Preeminent diabetes researcher DeFronzo honored with UT Health Science Center’s highest award

SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 24, 2008)—World-renowned diabetes researcher Ralph A. DeFronzo, M.D., is the 2008 Presidential Distinguished Scholar at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The university announced the selection today in advance of its Jan. 31 Presidential Awards Ceremony. Dr. DeFronzo, who is well known for his commitment to educating young protégés entering academic medicine, will be in San Francisco that day teaching in a postgraduate course at the Endocrine Fellows Foundation.

Health Science Center President Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., will present an award medal and plaque to Dr. DeFronzo’s wife, Toni, at the ceremony. The Distinguished Scholar also receives $5,000. “It truly is a great honor to receive the Presidential Distinguished Scholar Award this year for our work in the field of diabetes,” Dr. DeFronzo said. “Such an award can only be attained if you have great scientists working with you. I want to thank all the members of the Division of Diabetes for making this award possible.”

Dr. DeFronzo, who earned his M.D. in 1969 from Harvard Medical School, joined the Health Science Center in 1988. His work has resulted in novel ideas about how diabetes develops and progresses, including the concept of insulin resistance. Dr. DeFronzo also is leading the development and testing of new diabetes therapies. The oral drug metformin, which is taken today by thousands of diabetic patients worldwide, is an offshoot of his work on new therapies.

“Dr. DeFronzo is enthusiastic, tenacious and creative,” said one of his nominators for the award, Jan Evans Patterson, M.D., professor of medicine, infectious diseases and pathology at the Health Science Center. “He has received every major award and accolade in his field and has managed to garner 30 years of sustained funding from the National Institutes of Health and 20 years of funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Later this year, Dr. DeFronzo will be honored in Rome, Italy, with the prestigious Claude Bernard Award from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. This is the highest scientific award given by the association.

In 2005 he received the Novartis Award at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) as the outstanding clinical investigator worldwide. In 2002 he received the Albert Renold Award from the ADA for the training of more than 200 young diabetes investigators. To his credit, Dr. DeFronzo has published more than 500 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. DeFronzo has been a driving force in the establishment of the University Health System Texas Diabetes Institute, a 153,000-square-foot facility in San Antonio’s West Side that provides care in every diabetes-related discipline, such as ophthalmology and nephrology. The building also includes an impressive clinical research area that supports numerous research studies.

A number of other recognitions are made during the annual Presidential Awards Ceremony. A list of categories and honorees follows.

Presidential Junior Research Scholar Award: Robert Brenner, Ph.D.; Presidential Clinical Excellence Award: Alison Beck, Ph.D., Wayne Schwesinger, M.D., Ian Thompson, M.D.; Presidential Teaching Excellence Award: Sandra Adams, M.D., Magda de la Torre, Glen Medellin, M.D., Susan Naylor, Ph.D., Jean Petershack, M.D., Omid Rahimi, Ph.D.; Presidential Volunteer Service Award: Michelle Batilla, Carolyn Fralix Gold, Kim Head; Presidential Ambassador Scholar Award: Katherine Pavo, Duane Winkler, Angela Shedd, Ellis Goins, Llena Caldwell; Presidential Employee Excellence in Service Award: Linda Clark, Kris Doyle, Judith Livingston, Sherece McGoon, Rene Torres.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $576 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 22,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields.

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