I am honored to present Dr. Fayez K. Ghishan, the recipient of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition's highest honor, the Shwachman Award for 2004. The annual Shwachman Award honors a NASPGHAN member who has made major, life-long scientific or educational contributions to the field of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition in North America. Dr. Ghishan, the Horace W. Steele Professor of Pediatric Research, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Director of the Steele Memorial Children's Research Center at the University of Arizona, is a most fitting recipient of this award.
Dr. Ghishan was born in Jordan on November 26, 1942. A photograph from his childhood showing a well-dressed young boy with neatly combed hair, a jacket, tie and briefcase presages his reputation for formal attire, a gentlemanly demeanor and a scholarly attitude that has characterized his personal and professional life. He attended medical school at Ankara University in Turkey. He sought house officer training at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in England and later at Pennsylvania State University. He was a gastroenterology fellow and NIH postdoctoral trainee at the University of Iowa where he was mentored by Dr. Kabir Younoszai and Dr. Douglas LaBrecque. His energy and productivity during fellowship training was remarkable, resulting in 12 publications from work accomplished during 2 years of training.
In 1979 Dr. Ghishan was recruited as an Assistant Professor by Dr. Harry Greene to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He immediately immersed himself in the academic lifestyle, relishing his role as a "triple threat" in patient care, teaching and research. In 1982 he was voted the Amos Christie Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the Vanderbilt pediatric house staff. In the same year, Dr. Ghishan was awarded his first NIH grant, entitled "Development of Intestinal Transport of Calcium and Phosphorous," funding he has held continuously since. He quickly ascended the academic ranks as one of Vanderbilts most prolific clinicians, enthusiastic teachers and productive scientists. Gifted with an extraordinary clarity of thinking and decisive leadership style, Dr. Ghishan was the clear choice when leadership positions became available. He was named Director of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Vanderbilt in 1987 and Vice-Chair for Research in 1989. In 1995, he was recruited to The University of Arizona in Tucson as Chair of Pediatrics and Director of the Steele Memorial Children's Research Center. A tireless and zealous advocate for research, Dr. Ghishan has increased National Institutes of Health funding in his Department almost six fold since 1996.
Dr. Ghishan has made extraordinary contributions to the science and practice of pediatric gastroenterology. He has published 183 manuscripts in the peer-reviewed literature, most of which have focused on nutrient, mineral and electrolyte transport mechanisms in the gastrointestinal epithelium. He cloned a human intestinal sodium-phosphate transporter gene and has extensively characterized the structure, function and regulation of a variety of other sodium-phosphate transporters, including PHEX, the defective gene product in persons with X-linked hyposphosphatemic rickets. Similarly, he has extensively characterized the structure and function of the NHE family of sodium hydrogen exchangers in renal and intestinal epithelial cells. The NIH has recognized Dr. Ghishan as a leader in the field by continuously funding his research for more than two decades and by granting him a MERIT Award in 1996. This funding mechanism is awarded to fewer than 5% of NIH investigators and targets researchers who have demonstrated superior competence and outstanding productivity during their previous research endeavors. The awards provide the opportunity for 10 consecutive years of federal support. Dr. Ghishan is one of a very few pediatric gastroenterologists to receive a MERIT Award. He has served the gastroenterology community with extensive commitment to NIH review panels, especially the GMA-2 study section on which he has served nearly continuously for the past 15 years and as its Chair from 1993 to 1995. This service has been extremely important, as the representation of experts in pediatrics is typically limited to one or two members of the panel. He is currently on the editorial board of the American Journal of Physiology and was recently selected as an Associate Editor for the seminal text, Physiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract, Fourth Edition. His 43-chapter book includes contributions to all the standard pediatric gastroenterology texts.
As a passionate advocate for high-quality pediatric gastroenterological research, Dr. Ghishan has worked tirelessly and quietly behind the scenes to favorably influence the career of dozens of pediatric gastroenterologists. Numerous North American and international scientists and trainees have worked in his laboratory or collaborated with his research group. Three of his trainees have become directors of pediatric gastroenterology divisions and most of his trainees remain in academia. Dr. Brent Polk, Director of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Vanderbilt, fondly recalls the profound effect that Dr. Ghishan had on his early career as an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt. Dr. Ghishan has also contributed to NASPGHAN by serving as a member of the NASPGHAN Executive Council, a member of the Research Committee and the Training and Education Committee.
What makes this good man great? The one constant in his successful career has been the love and support of his lovely wife, Joan, and his absolute, unwavering commitment to his four beautiful and accomplished children, Peter, Vanessa, Adam and Lauren. Imagine this amazingly talented and productive physician scientist, leaving work at 4:30 in the afternoon nearly every day to pick up his children from school and have dinner with his family. Clearly, this translated into late nights and Saturday mornings at work, but this routine was virtually inviolable. What an astounding example of time management and balancing ones professional career and personal life to the extraordinary advantage of both!
The NASPGHAN Awards Committee clearly met the intent of the Shwachman Award by selection of Dr. Ghishan as the 2004 awardee. We are fortunate to have exceptional leaders like him in our organization and look forward to many more years of his sage influence and productive contributions to our field.