On November 4, 1968, a distinguished Villanova University alumnus, Alfred M. Bongiovanni M.D., was awarded the Mendel Medal. Dr. Bongiovanni is an internationally recognized specialist in glands and growth problems in children. He is Physician-in-Chief at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the William H. Bennett Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He has for many years explored the role of glands in growth and ways of correcting abnormal growth patterns.
Born forty-seven years ago in Philadelphia, Dr. Bongiovanni received his B.S. degree in 1940 from Villanova College and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1943. He received additional training in Pediatric Endocrinology at Johns Hopkins, where he served for a time as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.
Dr. Bongiovanni's chief contribution is in the field of endocrinology. This is the branch of medicine concerned with glands of internal secretion - the thyroid, the pituitary, the adrenal, the pancreas, and the sex glands. Dr. Bongiovanni's work dealt with pinpointing the series of steps that take place in the body in the process of manufacturing substances necessary to life and growth; specifically, the making of hormones by the adrenal glands. When one step is missing in this process, any number of detrimental effects can occur, such as abnormally high blood pressure, abnormally rapid rate of growth in the first five years of life followed in the same child by a sudden and permanent stoppage of growth, sudden collapse and death. Dr. Bongiovanni and his colleague, Dr. Walter Eberlein, defined these "missing" steps and devised tests to pinpoint where the breakdown occurred in order that appropriate treatment could be applied. These tests are now in use throughout the world.
Aware that endocrine and metabolic disorders are among the major diseases confronting pediatricians today, and recognizing Dr. Bongiovanni's invaluable contributions to the treatment of these illnesses, several organizations have honored him.
Among the many tributes bestowed on Dr. Bongiovanni have been the Ciba Award in 1956, the highest award given by the Endocrine Society to an investigator; in 1957, with Dr. Eberlein, he was given the E. Mead Johnson Award for Research in Pediatrics, again the highest honor bestowed by that society to an investigator. Dr. Bongiovanni was recipient of the 1965 Shaffrey Award given by the St. Joseph's College Medical Alumni Association.
As a result of the work of Dr. Bongiovanni and that of other members of the Children's Hospital staff, many children throughout the world whose growth and sexual maturation would otherwise have been permanently impaired, are growing normally and will be able to achieve parenthood.
Mendel Medal Presentation Program, November 4, 1968. Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania.