Gail Besner, MD, was honored today, December 12 with the John E. Fisher Endowed Chair in Neonatal Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. For clinicians and researchers working in academic-medical institutions like Nationwide Children’s, endowed chairs represent the most prestigious and significant recognition of their work.
Dr. Besner, who joined Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 1991, currently is the burn director and associate program director of the Pediatric Surgery Residency Training Program at Nationwide Children’s. She is also a professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. In her first year at Nationwide Children’s, Dr. Besner established a basic science research laboratory in pediatric surgery and has served as the director of Pediatric Surgical Research at the hospital since then. Dr. Besner’s research has received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the past 15 years with focus on a growth factor known as heparin-binding EGF growth factor, or HB-EGF, which she discovered in 1990.
The translational component of Dr. Besner’s research involves a disease process known as neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, which results in severe intestinal injury in newborns, especially those born prematurely, often leading to death or severe disability. Her goal is to develop therapeutic regimens for high-risk newborns, using HB-EGF to prevent and treat this devastating disease. Dr. Besner currently holds three separate million-dollar NIH grants to fund her research. In addition, she has formed a collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry to produce HB-EGF suitable for human clinical trials, which are slated to begin next year.
The late John E. Fisher began his career at Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company in 1951 as a trainee reviewing insurance applications, after previously working as an apprentice boilermaker and door-to-door furniture salesman. By the time the company changed its name to Nationwide Insurance in 1955, he had moved on to the first of successive management positions. In 1972, he was elected president and general manager of Nationwide Insurance Companies, and became general chairman and CEO in 1981, serving in that capacity through 1992. Under his charge, Nationwide assets grew from $6 billion in 1981 to more than $37 billion in 1992. He retired as General Chairman of the companies in 1994.
Fisher served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, chairman of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, and served on the boards of the Convention Facilities Authority, the Columbus College of Art and Design, as well as several development boards and committees. Under his direction, Nationwide became the community’s largest single contributor to United Way, where he served as a board member and community campaign chair.
Fisher was 68 when he died in 1998. He was preceded in death by his wife of 43 years, Eloise, in 1992.
NOTE TO EDITOR: Dr. Besner is a resident of 43016.