Janet Schlechte, MD

By: Celine Robins

Dr. Janet Schlechte

Award for Service

Janet Schlechte’s (78R, 81F–internal medicine) clinical research on the relationship between prolactinomas and bone loss has shaped the understanding of how the endocrine and skeletal systems interact, garnering her invitations to present at conferences around the world. In 1996, Schlechte was elected to the most prestigious academic medical society in North America, the Association of American Physicians, and later she became the only woman among a handful of Iowans to be selected as Master of the American College of Physicians. She is a professor emerita in the UI Department of Internal Medicine.

Schlechte’s academic accolades are numerous and impressive, but she was always dedicated to her patients first. 

“Our biggest impact is related to better treatment options and outcomes for patients with pituitary tumors,” she says. 

The characterization and treatment of prolactinomas was Schlechte’s primary research focus throughout her career. Prolactinomas are tumors of the pituitary gland, and while they are noncancerous, the hormonal imbalances they create can lead to osteoporosis, causing the bones to become fragile. Schlechte’s work on establishing this connection has had profound impacts on clinical care of the condition. 

“They knew me as ‘that bone lady in Iowa City,’” she jokes.


For 14 years, she directed the UI General Clinical Research Center (GCRC), creating a fertile environment for clinical research. She helped develop and maintain the UI Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) center, an initiative of the National Institutes of Health. Her work, along with that of WHI centers across the U.S., not only contributed to knowledge about certain diseases common in older women, but also expanded health parity with respect to gender and enhanced the methodology of clinical research studies.  

“A few years ago, we didn’t even think it was a logical thing to have women participating in clinical research studies,” Schlechte says. “Now it’s just a given that in order to do a good clinical study, you have to include a diverse patient population.” 

For 16 years, she served as director of postgraduate programs for the Department of Internal Medicine and as a professor of endocrinology and metabolism. In 2002, she was honored with the Ernest O. Theilen Clinical Teaching and Service Award. A constant message for her students and mentees was to work hard and think outside the box. 

“Think of the tough questions that need to be answered,” she says. “What we really want from our scientists and doctors is the cure to diseases. We’re only going to get those if we ask difficult questions.” 

Schlechte says her contribution to the education of more than 400 students and residents is one of her proudest achievements. 

“My continuous goal has been to do everything I could to help develop productive investigators, and more importantly compelling educators, and even more importantly good doctors,” she says.