The University of Maryland has awarded Roberto Romero, M.D., D.Med.Sci., the Dean’s Distinguished Gold Medal for contributions to medicine and science, particularly for his achievements in the areas of pregnancy and preterm birth.
Dr. Romero, the chief of the National Institutes of Health’s Perinatology Research Branch, based at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and professor of Molecular Obstetrics and Genetics at the WSU School of Medicine, received the medal Dec. 7.
“We are proud and delighted to bestow upon Roberto Romero this dean’s distinguished gold medal,” said Claire Fraser, Ph.D., professor and director of the University of Maryland’s Institute for Genome Sciences, and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in reading the proclamation. “This medal represents the school of medicine’s highest honor given to an individual whose contributions in medical research, education, patient care, or service have significantly advanced medicine and science to the benefit of our local, national, global community …,”
Previous medical luminaries who have received the medal include Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases; Francis Collins, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health; Victor Dzau, M.D., president of the National Academy of Medicine and former chancellor of Duke University; and Darrell Kirch, M.D., president emeritus of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The award is presented by E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Reece is an obstetrician and gynecologist.
The recognition noted Dr. Romero’s “national leadership, vision and expertise in maternal-fetal medicine that have proven integral in improving the health and well-being of women and children throughout the world” and his “seminal discoveries and contributions in the prenatal diagnosis of congenital anomalies and the prediction and prevention of pre-term labor and delivery.”
Dr. Romero, director of the Division of Obstetrics and Maternal-Fetal Medicine for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, established the role of progesterone in the reduction of spontaneous preterm birth, the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. The discovery is estimated to save the United States health care system $500 million per year.
The member of the National Academy of Medicine also discovered the role of cytokines in the onset of labor and fetal injury, and wrote and co-wrote more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications and several books, including the medical best-seller “Prenatal Diagnosis of Congenital Anomalies.” He is the editor-in-chief for obstetrics for the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“I am honored to receive the Dean’s Distinguished Gold Medal from the University of Maryland School of Medicine,” Dr. Romero said. “The work described in the proclamation has been in the service of mothers and children.”
Obstetrics, he said, “is the only discipline in medicine with two patients: mother and fetus; and the unborn child is the most challenging patient to diagnose and treat; for they cannot speak, are invisible without technology, and they have been virtually inaccessible until the latter part of the 20th century.
“Armed with a new understanding of the unique nature of obstetrical disease, we have begun to successfully predict and prevent two of the most elusive and enigmatic pregnancy complications: premature labor and preeclampsia.
“Who would have thought, that in the early part of the 21st century, a whole fetal genome could be deduced from circulating nucleic acids in maternal blood?” Dr. Romero added. “The immediate challenge is to decipher the vocabulary, grammar and syntax of the most fascinating dialogue in biology: the conversation between the mother and her unborn child.”
He called human reproduction “one of the most exciting frontiers of the 21st century … the true terra incognita of medicine and biology.”