2020 Sherman Prize Recipient

David T. Rubin, MD, FACG, AGAF, FACP, FASGE, FRCP (Edinburgh)

Joseph B. Kirsner Professor of Medicine; Chief, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition; Co-Director, Digestive Diseases Center; University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago, IL

A gifted physician scientist and master educator, as well as a tireless advocate for people with IBD, who is guided by his philosophy of “service over self” to alleviate suffering

Dr. Rubin is a brilliant clinician who provides reassurance, and importantly hope, to patients who seek him out from far and wide. They see him as a problem solver who offers comfort and care, helping them overcome both the physical and emotional impacts of their disease.

Alleviating their suffering and protecting the most vulnerable is what drives Dr. Rubin’s tireless efforts to push the field forward. And addressing his patients’ unmet needs is what informs his innovative research, passionate advocacy and educational efforts.

“One of my mentors, Dr. Joseph Kirsner, was a legend in IBD and he instilled in me the ethos that everything we do should be in service of helping patients. I think about this every day – it’s what motivates and inspires me. It’s my true north.”

Dr. Rubin is a creative researcher with the power to ignite collaborative teams around very practical issues for the IBD community. Early on, he explored the prevention of colorectal cancer in IBD, and investigated the connection between inflammation and the development of cancer. Through years of tenacious research, he was able to establish a link between the two – changing how clinicians think about treatment goals to reduce cancer risk.

Now, his team in the Rubin Lab continues to explore some of the most pressing issues for patients, working with basic and translational scientists to better understand the causes of IBD;  studying depression and anxiety and the intriguing hypothesis that the composition of the gut microbiome may actually drive these conditions in people with IBD; and looking at whether wearable biosensor technology can predict relapse and remission, a unique study based on Dr. Rubin’s prior research showing that disturbed sleep predates a flare in IBD.

It’s not unusual for Dr. Rubin to apply technology in a novel way to address patients’ problems. Years ago, he was among the first to see the potential of social media to improve patient care. Now thousands of IBD professionals and patients follow him on Twitter where he describes the latest research findings in plain English and calls out insurers and the pharmaceutical industry when they let patients down. His distinctive form of advocacy harkens back to his childhood lessons about social justice and his subsequent fellowship in clinical medical ethics, which helped him to fight for access and address injustice in healthcare.

“Recognizing the value of an individual and the commitment that we as a society have to one another is part of who I am, who I like to be and what makes me proud. And it’s how I’ve found my voice and why I use that voice on social media.”

“When you’re taking care of a patient or you have an important issue,” Dr. Rubin said, “you should stick to it and be fierce in your work to alleviate injustice to get patients the care they need.”

Known as someone who always steps up for patients, this year Dr. Rubin found himself called to provide real-time answers for an IBD community grappling with treatment decisions. Within weeks of the pandemic hitting the U.S., Dr. Rubin established himself as a go-to expert on COVID-19 and IBD, authoring more than ten papers, lecturing internationally, and helping peers enact best practices to ensure continuity of care for vulnerable patients – all while maintaining his clinical practice and serving on the front lines of COVID care at his hospital. Dr. Rubin sees this type of knowledge sharing as central to his endeavors to improve patient care.

Widely renowned as an extraordinary IBD educator, Dr. Rubin has mentored generations of students and is a sought-after speaker for IBD conferences around the world. He’s also a founder of the non-profit Cornerstones Health, which reimagined medical education. “Our goal was to provide educational programs that would change the way that physicians and nurses saw their very next patient. I’m proud of the way this took off, and is now a global organization, enabling people to have real conversations about how to use treatments to provide better care,” he said.

In everything Dr. Rubin takes on – whether it’s patient care, research, advocacy or education – he truly exemplifies service and leadership, inspiring his IBD peers and colleagues and providing hope to patients who know that he’ll never stop fighting for them.

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