A prominent diabetes researcher, physician and educator, Dr. Polonsky, as dean, oversees the University's research and education programs in the biological sciences and medicine. As executive vice president, he oversees the University of Chicago Medicine, reporting directly to the University president.
Born and educated in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr. Polonsky graduated cum laude in 1973 from the University of Witwatersrand Medical School. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, then came to the University of Chicago in 1978 for a fellowship in endocrinology. He joined the University's faculty in 1981, was promoted to professor in 1990 and became the Louis Block Professor of Medicine in 1995. He also has served as chief of endocrinology and as director of the University's Diabetes Research and Training Center. In 1999, Dr. Polonsky moved to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was appointed the Adolphus Busch Professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University and physician-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital before his return to the University of Chicago Medicine.
As a scientist, Dr. Polonsky studies factors that influence the health and function of pancreatic beta cells, which produce and secrete insulin. Defects in insulin production and action are hallmarks of noninsulin dependent (type 2) diabetes. Dr. Polonsky was part of a team at the University of Chicago in the 1980s that developed and tested ways to measure insulin-secretion rates.
His more recent studies have focused on novel, sensitive and accurate methods of evaluating beta-cell function in people with mild diabetes or who have not yet developed diabetes, and on forms of diabetes that result from genetic causes. He currently is studying genes that increase the risk for type 2 diabetes and is evaluating drugs that stimulate insulin secretion--a project that he began with colleagues at the University of Chicago.
A member since 2006 of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors medical scientists in the United States can receive, Dr. Polonsky has won multiple awards, including the Young Investigator Award from the American Federation of Clinical Research in 1993, the Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award of the American Diabetes Association in 1994, and a highly selective National Institutes of Health MERIT Award in 1997. In 2007, he was named director of the five-year, $50-million NIH-funded Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences at Washington University. In 2009 he was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.
He has published more than 250 papers, has served on the editorial boards of several journals and on national and regional committees of a number of organizations including the American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He was a member of the board of directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine.