NIH 1998 Almanac/The Organization/NHLBI/
National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute: Biographical Sketch of NHLBI Director
Claude Lenfant, M.D.
Dr. Lenfant was appointed NHLBI director on July 6, 1982. He was born on October 12,
1928, in Paris, France. He received his B.S. degree in 1948 from the University of Rennes,
France, and his M.D. in 1956 from the University of Paris.
Upon completing his medical studies, he assumed the position of director of the
Laboratory of Experimental Surgery, Centre Marie Lannelongue, in Paris. While there he
directed research into extracorporeal oxygenation of blood and use of deep hypothermia in
In 1957 Dr. Lenfant was appointed postdoctoral fellow at the University of Buffalo, and
the following year continued that appointment at Columbia University in New York. His
postdoctoral interests were directed to respiratory and circulatory physiology.
Returning to France, he assumed a teaching position as assistant professor of
physiology at the University of Lille. He soon returned to the U.S., however, where he was
appointed to a joint position in the departments of medicine and of physiology and
biophysics at the University of Washington, Seattle. He rose to the rank of professor in
both departments. He published extensively on dynamics of blood-gas exchange in humans and
various other species under normal conditions and under conditions of altitude and
pressure. Respiratory adaptation to hypoxia, anemia, alkalosis and acidosis also were
In 1970 Dr. Lenfant was appointed the first associate director for lung programs of the
then NHLI, and also assumed the position of acting associate director for collaborative
research and development programs. This program evolved into the Division of Lung
Diseases, formed in 1972, with Dr. Lenfant as its director. For his accomplishments he was
awarded the HEW Superior Service Honor Award in 1974. The Division of Lung Diseases
continued to grow and to coordinate a strong and diverse program of research into the
prevention, diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases.
He became NIH associate director for international research and director of the Fogarty
International Center in 1981, positions he held until his appointment as director of
NHLBI. In 1983 he was elected member of the Institute of Medicine, NAS. He was named
distinguished executive of the Senior Executive Service in 1991 and Federal executive of
the year for 1992 by the institute alumni association.
Dr. Lenfant received the Surgeon Generals Exemplary Award in 1993, the American
Academy of Allergy and Immunology and the Giovanni Lorenzi Foundation Prize for the
Advancement of Biomedical Science in 1994, the Laura Graves Award--National Marrow Donor
Program and the Consortium of Southeastern Hypertension Centers Excellence in
Leadership Award in 1995, and the honorary fellowship award from the American College of
Cardiology in 1997.
He holds honorary degrees from the universities in Taipei, Taiwan; Lima, Peru; and from
the University of New York at Buffalo (D.Sc., 1988).
His memberships include the Soviet Unions Academy of Medical Sciences and of the
National French Academy of Medicine. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians
(London), an honorary member of the Royal Society of Medicine, and an honorary fellow in
the Polish Society of Hypertension.
Dr. Lenfant is a member of a number of professional groups including the American and
French Physiological Societies, the American Society for Clinical Research, the American
Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians. He has
served on the editorial board of American Journal of Physiology, Journal of Applied
Physiology, American Review of Respiratory Disease, Revue Francaise des Maladies
Respiratories, and the American Journal of Medicine. He is the chief editor of a series of
monographs, Lung Biology in Health and Disease, that includes 112 volumes. He has
published 228 papers in his areas of research interest.
Directors of NHLBI