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Diabetes expert Rexford Ahima named Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins

He holds appointments in schools of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing

Rexford Ahima has been named the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Diabetes at Johns Hopkins in the schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing. He will serve as director of the School of Medicine's Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism and as leader of the Diabetes Initiative.

Image caption: Rexford Ahima

He joins Johns Hopkins from the University of Pennsylvania, where he is currently a professor of medicine, director of the Obesity Unit at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and director of the Penn Diabetes Research Center's Mouse Phenotyping, Physiology and Metabolism Core.

Ahima is the 19th Bloomberg Distinguished Professor appointed across Johns Hopkins. The professorships are supported by a $350 million gift to the university by Johns Hopkins alumnus, philanthropist, and three-term New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The majority of this gift is dedicated to creating 50 new interdisciplinary professorships, galvanizing people, resources, research, and educational opportunities to address major world problems.

A world-renowned scientist with board certifications in internal medicine and in endocrinology/diabetes/metabolism, Ahima is known for uncovering connections between diabetes and obesity by studying the physiological mechanisms of obesity. He applies this crosscutting expertise from basic and translational research to the clinic. For example, his lab performs comparative analyses of obese and thin mice fed identical diets and translates the findings to the human population. Accordingly, he is often sought after for comment on diabetes and weight management matters by major national news sources such as NPR, CBS, and NBC News.

At Johns Hopkins, he will continue this research on the interrelationship between energy stores and regulation of energy balance by the brain, while also contributing to evolving policies and practices for clinical care, education, and research in diabetes and weight management. As leader of the Diabetes Initiative, he will advance the care and treatment of diabetes patients by increasing interdisciplinary partnerships between research scientists and clinicians throughout the university and abroad. Specifically, Ahima says he will seek "more collaboration with investigators in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America to promote our understanding of diabetes and metabolism among diverse populations."

"Diabetes and obesity are among the most serious health problems facing society today," says Robert Lieberman, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins. "As a leader and educator in the School of Medicine and beyond, Dr. Ahima will unify our community's efforts to find interdisciplinary solutions for these pervasive ailments. We are thrilled he is joining Johns Hopkins as a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor."

With appointments in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology and School of Nursing's Department of Acute and Chronic Care, Ahima says he looks forward to collaborating beyond the School of Medicine on research at the interface of metabolism dysfunction and diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory diseases, cancer, aging, and other conditions.

"Johns Hopkins is a spectacular place for patient care and research. I am very excited for the opportunity to collaborate with faculty, staff, and students in the schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing to develop innovative basic and clinical research programs that will improve the lives of people with diabetes, obesity, and related diseases," Ahima says. "I am very pleased that my specialty—endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism—has received some well-deserved recognition in my appointment as a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in Diabetes."

Highly regarded in his field and as an educator, Ahima has been awarded numerous commendations for his excellence in teaching the next generation, including an Owl Club Teaching Award from Tulane University School of Medicine and the Leo Davidoff Award, which honors teachers who have made significant contributions to the education of students at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Ahima is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and of the Association of American Physicians, and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, the Obesity Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Paul Rothman, the Frances Watt Baker, M.D., and Lenox D. Baker Jr., M.D., dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, says, "Dr. Ahima will work closely with our faculty and staff to advance the division's clinical and research programs and to educate the next generation of endocrine health experts. He will be a wonderful addition to Johns Hopkins Medicine. His experience will be instrumental in helping us advance the work in this important field."

Ahima earned his undergraduate degree in endocrinology at the University of London, his medical degree from the University of Ghana Medical School, and his doctoral degree in neuroscience from Tulane University. After an internship and residency in internal medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he completed research and clinical fellowships at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He then joined the Harvard Medical School before accepting a faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania.