Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health and an early pioneer in magnetic resonance imaging techniques in worldwide use today, will be the speaker at MIT's 138th Commencement exercises on Friday, June 4 in Killian Court.
As its 15th director, Zerhouni initiated a new research vision for NIH, focusing the attention of the biomedical research community on new pathways of discovery, research teams for the future and reengineering the clinical research enterprise.
In making the announcement, President Charles M. Vest called Zerhouni "an innovative scientist and administrator who has made significant contributions to the world" since he came to the United States from his native Algeria in 1975. After earning a medical degree from the University of Algiers School of Medicine, Zerhouni was accepted as a radiology resident at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Over the past quarter-century, he advanced at Johns Hopkins to become chairman of the Department of Radiology and Radiological Science, radiologist in chief, president of the Clinical Practice Association, vice dean for clinical affairs, vice dean for research and executive vice dean. He was also a professor of biomedical engineering.
He singly and jointly holds eight patents for various computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) inventions. Among his innovations are CT densitometry techniques used to determine whether lung nodules are benign or malignant, and a method of high-resolution CT for anatomic and physiologic pulmonary studies.
Zerhouni co-founded several companies, including one that uses patented miniature coils inserted into various tissues to enhance MRI images and allow near-microscopic views of specific areas.
"His is just a great American story," said Vest. "Arriving on these shores as a young student and now a distinguished scientist leading our largest research establishment, he exemplifies the benefits of an open and accessible research community."
Since becoming director of NIH, Zerhouni has named directors for five institutes and has overseen the doubling of the NIH budget.
A member of the Institute of Medicine, he served on the National Cancer Institute's Board of Scientific Advisors from 1998-2002.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 10, 2004.