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Plenary Speakers

Here is a snapshot of the keynote speakers who will be a part of this inspiring conference:

  • Opening Session: Victor Dzau, MD
  • General Session: Richard Lifton, MD, PhD
  • Closing Session: Robert P. Kimberly (moderator), Karen Kaplan, and Alan Leshner, MD


Victor Dzau.jpg

Victor Dzau, MD

Victor J. Dzau is the President of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), formerly the Institute of Medicine. In addition, he serves as Vice Chair of the National Research Council. He is an internationally acclaimed leader and scientist whose work has improved health care in the United States and globally.

Since arriving at the National Academies, Dr. Dzau has led important initiatives such as the Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future; the Human Gene Editing Initiative; Vital Directions for Health and Health Care; and the NAM Grand Challenges in Healthy Longevity. His own research laid the foundation for the development of a lifesaving class of drugs, ACE inhibitors, used globally to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. He pioneered gene therapy for vascular disease.

He is a member of the board of directors of the Singapore Health Services, a former member of the Advisory Committees to the Director of U.S. National Institutes of Health, chaired NIH's Cardiovascular Disease Advisory Committee and is past chair of the Association of Academic Health Centers. Dr. Dzau has previously served as Chancellor for Health Affairs and President & CEO of Duke University Health System.

He has received numerous awards including the Max Delbruck Medal from Germany, the Gustav Nylin Medal from the Swedish Royal College of Medicine, the Polzer Prize from the European Academy of Sciences & Arts, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Distinguished Scientist Award of the American Heart Association

Richard P. Lifton, MD, PhD

Richard P. Lifton was named The Rockefeller University's 11th president by its Board of Trustees on May 5, 2016, following an international search. He took office on September 1, 2016.

A physician-scientist who holds M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University, Dr. Lifton has pioneered the use of genetics and genomics to understand fundamental mechanisms underlying human diseases, including cardiovascular disease, neoplasia, kidney disease, and osteoporosis. He is especially known for research on hypertension and salt intake, work which has informed public health efforts and therapeutic strategies used worldwide.

Dr. Lifton is a graduate of Dartmouth College. He did his medical residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital and has been on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and Yale University. He joined Yale in 1993 as assistant professor of internal medicine and genetics and became chair of Yale's Department of Genetics in 1998, a position he held until he assumed the presidency of Rockefeller. While at Yale, Dr. Lifton also served as executive director of the Yale Center for Genome Analysis, which he founded in 2009.

Dr. Lifton is a 2014 Breakthrough Prize winner, a 2008 recipient of the Wiley Prize for Biomedical Sciences, and has received the highest scientific honors of the American Heart Association, the American and International Societies of Nephrology, the American and International Societies of Hypertension, and the Endocrine Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine and served as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator from 1994 until assuming the Rockefeller presidency in 2016. He was the co-chair of the planning committee for President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative in 2015.

In addition to his university responsibilities, Dr. Lifton serves on the advisory boards of several non-profit scientific and medical organizations, including the Whitehead Institute, the Broad Institute and the Simons Foundation for Autism Research. He is also a member of the board of directors of Genentech and Roche.


Karen Kaplan

Karen Kaplan is the science and medicine editor at the Los Angeles Times. Her team covers topics ranging from cancer research and neuroscience to space exploration and bio-inspired engineering. As a science reporter, her beat included genetics, stem cells, and cloning. Before joining the science group in 2005, she covered technology in the newspaper's business section for 10 years.

Ms. Kaplan is a graduate of MIT, where she studied economics and political science. She also has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. She definitely reads more medical journals than her husband, who is a neuroradiologist at USC. In a parallel universe without journalism, she would pursue a career in economics, genetics, biostatistics or some other field that explains the world through math.


Alan Leshner, MD

Alan I. Leshner is Chief Executive Officer, Emeritus, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and former Executive Publisher of the Science family of journals.

Before joining AAAS, Dr. Leshner was Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health. He also served as Deputy Director and Acting Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and in several roles at the National Science Foundation. Before joining the government, Dr. Leshner was Professor of Psychology at Bucknell University.

Dr. Leshner is an elected fellow of AAAS, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Public Administration, and many others. He is a member and served on the Governing Council of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. He served two terms on the National Science Board, appointed first by President Bush and then reappointed by President Obama.

Dr. Leshner received Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in physiological psychology from Rutgers University and an A.B. in psychology from Franklin and Marshall College. Dr. Leshner has received many honors and awards, including the Walsh McDermott Medal from the National Academy of Medicine and seven honorary Doctor of Science degrees.

Bob Kimberly

Robert P. Kimberly, MD (Moderator)

Robert P. Kimberly received his MD degree from Harvard Medical School after receiving his AB magna cum laude from Princeton University and a BA/MA from the University of Oxford, Oxford, England.

After training at Penn and NIH he joined the Cornell Medical Center where he was Professor of Medicine and Director of Biomedical Research in the Cornell Arthritis Center. Dr. Kimberly joined the faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1996 as Professor of Medicine and the Howard L. Holley Research Chair of Rheumatology

Dr. Kimberly is a clinical rheumatologist, immunologist and human geneticist.  His interests focus on translational research in autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and the systemic vasculitides. He is Principal Investigator for the CTSA Hub at UAB.