Former resident honoured by American Academy of Medicine

            A 1987 graduate of the Kamsack Comprehensive Institute, who has American as well as Canadian citizenship, has distinguished himself as a scientist.

            Former Kamsack resident Evan Eichler was recently admitted into the National Academy of Medicine in the USA. He is the son of former residents Joe, a former teacher at KCI, and Mary Jane Eichler of Swan River, and in 2013, he had been appointed to the National Academy of Science in the US.

article continues below

            Currently a professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in the department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Wash., his interests include research in the genetic link to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism.

            “It’s a great honour and a big surprise,” Evan told Jeremy Bergen of the Swan River Star and Times newspaper. “You don’t really do science for these kinds of accolades, but this means more than other awards because it is given to you by the peers in your field.”

             Long-time readers of the Kamsack Times may recall a story printed about Evan Eichler in the mid-1980s when as a student of the KCI, he had been involved in breeding rabbits as a part-time job.

            Eichler told the Star and Times that his studying genetics had stemmed back to when as a student he had helped his mother raise the angora rabbits for their wool.

            “My mother wasn’t big into dying the wool and doing it artificially,” Eichler said. “She had heard that there was a way to get all these different colours other than white and black, so I looked into doing that with animal breeding and basic genetics.

            “Within a few generations, we had lines of fawn and blue rabbits and many other colours. I thought it was pretty powerful that genetics had such predictive power.”

            Eichler obtained a bachelor of science honours in biology at the University of Saskatchewan and received his doctorate degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He has been at the University of Washington since 2004.

            His research group provided the first genome-wide view of segmental duplications within human and primate genomes. He is a leader in identifying and sequencing normal and disease-causing structural variation in the human genome.

            The long-term goal of his research is to understand the evolution and mechanisms of recent gene duplication and its relationship to copy number variation and human disease.

            In mid-October, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) announced the election of  Eichler as well as 69 other regular members and 10 international members during its annual meeting.

“Election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service,” says the NAM website.

“These newly elected members represent the most exceptional scholars and leaders in science, medicine, and health in the U.S. and around the globe,” said Victor J. Dzau, president of NAM. “Their expertise will help our organization address today’s most pressing health challenges and inform the future of health and health care to benefit us all. I am honoured to welcome these distinguished individuals to the National Academy of Medicine.”

New members are elected by current members through a process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health, the website says. A diversity of talent among NAM’s membership is assured by its Articles of Organization, which stipulate that at least one-quarter of the membership is selected from fields outside the health professions — for example, from such fields as law, engineering, social sciences, and the humanities.

The newly elected members bring NAM’s total membership to 2,127 and the number of international members to 172.

Established originally as the Institute of Medicine in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine, and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors. NAM works alongside the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding, it said. With their election, NAM members make a commitment to volunteer their service in National Academies activities.

            Eichler and his wife Marla are the parents of four who range in age from 10 to 24 years.