Pizzo, 67, joined the Stanford faculty in 2001. He previously spent over two decades at the National Institutes of Health researching childhood cancer, and has served as an advocate for patients and families in need of pediatric care.
“I’ve tried to focus on those aspects of pediatrics where the outcomes are dire and where research can particularly make a difference in the lives of young people,” Pizzo said. “There are tremendous unmatched needs in the care of children with cancer and HIV and AIDS.”
Pizzo played an important role in the passage of the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act, which promotes clinical trials on drugs targeted toward children. His advocacy at the Food and Drug Administration has accelerated the development of drugs for children with AIDS.
“He has changed the paradigm for understanding and management of these diseases and has been an advocate for the changes that have translated pediatric research to practice,” said David Stevenson, professor of pediatrics, who nominated Pizzo for the award.
Pizzo also lead an initiative to secure federal funding for resident training at children’s hospitals in the late 1990s. He has over 500 published articles and 16 books about his findings in oncology and infectious disease.
“I have been so privileged to be part of a wonderful career path involving both the education of students and trainees and research that has hopefully impacted the lives of people with catastrophic disease, and I have done that because it is so deeply meaningful in its own right, never really seeking any recognition for it,” Pizzo said.
“Just to know that others see that as valuable and that they see the work I’ve done over my career as worthy of an award of lifetime achievement is deeply humbling,” he continued.
The John Howland Award, named in honor of the first professor of pediatrics at John Hopkins University, is awarded to one individual each year. The last individual from Stanford to receive the award was Harold K. Faber, one of the first chairmen of the Department of Pediatrics, who was honored in 1956.
Pizzo grew up in the Bronx and was the first in his family to attend college, graduating from Fordham University and the University of Rochester School of Medicine. Before coming to Stanford, Pizzo served as physician-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital in Boston and as chair of the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics.
At Stanford, Pizzo has worked to revolutionize how physicians are trained through the construction of the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge.
“Oftentimes people are reviewed for many years before being selected, so it is extremely unusual for Phil to receive this award so early,” Stevenson said. “John Howland was a remarkable clinician, scientist, mentor and visionary leader who emphasized patient care in an environment of lab research and clinical study, and I recognized that Phil shared these attributes.”
Pizzo will receive his award at the American Pediatric Association’s annual meeting in Boston on April 29.
“Among the challenges existing in pediatric medicine going forward are how to preserve health and how to utilize knowledge that might predict outcomes of illness that might occur during childhood or during adulthood,” Pizzo said. “Here the intersection of genomic medicine and other technologies that serve as early diagnostic indicators is enormously important.”
“[I have] always been motivated by a sense of mission seeing what are the things we can do to make the world a better place.”