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 cardiac surgery.

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 investigated.

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 General’s 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 Union’s 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

NameDate of Birth Dates of Office
Cassius James Van SlykeDec. 1, 1900 Aug. 1, 1948Nov. 30, 1952
James WattApr. 28, 1911Dec. 1, 1952Sept. 10, 1961
Ralph E. Knutti1901Sept. 11, 1961July 31, 1965
William H. Stewart1921Aug. 1, 1965Sept. 24, 1965
Robert P. GrantSept. 17, 1915Mar. 8, 1966Aug. 15, 1966
Donald S. FredricksonAug. 8, 1924Nov. 6, 1966March 1968
Theodore CooperDec. 28, 1928Mar. 15, 1968Apr. 19, 1974
Robert L. Ringler (Acting)Mar. 27, 1922Apr. 19, 1974July 14, 1975
Robert I. LevyMay 3, 1937Sept. 16, 1975September 1981
Claude LenfantOct. 12, 1928Sept. 6, 1982 ------


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