Medical imaging scientist Samuel Achilefu and child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD, both of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Sciences. Membership in the academy is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.
Achilefu and Luby are among 100 new members whose election to the National Academy of Medicine was announced Oct. 18. Current members of the organization elect new members based on their contributions to advancing public health, health care and medical science. All members volunteer time to serve on committees examining a broad range of health-policy issues.
Achilefu is the Michel M. Ter-Pogossian Professor of Radiology and director of the Optical Radiology Laboratory at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine. He is being recognized for outstanding contributions in the field of optical imaging for identifying sites of disease and characterizing biologic phenomena noninvasively.
Achilefu pioneered the development of molecular optical imaging and therapy for human diseases using novel molecular probes and light-sensitive drugs. He discovered a new molecular entity that can be used to deliver drugs to many types of cancer. Achilefu also leads a team that is developing a wearable goggle-based imaging system that allows surgeons to see cancerous cells during surgeries to help them completely remove tumors. Washington University has licensed the cancer goggle technology to Integro Theranostics, a Washington University startup company based in St. Louis.
Achilefu is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and the Optical Society. He directs the Molecular Imaging Center and the Center for Multiple Myeloma Nanotherapy at the School of Medicine. Achilefu also serves as vice chair of innovation and entrepreneurship at the university’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology and co-leads the Oncologic Imaging Program at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the School of Medicine. A member of the National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NACBIB), he was honored in 2019 for outstanding lifetime achievements in the field of biomedical optics with the Britton Chance Award in Biomedical Optics, given by the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE).
Luby is the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Psychiatry. A child psychiatrist, she has worked to advance the understanding and treatment of early-onset brain and behavior disorders, particularly clinical depression in preschoolers.
Luby is the founder and director of the university’s Early Emotional Development Program in the Department of Psychiatry. Her landmark studies have demonstrated that even preschoolers can be clinically depressed and that depression in very young children could predict that such children may have difficulty in school, during adolescence and throughout life. Her team also has developed and tested an intervention to treat preschool depression in hopes of avoiding continuing or worsening problems later.
Her studies also have identified behavioral and biological markers of risk for depression and demonstrated that stress in a child’s environment is linked to altered brain development. Children who are raised in poverty, for example, are at higher risk for specific alterations in brain development that might contribute to the development of problems such as depression and learning disabilities. Her team also has found, however, that nurturing from parents can counteract some of those negative effects.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,700 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, consistently ranking among the top medical schools 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.