2022 Recipients of the Zucker Research Prizes

We are pleased to announce this year’s recipients of the Zucker Research Prizes. The prizes are awarded annually and are made possible by generous gifts from the Zucker family. 
Lesley Inker and John Leong
Lesley Inker and John Leong

The Milton O. Zucker, MD, FACS, and Natalie V. Zucker Award is awarded annually to a woman scientist on the Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) faculty for outstanding career achievements in research. The Zucker Family Prize is awarded annually to a TUSM faculty member for a career of outstanding research. As always, there was an exceptional pool of nominees making selection very difficult. 

This year’s awardees are: Lesley Inker and John Leong.

The Milton O. Zucker, MD, FACS, and Natalie V. Zucker Award 

Lesley Inker, MD, is a Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, an attending physician in the William B. Schwartz, MD Division of Nephrology at Tufts Medical Center, and Medical Director of the Kidney and Blood Pressure Center at Tufts Medical Center. Inker received her MD in 1997 from McMaster University and completed a clinical fellowship in Nephrology at the University of British Columbia in 2002 followed by a research fellowship at Tufts Medical Center in 2004 before joining the faculty at Tufts Medical Center. Inker's primary research interests are in kidney function measurement and estimation, alternative endpoints for clinical trials of kidney disease progression, and epidemiology and outcomes related to chronic kidney disease. She was instrumental to the development of the Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration (CKD-EPI) glomerular function estimating equations that are the standard for care world-wide.  The newest CKD-EPI equation replaced previous equations that had included race as a variable. This achievement was recognized by the Clinical Research Forum with a Top Ten Clinical Research Achievement Award. Inker is currently an investigator on multiple pivotal trials of chronic kidney disease progression. Inker has worked with National Kidney Foundation (NKF) leadership on public health initiatives for CKD care in the United States and was a member of the recent joint NKF-American Society of Nephrology task force on reassessing use of race in diagnosis of CKD. Inker is the inaugural Steering Committee Chair for the NKF Patient Network, the first national kidney disease patient registry. She has been recognized by the NKF with a Distinguished Researcher (Mid-career) Award. Inker has authored over 180 manuscripts. In addition to being an outstanding researcher, she is an exemplary clinician, educator, and Tufts citizen having trained over 20 post-doctoral fellows, and innumerable medical students and having served on numerous Tufts University School of Medicine and Tufts Medical Center committees. 

The Zucker Family Prize

John Leong, MD, PhD, is the Edith Rieva and Hyman S. Trilling Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at TUSM. He received his PhD in 1985 and his MD in 1987, both from Brown University, then trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Ralph Isberg in the TUSM Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology. His first faculty position was in the Division of Rheumatology/Immunology at Tufts Medical Center, followed by a brief interlude at the University of Massachusetts before returning to TUSM as Chair of the Dept. of Molecular Biology and Microbiology in 2011. His research has been focused on understanding host cell interaction with bacterial pathogens. Over the years, he has worked primarily on three pathogens: Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease; the food-borne-pathogen enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli; and Streptococcus pneumoniae, a major cause of human lung infections. His laboratory has produced seminal work in the understanding of how bacteria alter host cell physiology and promote colonization, for which he is internationally renowned. Leong has been recognized with multiple awards including a Helen Hay Whitney postdoctoral fellowship, a scholarship from the Pew Scholars Program in Biomedical Sciences, Fellowship in the American Society of Microbiology, a Tufts Discovery Award, and most recently, a Tufts Distinguished Faculty award. He has been the recipient of over 30 research grant awards, authored over 120 manuscripts and has served on numerous NIH review panels. Leong helped to co-found the Stuart B. Levy Center for Integrative Management of Antimicrobial Resistance (Levy-CIMAR) at Tufts University. He has fostered the careers of 22 post-doctoral fellows and 16 graduate students, many of whom have gone on to become internationally recognized scientists themselves. He has participated in numerous committees at TUSM and his service and commitment to the school is legendary.