with severely and moderately malnourished young children in the sub-Saharan African country of Malawi, where malnutrition affects 70 percent of children. Several times a year, Manary visits the African nation, often accompanied by students from the School of Medicine.
After completing a Fulbright Scholarship in Africa, Manary developed improved, peanut-butter based foods to address the malnutrition epidemic in Malawi. The therapeutic feeding program uses the nutrient-rich mixture, called Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), which contains peanuts, powdered milk, oil, sugar, and added vitamins and minerals. It has been remarkably successful in promoting recovery among severely malnourished children in Malawian clinics in which Manary works.
Produced in a Malawian factory, the spoil-proof concoction is given to the mothers of the malnourished children to feed at home. In the last five years, Manary’s feeding projects alone have directly helped an estimated 20,000 children. The project is looking toward significant growth as it is now in all 25 districts in Malawi.
The extraordinary recovery of malnourished children with RUTF has caught the attention of other organizations working to fight malnutrition across the globe. Thanks in part to Manary’s work, UNICEF, the United Nations Systems Standing Committee on Nutrition, the World Health Organization and the World Food Program issued a joint statement last year endorsing RUTF as the standard of treatment for severely malnourished children worldwide. Manary has also designed curriculum for the University of Malawi College of Medicine and influenced the Malawi Ministry of Health to include RUTF in the national treatment protocol.
Manary was recognized for his work last year with the 2007 World of Children Health Award, which recognizes individuals who make a difference in the lives of children. He was also honored with the School of Medicine’s Distinguished Alumni Faculty Award in 2007.
Manary is also working with plant scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to boost the nutrition in cassava, a starchy root that is a diet staple of 200 million of the poorest Africans and the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world. The scientists have improved the protein, iron and Vitamin A content in the cassava, which will soon be tested in fields in Nigeria and Kenya.
Manary earned a medical degree from the School of Medicine in 1982 and completed an internship and residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. After spending four years as a medical officer in Tanzania and on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, he joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1989 as an instructor. Since 1994, he has also been a senior lecturer in pediatrics at the Medical College of Malawi, and in 2001 became an associate professor of pediatrics (voluntary faculty) at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
A lifelong supporter of the arts, education and health care, Roberson established this professorship in 2000. A native St. Louisan, Roberson graduated from Mary Institute and attended Washington University’s School of Art, now the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. During World War II she worked for the American Red Cross in the Motor Corps division and as a nurse’s aide volunteering at Barnes and Jewish hospitals. Her desire to support research grew from these experiences.
Roberson owned and operated Daytona Budweiser Inc., an Anheuser-Busch wholesaler in Port Orange, Fla., where she served as its chief executive officer and president for more than 35 years before retiring.
Roberson has served on the Washington University Regional Cabinet for the Gold Coast of Florida. She has been a sponsor of the London Symphony’s biennial appearance in Daytona and a former director of the Rehabilitation Center of Greater St. Louis. She is a past trustee of Florida Hospital Ormond Memorial in Ormond Beach, Fla., and of the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and is a member of the Museum of the Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Committed to “do something for the children,” Roberson supports the Boggy Creek Gang in Eustis, Fla., one of the camps for seriously ill children co-founded by the late Paul Newman and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed 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 third 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.