Joseph B. Kirsner Professor of Medicine; Chief, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition; Co-Director, Digestive Diseases Center; University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago, IL
Dr. David 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.
“My mentor, 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.”
A creative researcher with the power to ignite collaborative teams around very practical issues for the IBD community, Dr. Rubin explored early on the connection between IBD inflammation and colorectal cancer. Through years of tenacious research, he was able to establish a link between the two – changing how clinicians treat low-grade inflammation to reduce cancer risk.
Today, his team in the Rubin Lab is studying another important issue – disease relapse – and exploring the potential of wearable technology to predict relapse and remission. This unique study is based on Dr. Rubin’s clinical observation 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 a Fellowship in Ethics, which helped him to recognize and take on 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. In 2020, 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 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 saw their very next patient. I’m proud of the way this took off, 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.
Ferdinand G. Weisbrod Professor in Gastroenterology; Director, Penn Center for Nutritional Science and Medicine; Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PARead his story