Renowned Johns Hopkins Children’s Center pediatrician and former JAMA editor in chief Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., M.P.H., will receive a Special Recognition Award of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The award — bestowed to leaders in academic medicine for extraordinary achievements in the field — will be presented Nov. 3 during the organization’s annual meeting in San Francisco.
The award honors DeAngelis’ numerous lifetime accomplishments, her long-standing commitment to academic medicine and her decade-long tenure as editor in chief of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of the oldest and most revered medical journals in the world.
DeAngelis became that publication’s first female editor in chief and the first pediatrician to hold that title.
Described by peers as one of the most influential voices in modern medicine, DeAngelis has been instrumental in reshaping the rules of ethical conduct in medicine, increasing transparency in clinical research, improving gender equality and enhancing medical education.
“Dr. DeAngelis’ accomplishments have been nothing short of transformational for modern academic medicine and, indeed, for health care in general,” said Paul B. Rothman, M.D., dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Accountability and transparency in academic and industry research, equality in the workplace, compassionate care — things we more or less take for granted today — are in many ways the direct or indirect result of Dr. DeAngelis’ courage, passion and foresight.”
During her decade at JAMA, DeAngelis was an outspoken yet beloved figure, not shying away from some of the thorniest problems plaguing modern health care, including conflict of interest and ghostwriting — a practice that in its most extreme form involves pharmaceutical companies secretly authoring articles published in medical journals under the bylines of academic researchers. DeAngelis’ passion for integrity and transparency fueled her ultimately successful effort to force big pharma to register publicly — and thereby disclose — all clinical trials, including those that found negative treatment effects.
Entering medicine as a registered nurse, DeAngelis went on to become a pediatrician, a prolific researcher, educator and, eventually, founding director of the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Johns Hopkins.
“I can’t think of anyone who deserves this honor more than Dr. DeAngelis,” said George Dover, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. “Her life’s work, her life’s passion, her mission has been to teach fledgling physicians how to be better, more caring doctors, to help those most in need and to give women and minorities a voice in medicine. She has accomplished all three and then some.”
The granddaughter of Italian immigrants, DeAngelis was born and raised in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. She trained as a nurse and worked as one for a year at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. DeAngelis was eager to do medical missionary work abroad, but her application to Mayknoll Missionaries was found lacking because she didn’t have formal religious training. Growing hesitant at the prospect of taking religious courses and delaying her career, DeAngelis sought the advice of her high-school chemistry teacher. He urged his former pupil to pursue her lifelong interest in medicine, and DeAngelis enrolled in a premed program at a small college in Pennsylvania. She subsequently received her medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh and completed her pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins.
In Baltimore, her childhood dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon gradually gave way to a growing interest in general pediatrics and public health, ignited during her volunteer work at a free health clinic in Baltimore.
She left Baltimore for Boston, where she worked as a pediatrician at a community clinic and earned a master’s degree in public health at Harvard. She later worked in New York’s Columbia University School of Medicine and at the University of Wisconsin.
DeAngelis returned to Hopkins in 1978 to become the founding director of the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. In 1986, DeAngelis attained the status of full professor, becoming the 12th woman at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to do so — a number she deemed woefully small.
As vice dean for academic affairs and faculty at Hopkins — a position DeAngelis held for nine years — she launched several initiatives to improve women’s presence in academic medicine including the annual School’s Report on the Status of Women, which later became the Committee on Faculty Development and Gender.
Her quest for gender equality went further. As editor of JAMA, DeAngelis invited research that focused on women’s health and, perhaps more importantly, demanded that researchers report treatment effects by gender.
As a vice dean of academic affairs, and backed by a multimillion-dollar grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, DeAngelis also restyled the medical school curriculum to include immediate contact with patients, as well as studies in empathy and compassion — traits she deemed just as critical for a physician as scientific knowledge.
After stepping down as editor of JAMA in 2010, DeAngelis returned to Hopkins, where she is currently working to establish a program for Patient Care and Professionalism in Medicine and the Related Professions, including nursing, public health, religion, business and law.
Recently, DeAngelis was named a Johns Hopkins University Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in recognition of her outstanding service to Johns Hopkins.
DeAngelis has authored or edited 11 books on pediatrics and medical education and published more than 250 peer-reviewed articles, chapters and editorials. She is the recipient of seven honorary doctorate degrees.