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Rama K. Mallampalli: Award for Achievement

Rama K. Mallampalli, portraitRama K. Mallampalli is an internationally recognized authority on acute lung injury. His educational, clinical, and research prowess has earned him membership to the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, and as a permanent member of several National Institutes of Health committees. His entrepreneurial activities as cofounder of Koutif Therapeutics have led his team to receive FDA investigational new drug approval for a new class of oral ubiquitin-based anti-inflammatory medications. Mallampalli, who is a former chief of pulmonary, allergy, and critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, currently serves as chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He also is physician-in-chief for medicine at the OSU Wexner Medical Center.

As an internationally recognized lung specialist, Mallampalli has been an in-demand expert on COVID-19-associated lung injury since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mallampalli has spent 30 years taking care of patients with lung disease and respiratory illnesses. He became one of the nation’s leading authorities on research in ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and has been at the forefront of COVID-19 treatment this past year, including leading the convalescent plasma program and diagnostics for COVID-19 at Ohio State.

His research investigates why lungs fail from severe respiratory infections. Mallampalli is currently studying coronavirus infection in hamsters to better understand how it causes lung injury. Unlike laboratory mice, hamsters get infections that reproduce in a way that’s very similar to humans.

With pulmonary medicine and critical care at the forefront across the globe, Mallampalli says this is an opportunity for leaders in his field to advocate for their specialty.

“We really need to make sure we have the adequate infrastructure,” he says. “We saw early on in March, red flags — about shortages of ventilators and PPE [personal protective equipment], and these are all in our specialty.

To ensure shortages don’t happen in the case of outbreaks of diseases like COVID-19, Mallampalli urges even greater investment in research and the infrastructure in critical care units.

“I think it’s an opportunity for us in this specialty to underscore the importance of investment in healthcare dollars for research and to provide the ancillary support that we need in the critical care units,” he says.

Mallampalli credits his experience at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics as a foundation for his future success. Looking back, he says he was drawn to the institution’s reputation for having an elite pulmonary, critical care, and occupational medicine fellowship program.

“Iowa’s pulmonary critical care program was a research powerhouse. It was in the top 10 of programs in the 1990s, and it’s still a great program,” Mallampalli says.

Mallampalli notes that many of the faculty in his unit, including himself, went on to become leaders in their field.

“I remember being immersed with a highly talented, respected group of people who set a very high standard for excellence in patient care, teaching, and research,” he says.

Mallampalli also attributes his positive experience during his fellowship to his mentors, one of whom, Michael Welsh, MD, continues to be a professional resource for Mallampalli 30 years after completing the fellowship program.

“Dr. Michael Welsh has been somebody that I talk to quite a bit now,” he says. “I’ve checked in with him for my own career and to get his advice. So he’s been very helpful throughout the years.”

Using his experience and expertise to guide current and future leaders in pulmonary and critical care medicine aligns with Mallampalli’s long-term goal to continue building the internal medicine department at Ohio State. As department chair of over 600 faculty, he sees mentoring faculty as one of his greatest accomplishments. Mallampalli provides resources and advice for developing leaders, whether they’re interested in clinics, research, or education.

“Seeing the success of others is really important at this stage of my career,” Mallampalli says.

By: Molly Allen