The King Faisal International Prize for Medicine for 2012 has been awarded jointly to Richard L. Berkowitz, MD, professor of obstetrics & gynecology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and James Bruce Bussel, MD, professor of pediatrics, Weill Cornell Medical College. The two have worked together for nearly 30 years to study the natural history, diagnostic criteria, and non-invasive management of pregnant women having infants affected with Alloimmune thrombocytopenia, a disease that can cause intracranial hemorrhage either in utero or during the neonatal period. Typically, the condition goes undetected until the child’s birth, resulting in death or substantial disability in 10 percent of cases.
Dr. Bussel, a 1975 graduate of P&S, provided expertise in the diagnosis and medical management of patients through safe administration of intravenous gamma-globulins, while Dr. Berkowitz developed expertise in the obstetrical management of at-risk women and their fetuses. Both developed the study protocols, analyzed the data, interpreted the results and authored several prominent articles on the natural history and maximally effective antenatal treatment of the disease.
“The child can be devastatingly affected by this disease, and it can be too late if the treatment is delayed until after delivery,” Dr. Berkowitz said. “This has become a unique example of essentially curing a disease before the child is born and eliminating the potential for the occurrence of irreversible problems that can last a lifetime.”
In addition to their groundbreaking research, Berkowitz and Bussel have served as consultants for clinicians from all over the world seeking guidance for the clinical management of patients. Non-invasive, in-utero treatment of this disorder has become the standard treatment for Alloimmune thrombocytopenia, and Bussel and Berkowitz’s work has been recognized worldwide as the definitive source of “bench to bedside” research and clinical care for this disease.
“It is now exceptionally rare for one of these children to have an intracranial hemorrhage,” Berkowitz said. “If a woman is at risk during her second and subsequent pregnancies, we can help.”
For more information about the King Faisal International Prize and to see a complete list of winners, visit the King Faisal Foundation’s website.
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