Zabner receives 2021 American Thoracic Society award for Scientific Accomplishment

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Date: Monday, April 19, 2021

Joseph Zabner, MD, University of Iowa professor of internal medicine and director of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Occupational Medicine with UI Health Care, has been awarded the 2021 Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishment by the American Thoracic Society (ATS).

The award recognizes outstanding scientific contributions in basic or clinical research that enhance the understanding, prevention, and treatment of respiratory disease or critical illness, and recognizes exemplary professionalism, collegiality, and citizenship through mentorship and leadership in the ATS community. Awardees are selected based on contributions made throughout their careers or for major contributions made at a particular point in their careers. The award will be presented at the ATS annual meeting, which will be held virtually May 14-19.

In their nominating letter, Zabner’s colleagues Michael Welsh, MD, and David Stoltz, MD, PhD, highlight Zabner’s wide-reaching expertise and impact as a “highly accomplished Latino physician-scientist, academic leader, and mentor.”

A true physician-scientist, Zabner’s clinical insights inform his research discoveries, and his research, particularly in the area of cystic fibrosis and gene therapy, has helped advance therapies and improve patient care. He also is a dedicated teacher and mentor, who has influenced and guided the careers of numerous young doctors and scientists.

Zabner, who is from Venezuela, also places great value on diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of medicine, from patient care to mentoring and training of the next generation of physician-scientists. Through his work as an intensive care specialist and pulmonologist at UI Hospitals & Clinics, Zabner has seen first-hand the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on Latinx Iowans. Together with several other colleagues, he created a dedicated team of Spanish-speaking intensivists to effectively communicate with these patients and their families to help them navigate the medical and emotional challenges of COVID-19 illness.

Zabner also co-led the UI team that established Iowa’s first clinic for patients experiencing ongoing symptoms of COVID-19, sometimes called “long COVID.”

“Joe Zabner is highly deserving of this award,” says E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD, chair of the UI Department of Internal Medicine. “Dr. Zabner embodies all of the ideals of our profession. He is a compassionate physician who cares deeply and holistically about his patients and a devoted mentor and educator who has shaped the careers of numerous trainees and colleagues. As a physician scientist, Dr. Zabner’s research accomplishments have contributed importantly to changing the therapeutic landscape and outlook for patients with cystic fibrosis. Dr. Zabner is an asset to our department, our medical school, our health system and to the global pulmonary community. We are proud and fortunate to work with him.”