Accomplished Physician to Lead Strong Children's Research Center

September 19, 2001

George Schwartz, M.D. is one of the few physicians whose research led to a mathematical formula being named after him. The author of The Schwartz Formula, a rapid estimate of kidney function, Schwartz will put his skills to good use Oct. 1 when he becomes director of Strong Children's Research Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

As a pediatric nephrologist, Schwartz, 54, helps children who have conditions including glomerulonephritis (blood in the urine), nephrotic syndrome (heavy protein in the urine), kidney stones, and hypertension. He assumes the leadership position of Strong Children's Research Center from Richard Insel, M.D., who recently was named director of the University of Rochester Medical Center's Center for Human Genetics and Molecular Pediatric Disease.

David Korones, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital at Strong, often works closely with Schwartz and says he's ideally suited for the job. "George is an accomplished, internationally known researcher who recognizes that the key to curing childhood diseases is a better understanding of these diseases at the most basic molecular level," Korones says. "At the same time, he is a devoted and skilled clinician. He is frequently in the trenches, taking care of ill children, and can draw upon his clinical skills to formulate important questions to address in research."

During the last two decades, physicians and researchers at Strong Children's Research Center developed a vaccine used worldwide against Haemophilus influenzae type b, a highly contagious bacterial disease that was the most common cause of meningitis in childhood. Neonatologists also significantly improved the survival odds for premature infants worldwide by developing a pulmonary surfactant, a substance that helps premature infants breathe better. Now, research is underway to find breakthroughs in many pediatric areas, including asthma, AIDS, birth defects, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and nutritional disorders.

Schwartz wanted to be a physician for as long as he can remember. "I requested a copy of Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body for my 13th birthday," he says. "I became very interested in the research aspect during medical school, but it wasn't until I got on the hospital floors with children that I realized not only did I want to practice nephrology, but I wanted to be a pediatrician - to help kids."

After medical school and a pediatric residency at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Schwartz worked at the National Institutes of Health, training under Maurice Burg, M.D., a highly respected kidney physiologist. There, he became interested in ion transport systems across different segments of the kidney. After moving to Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1979, he developed a reputation as an internationally recognized expert in kidney acid-base physiology. Schwartz was promoted to full professor in 1988, a noteworthy achievement because few physicians achieve such standing so early in their careers. In 1992, he was recruited to form and head the Pediatric Nephrology program at Children's Hospital at Strong and continues his work in acid-base physiology as a member of the Strong Children's Research Center.

"I've had a basic and clinical interest in renal tubular acidosis, a disease whereby the kidneys can't get rid of acids that accumulate naturally from metabolism and growth," Schwartz says. "This condition can cause kidney stones and failure to thrive, the latter being a devastating condition for infants and young children. During the last 20 years, our work has led to a much better understanding of how the kidney adapts normally to increased acid levels in the blood, and why some kidneys don't function this way."

Since 1979, Schwartz has had continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health. In addition, in recognition of his research efforts, the American Heart Association funded him as an Established Investigator. "The kidneys are so important to the function of other organs," Schwartz says. "If the kidneys are not functioning properly, for example, it can add extra strain and stress on the heart and lungs."

The author of more than 70 peer-reviewed articles, Schwartz has been published in Nature, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Journal of Cell Biology, American Journal of Physiology and numerous clinical journals. Schwartz has also written 23 chapters or invited reviews, and is a member of several important medical societies: American Society for Clinical Investigation, Society for Pediatric Research, American Pediatric Society, and the American Society of Nephrology and the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology. He's also a member of the editorial boards of Seminars in Nephrology and the American Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology."

Schwartz will continue as division chief for Pediatric Nephrology at Children's Hospital at Strong. He and his staff see more than 1,400 outpatients and hundreds of inpatients annually.

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