Zerhouni, Elias


Zerhouni, Elias
▪ 2003

      U.S. Pres. George W. Bush in 2002 tapped Algerian-born radiologist Elias Zerhouni to be the 15th director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world's largest medical research facility. The choice of Zerhouni came after months of searching for a candidate. Though closely grilled on the question of whether he would support the president's opposition to cloning and human embryonic stem cell research, Zerhouni managed to avoid making a definitive position statement. Still, Zerhouni had helped create the Institute for Cell Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md., and Johns Hopkins researchers pioneered embryonic stem cell research. The institute was established with the goal of applying that knowledge to related work in adult stem cells, which the president endorsed.Elias Adam Zerhouni was born on April 1, 1951, in Nedroma, Alg., one of eight children. His father was a math professor. The family moved two years later to Algiers, where Zerhouni earned Algerian and French baccalaureates before studying at the University of Algiers School of Medicine. Influenced by his maternal uncle, a well-known radiologist, Zerhouni chose radiology as his field, and after receiving his medical degree in 1975, he moved to the United States. Barely able to speak English, Zerhouni nonetheless earned a position as radiology resident at Johns Hopkins's School of Medicine, rising to chief resident in 1978 and joining the faculty a short time later.At Johns Hopkins, Zerhouni participated in research on computed tomography that led to a technique that allowed radiologists to identify benign and malignant nodules in the lungs. In 1981 he became vice chairman of the radiology department at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he pioneered further scanning techniques. He returned to Johns Hopkins in 1985 and, as co-director of a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) division, invented a revolutionary MRI cardiac tagging technology and later, as director of the MRI division, helped devise an image-directed replacement for invasive methods for breast cancer diagnosis. Zerhouni rose to the post of chairman of the department of radiology at Johns Hopkins in 1992 and executive vice dean in 1996.Peers hailed Zerhouni as a solid administrator who had the ability to find solutions where others saw only obstacles. Shortly after the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment as head of the NIH in May, Zerhouni called for more research to effect a “quantum leap” in medical discoveries, which he said was the most effective way to control the nation's ever-increasing health care costs.Zerhouni served as a consultant to the Reagan White House in 1985 and the World Health Organization in 1988. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1990. He became a member of the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Research Council complex, in 2000.

Anthony G. Craine

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Universalium. 2010.

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