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UAB and Children’s of Alabama pediatric expert selected as 2022 APS John Howland Award recipient

  • November 02, 2021
Richard J. Whitley, M.D., receives highest honor from the American Pediatric Society.

Headshot of Dr. Richard Whitley, MD (Distinguished Professor, Infectious Diseases), 2020.Richard J. Whitley, M.D., receives the highest honor from the American Pediatric Society. The American Pediatric Society named Richard J. Whitley, M.D., Distinguished Professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine and Children’s of Alabama, as the 2022 APS John Howland Award recipient, the highest honor bestowed by APS. The award recognizes Whitley for his significant contributions to advancing child health and the profession of pediatrics.

“Dr. Whitley’s lifetime of work as a clinician, an educator and an investigator has touched countless lives, both of patients near and far and of medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues around the world,” said Mitch Cohen, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UAB and Children’s. “Beyond the importance of his work on antiviral therapy, he established the framework within which multi-institutional studies could be conducted in rare pediatric diseases other than cancer. Virtually all pediatricians and pediatric infectious diseases clinicians, and many physicians who practice any form of primary care, regularly use recommendations that resulted from his work. His sustained contributions to pediatrics have had a major impact for over 40 years, and his ongoing endeavors in drug discovery and exploration promise future benefits as well.” 

The APS John Howland Award was created in honor of clinician-scientist John Howland, M.D. Since 1952, the annual award has recognized individuals for their distinguished service to pediatrics.

Whitley is a leader in the field of clinical virology and an expert on how antiviral therapies fight infections in children and adults; his research spans four decades. He is best known for his pioneering work in herpes antivirals and the development of guidelines for the emergency use of influenza antiviral therapy in infants. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitley is the project director on a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant that studied the efficacy of remdesivir.

“We are truly delighted to honor Dr. Whitley with the 2022 APS John Howland Award for his sustained and continuing leadership in pediatrics,” said APS President Mary Leonard, M.D. “His tireless efforts led to the development of treatments for infections when none existed and the creation of a future for countless children who previously had none. His vision, collegiality, involvement in advocacy, and the depth and breadth of his research have made an enormous impact on the field of pediatrics. Decades of pediatricians, including neonatologists and infectious disease specialists, frequently use treatment recommendations that are based on Dr. Whitley’s work. His numerous outstanding contributions extend to all arenas of academic pediatrics and will have an enduring impact on how pediatricians treat infections to improve the health of children and their families.”

Despite ample opportunities to take on administrative roles, Whitley repeatedly has chosen to continue as a clinician scientist by providing clinical bedside care, continuing research and training the next generation of pediatricians. While he works on the international stage, he has been helping the children of Alabama and their families for decades. He is known for his connection with patient families, leaving a lasting impact, not only on those families, but on the residents and students who interact with him.

Whitley’s roles include vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics and co-director of the Division Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the UAB Heersink School of Medicine and Children’s. He also holds the titles of Loeb Eminent Scholar Chair in Pediatrics; professor of microbiology, medicine and neurosurgery; senior scientist, Division of Human Gene Therapy and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center; and co-founder and co-director, Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance.

For more information about Whitley and the APS John Howland Award, please visit the APS website.