Dr. Bertil Hille, professor of physiology and biophysics in the University of Washington School of Medicine, is one of 65 new members elected to the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.
New members are elected by current active members from among candidates chosen for their major contributions to health and medicine or to related fields. The Institute’s charter requires that at least one-fourth of the members be from outside the health professions. The new members, announced Oct. 14, bring the total number of active members to 1,358. There are also 66 foreign associate members.
Committees of the Institute engage in a broad range of studies on health policy issues. Current studies include an evaluation of protections for human subjects in research studies and reports on Americans without health insurance.
Hille is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, to which he was elected in 1986.
A member of the UW faculty since 1968, Hille has been widely honored for his pioneering work showing that ions — charged particles such as calcium and sodium — pass in and out of cell membranes through pores called ion channels. The opening and closing of these channels plays a critical role in controlling cell functions and cell-to-cell communication. His book, Ionic Channels in Excitable Membranes, initially published in 1984, was the first comprehensive work in the field. He continues research on cellular signaling by ion channels and hormones in nerve, epithelia and reproductive cells.
He has received numerous awards for his research, including the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience Research and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. In 1999 he was one of three scientists to share the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research and in 2001 the same three received the Gairdner Foundation International Award for discoveries in medical science.
Hille’s election brings the number of UW faculty members in the Institute of Medicine to 38.