Prestigious Carol Nachman Prize for Research in Rheumatology Awarded to Ellen Gravallese
On May 10, Ellen M. Gravallese, MD, the Myles J. McDonough Chair in Rheumatology and chief of the Division of Rheumatology at University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, was awarded the prestigious Carol Nachman Prize for lifetime achievement in rheumatology research in Wiesbaden, Germany.
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Each year the prize committee nominates distinguished researchers who have made contributions to rheumatology and immunology. Dr. Gravallese was notified of her nomination in February. As is the practice each year, the nominating committee requested her curriculum vitae, a summary of her research work and 10 of her most important research papers. In her response to Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Märker-Hermann, curator of the Carol Nachman 2018 Prize, Dr. Gravallese reflected on the immense changes in the field to which her laboratory, focused on the pathogenesis of inflammatory arthritis, has contributed.
“When my laboratory began this work, the mechanisms by which inflammation in synovial tissues in rheumatoid arthritis [RA] resulted in destruction of bone were not understood,” she wrote. “Patients in our clinics with RA were wheelchair bound, with no clear explanation for the obvious joint destruction.”
Elucidation of bone destruction pathways, such as the link between RANKL, osteoclastogenesis and bone erosion, has contributed to new targets for intervention, resulting in a sea change for people with inflammatory arthritis.
The Rheumatologist has profiled Dr. Gravallese’s impressive career contributions. Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the ACR and others. Among past honors, she received the 2017 Stephen M. Krane Award from the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research for outstanding achievements in basic, translational or clinical research in inflammation and skeletal matrix biology. She has served as an associate editor of the New England Journal of Medicine since 2016 and will serve as ACR president beginning this November.
Awarding the Prize
According to Prof. Dr. Georg Schett, chair of internal medicine at Friedrich–Alexander University, Erlangen-Nürnberg, a previous recipient of the prize and a current member of the prize committee, Carol Nachman was a businessman born in Romania in 1897. Forced to leave Germany in 1935, he worked abroad in the financial industry. After WWII, he returned to Germany and opened a casino in Wiesbaden. Mr. Nachman, who developed RA, supported many social projects, among them the Carol Nachman Prize for Rheumatology beginning in 1972. He died in Wiesbaden in 1993.
Awarding the prize is a special event in Wiesbaden. Each year at the town hall, the award is conferred by the Lord Mayor of Wiesbaden, and attendees at the ceremony comprise a mix of German rheumatologists, past prize recipients, members of the Nachman Prize Committee, rheumatology patients and townspeople. One of the highlights for Dr. Gravallese was seeing the American flag fly in front of the Wiesbaden town hall in tribute to her.
The prize is accompanied by a generous monetary award. “As a lifetime achievement award, the prize is really an honor,” says Dr. Gravallese. “It is humbling to be listed among the other award recipients and very satisfying to think that your work may have had an impact on the field.”