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University of Iowa News Release

May 23, 2003

UI Physician-Scientist Promoted To Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

A University of Iowa physician and researcher has been promoted to full investigator by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). With this appointment, the HHMI extends its support of Val Sheffield, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of pediatrics, for five more years. Sheffield has been an HHMI associate investigator since 1997, and his promotion means that the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine now has four faculty members who are HHMI investigators.

Sheffield's research involves identifying and understanding the function of genes that cause a variety of human disorders, including hereditary blindness and deafness, and complex genetic disorders such as hypertension, obesity, congenital heart disease and autism. Recently, Sheffield and his colleagues identified genes that cause a certain rare inherited disease called Bardet-Biedl Syndrome. Because this disease is characterized by health problems such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension, the newly identified genes may also play a role in these more common conditions. Sheffield also has been actively involved in the Human Genome Project and the Rat Genome Project.

"Having four HHMI investigators on our faculty is a good indication of the strength and caliber of research at the UI," said Robert P. Kelch, M.D., UI vice president for health affairs. "We are very proud of Dr. Sheffield's achievements and extremely pleased that HHMI has chosen to recognize and reward his important contributions to science. It is our great fortune to have Dr. Sheffield as a researcher, educator and physician at the UI."

Sheffield earned his bachelor's degree in zoology from Brigham Young University. He received a doctorate in developmental biology and a medical degree from the University of Chicago. Sheffield completed a residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in medical genetics at the University of California, San Francisco. He joined that UI faculty in 1990. Sheffield also is director of the Division of Medical Genetics in the UI Department of Pediatrics. For more information about Sheffield's research, visit

In addition to Sheffield, current HHMI investigators at the UI are Edwin Stone, M.D., Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, who was appointed in 2002; Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., the Roy J. Carver Chair of Physiology and Biophysics and interim head of the department, and professor of neurology; and Michael Welsh, M.D., the Roy J. Carver Biomedical Research Chair in Internal Medicine and Physiology and Biophysics. Campbell investigates muscular dystrophy, Welsh studies cystic fibrosis and Stone studies inherited eye diseases such as age related macular degeneration and glaucoma. In addition, John Donelson, Ph.D., UI Foundation Distinguished Professor and head of biochemistry, previously served as an HHMI investigator.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, based in Maryland, was founded in 1953 by aviator-industrialist Howard Hughes to promote the basic sciences and the effective application of findings to benefit humankind. The institute is the nation's largest private source of support for biomedical research and science education. HHMI supports investigators and their research teams at academic medical centers and universities by providing salaries, laboratory space and equipment. Currently, HHMI employs more than 300 investigators. For more information about HHMI, visit

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 5224-1178

CONTACTS: (media) Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660 WRITER: Jennifer Brown, 319-335-9917,

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: An online photo of Sheffield is available for downloading at