Jack A. Elias, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine and a leading authority on the molecular basis of asthma and other pulmonary disorders, has been elected president of the Association of American Physicians (AAP) for 2010–2011.

One of the most prestigious and selective medical societies, the AAP was founded in 1885 by Sir William Osler, M.D., a major figure in medical history, and six other physicians for “the advancement of scientific and practical medicine.” Elias, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine, studies the cellular and molecular biology of processes related to both injury and repair in the lungs in asthma, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, and acute lung injury. His research group has developed and studied genetic models of these diseases and translated findings from this work to their human counterparts, work that has validated therapeutic targets for new therapies for these conditions.

“To be president of the AAP is, needless to say, a very great honor,” says Dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine Robert J. Alpern, M.D. “This really attests to Jack’s reputation among the leaders of academic medicine, nationally and probably internationally.”

Elias became chair of Yale’s Department of Internal Medicine in 2006. He is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary disease, allergy and immunology, and critical care medicine.

“Jack’s research in pulmonary medicine has really led the field and has spanned all the way from very basic science to clinical research, where his basic science is leading to new treatments for pulmonary disease,” says Alpern. “As chair of internal medicine, he’s recruited a number of outstanding faculty. He has taken a department that was strong, and made it even stronger.”

Recent research by Elias and colleagues has shed important insights into asthma. In a 2007 article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Elias and Geoffrey L. Chupp, M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of the Yale Center for Asthma and Airway Disease, reported that asthmatic patients have high levels of the protein YKL-40, which helps to regulate the immune response and causes lung inflammation associated with asthma. In a 2008 NEJM article, Elias, Chupp, and colleagues showed that people who have a particular version of the YKL-40 gene are at greater risk of getting asthma. Their work has led to a better understand­ing of asthma, and provided new targets for the development of novel treatments for the disease.

Elias received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and was an intern and resident at Tufts-New England Medi­cal Center in Boston. He returned to the University of Pennsylvania as a senior resident and completed fellowships there in both allergy and immunology and in cardiovascular-pulmonary medicine. He came to Yale in 1990 as professor and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine.

Elias has been a member of the AAP since 1998 and a councilor since 2003. The group has about 1,000 active members as well as 550 emeritus and honorary members, including 33 members of the Yale faculty. Each year, 60 individuals with outstanding credentials in biomedical science or translational biomedical research are elected to the association. Thomas M. Gill, M.D., the Humana Professor of Geriatric Medicine and professor of medicine and epidemiology at the School of Medicine, was elected to the AAP this year.

“Jack is a widely admired leader of medicine in America,” says Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D., chair and Sterling Professor of Genetics, professor of medicine, and the AAP’s current secretary. “He’s a terrific scientist, a passionate clinician, and a visionary chair of medicine. These qualities are all recognized in his role as president of the AAP. There are few like him in the country, and we are particularly fortunate to have him as chair of medicine at Yale.”