Wayne M. Yokoyama, MD, and Charles F. Zorumski, MD, have been elected to the Institute of Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Sciences. Membership in the organization is one of the highest honors physician-scientists in the United States can receive.
Yokoyama is the Sam J. Levin and Audrey Loew Levin Professor of Research in Arthritis and professor of medicine and of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In 2007, he became director of the Medical Scientist Training Program at Washington University, the largest dual MD-PhD degree program in the country for students aspiring to become physician-scientists.
Also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yokoyama is known internationally for his research on the immune system, especially into the workings of natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells monitor the “credentials” of cells in the body, targeting for elimination those that lack the proper identification, such as tumor cells and those infected with viruses.
Yokoyama was born in Wailuku, Hawaii. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester in 1974 and a medical degree at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1978. After internal medicine residency and fellowships at the University of Iowa, and a research fellowship at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, he was on the faculties of the University of California, San Francisco, and Mt. Sinai Medical School in New York City. He came to Washington University in 1995 to become chief of the rheumatology division in the Department of Medicine. In addition to his basic research into the functions of NK cells, he is a rheumatologist who treats patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Zorumski is the Samuel B. Guze Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobiology and head of the Department of Psychiatry. He also serves as psychiatrist-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and director of the McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. His work focuses on communication between neurons in the brain, especially in the hippocampus, and how neurotransmitters and neuromodulators facilitate learning and memory.
His work studying anesthetic drugs led to the recent formation of the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research. Under Zorumski’s leadership, the goal of the institute is to understand the roles of natural and synthetic neurosteroid molecules in psychiatric illnesses like depression and schizophrenia, and to identify neurosteroid targets that could lead to new therapies.
Zorumski earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Saint Louis University in 1974 and a medical degree also from Saint Louis University in 1978. After psychiatry residency at Washington University, he joined the faculty in 1983 as an instructor. He became a full professor in 1993 and was named head of psychiatry in 1997.
The National Academy of Sciences advises the federal government on issues relating to science and technology. Established in 1970 as part of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent analysis and recommendations on medical, biomedical and health-related issues.
Yokoyama and Zorumski are among 70 members whose elections to the Institute of Medicine were announced Oct. 15 by the National Academy of Sciences. 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.
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 sixth 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.