On April 17, Leena Sharma, MD, was invested as the Chang-Lee Professor of Preventive Rheumatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine during a formal ceremony at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago. Dr. Sharma has been on faculty in the Division of Rheumatology within the Department of Medicine since 1989, when she completed her fellowship training in rheumatology.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Chang and Lee families for establishing this professorship, and are delighted that Leena has been appointed,” said Douglas E. Vaughan, MD, who is Irving S. Cutter Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine.
The Chang-Lee Professorship was established in 2013 to support research related to the prevention and treatment of arthritis and rheumatic diseases. It was endowed through generous gifts from members of the Chang and Lee families, including: Dr. Melvin Chang, Dr. Rowland W. Chang, Mr. Chien Lee, Mr. Hon Chiu Lee, Ms. Ingrid Lee, Ms. Karen T. Lee, Mr. Michael Hau Tze Lee, Mr. Raymond Lee, Ms. Karen C. Loh, and Mr. and Mrs. James P. Merchant.
Rowland W. Chang, MD, MPH, professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as founding director of the Institute for Public Health and Medicine at Feinberg, announced the Chang and Lee families’ professorship gift at a Preventive Rheumatology Symposium back in July 2013. He shared the hope that their support would represent a ripple that would become a wave of change in the way that rheumatologic-related illness is approached, with a focus on prevention to reduce the future burden of rheumatic diseases.
“We are so grateful to Dr. Chang and his family for their insight and wisdom in endowing this important professorship.” said Richard M. Pope, MD, at the investiture for Dr. Sharma. Dr. Pope is the Solovy/Arthritis Research Society Professor in the Division of Rheumatology.
Focusing on Prevention
At Northwestern, Dr. Sharma leads an internationally recognized research program that has goals to identify targets for novel strategies to prevent disease, disability development, and progression in persons at higher risk for or with knee osteoarthritis. Dr. Sharma takes an interdisciplinary approach to her work, leading a team of outstanding investigators in rheumatology, orthopaedics, epidemiology, physical therapy, engineering, imaging, and biostatistics.
Throughout her career, she has received significant external grant support for her research, as well as built a broad network of outstanding investigators for collaboration. Under Dr. Sharma’s leadership, the MAK (Mechanical Factors in Arthritis of the Knee) Study, which is focused on the role played by an array of local mechanical factors in osteoarthritis disease progression and function decline, is in its fourth consecutive cycle of National Institute of Health funding. Through the study, Dr. Sharma and her team have identified several modifiable targets for strategies to improve structural, pain, and function outcomes in individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Cutting-edge, collaborative studies like this one, led by Dr. Sharma, make her well poised to lay a strong foundation for the development of a new program in preventive rheumatology at Northwestern.
“I cannot think of a more outstanding individual to lead the preventive rheumatology program,” said Dr. Pope, who shared remarks about Dr. Sharma’s noteworthy career during the event. “I have no doubt that you will fulfill with distinction the expectations of this professorship.”
“I am so grateful for the exceptional generosity of the Chang and Lee families, as well as for Dr. Chang’s vision for this program,” said Dr. Sharma. “This work is so important—I am thrilled to be contributing to the development of this program and could not be more excited to continue this journey.”