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UArizona Health Sciences Immunologist Named Gerontologist of the Year

The Arizona Geriatrics Society honored Janko Nikolich-Žugich, MD, PhD, as the 2021 Gerontologist of the Year at its Annual Fall Symposium.
Janko Nikolich-Žugich, MD, PhD, was honored for his research on aging and older adults, which seeks to understand why many chronic diseases associated with aging are made worse by chronic inflammation.

UArizona Health Sciences Immunologist Named Gerontologist of the Year

Janko Nikolich-Žugich, MD, PhD, an internationally recognized immunologist and gerontologist in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, has received the Gerontologist of the Year award from the Arizona Geriatrics Society for his research on aging and older adults.

Each year, the Arizona Geriatrics Society recognizes exemplary health care professionals who are passionate about caring for older adults and have made significant contributions in the field of geriatric medicine or gerontology. Dr. Nikolich-Žugich received the award Oct. 1 during the Arizona Geriatrics Society Annual Fall Symposium in Tempe, Arizona.

“Aging is the biggest risk factor for chronic diseases. That means that as we age, we get more and more of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart and blood vessel diseases, neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancers and others,” said Dr. Nikolich-Žugich, who also is co-director of the UArizona Center on Aging and a member of the BIO5 Institute. “But it also means that the processes that underlie our aging may be the same as the ones that drive chronic diseases. And even more importantly, it means that if we can delay aging, we should be able to delay not one, but many, of these chronic diseases. My continuing research mission is to discover new ways to advance aging research to improve health outcomes where people are living long and fulfilling lives without many chronic diseases at the same time.”

As chair of the Department of Immunobiology in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, Dr. Nikolich-Žugich’s research seeks to identify the biological mechanisms that make older adults more vulnerable to chronic diseases and infection. This includes understanding the role inflammation plays in aging and how it might be regulated to extend well-being and health throughout an individual’s lifetime.

“Dr. Nikolich-Žugich continually delivers on a deep commitment to finding answers to important scientific questions,” said Michael M. I. Abecassis, MD, MBA, dean of the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson. “He and his team have made significant discoveries that have advanced our understanding of the immune response as we age. Dr. Nikolich-Žugich’s unique research focus on immunity, inflammation and aging allows him to galvanize and direct existing expertise toward finding innovative solutions for neurodegenerative diseases associated with aging. This type of bold and forward-looking leadership benefits everyone.”
Rosemary Browne, MD, a clinical associate professor of medicine in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson and former president of the Arizona Geriatrics Society, described Dr. Nikolich-Žugich as “a remarkable thinker, researcher and innovator.”

“He is an exceptional teacher, making difficult concepts easy to understand. And he is a humble and affable colleague, a team player, and very giving of his time and energy,” said Dr. Browne, who also is medical director of the Home Based Primary Care Program at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System.

Dr. Nikolich-Žugich joined the College of Medicine – Tucson in 2008. He has published more than 180 papers in peer-reviewed journals and received more than $73 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.