April 29, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 15

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    [joseph kirsner] by matthew gilson
    Dr. Joseph Kirsner, the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine, has recently won the AGA’s Educator Award.

    Kirsner wins milestone award in his lifelong career

    Dr. Joseph Kirsner, the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine, has received the Distinguished Educator Award from the American Gastroenterological Association.

    The award, established by the AGA to recognize an individual for achievements as an outstanding educator over a lifelong career, was one of only two major awards in his field that Kirsner had not yet received.

    The other honor––for which he is not eligible––is the American Digestive Health Foundation’s top prize for excellence in clinical research: the Joseph B. Kirsner Award.

    In six decades of teaching, Kirsner has trained more than 200 of the field’s leading specialists, including 41 people who are currently full professors and 14 department chairs.

    He has authored nearly 700 publications, including 15 books. His textbook on inflammatory bowel disease, now in its fifth edition, has been the standard work on the topic for 20 years.

    Now approaching his 90th birthday, Kirsner came to the University as an Assistant in Medicine in 1935, and except for military service during World War II, has remained ever since.

    He helped found several professional societies, including the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

    His persistence in seeking research funds for his developing field resulted in the creation of the General Medicine Study Section of the National Institutes of Arthritis, Metabolic and Digestive Diseases.

    He graduated from Tufts University near the top of his class in 1933 and came to Chicago in July of that year. He joined the University staff in 1935 and enrolled in a Ph.D. program, which he completed in 1942.

    His early research involved peptic ulcers and the effects of antacids on stomach acid secretion and body chemistry.

    In the late 1930s, Kirsner turned his attention to the inflammatory bowel diseases: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

    Kirsner also raised funds for GI studies nationwide. In 1962, a group of his grateful patients formed the Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation, which has provided enormous support for GI research at the University.

    In 1984, the foundation raised more than $2 million to construct the Joseph B. Kirsner Center for the Study of Digestive Diseases.