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UAB's Whitley named distinguished physician by Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Richard Whitley, M.D., a renowned researcher and infectious disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, has been named the 2010 recipient of the Distinguished Physician Award from the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

The award recognizes a pediatrician whose career signifies excellence in infectious diseases research, education, patient care, prevention and public health. The director of UAB's Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Whitley received the honor May 3 during the PIDS annual awards banquet in Vancouver. He was nominated by more than a dozen physicians from UAB and across the nation.

Whitley is on the Advisory Council for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health. He also is on the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Working Group of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The group is providing recommendations to U.S. President Barack Obama on needed federal responses to pandemic flu.

A distinguished professor of pediatrics, microbiology, medicine and neurosurgery, Whitley is vice chair of UAB's Department of Pediatrics and co-director of UAB's Center for Emerging Infections and Emergency Preparedness.

He is credited with helping to develop vidarabine, the first drug to treat encephalitis caused by the herpes simplex virus. The vidarabine breakthrough more than 30 years ago opened the door to an entire field of antiviral therapy now crucial for the treatment of influenza, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other infections.

Whitley's research also is focused on using a genetically engineered version of herpes simplex virus to fight cancer. Studies show that this enhanced virus, rendered incapable of spreading herpes, enters tumors and attacks cancer-cell biology to stop tumor growth.


Contact: Troy Goodman
University of Alabama at Birmingham

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