Allan W. Wolkoff is the recipient of the 2006 AASLD Distinguished Service Award. Allan is Professor of Medicine and Anatomy and Structural Biology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he is also Director of the Belfer Institute for Advanced Biomedical Studies and Associate Director of the Marion Bessin Liver Research Center. He is a longstanding member of the AASLD. Allan Wolkoff's record of service to our organization and to the field of hepatology is extraordinary, making him a natural choice for recognition by one of the AASLD's highest honors.
Allan was born in Brooklyn and spent his early childhood there before moving to Long Island with his father Martin, an elementary school principal, his mother Evelyn and brothers Harvey and Neal. At the young age of 20, Allan was graduated from Dartmouth College magna cum laude, with high distinction in mathematics and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. It is noteworthy that Allan worked in a biochemistry lab to help pay his college bills and developed great interest in research. He subsequently entered Dartmouth Medical School, a two-year school at that time, transferring to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he obtained his M.D. degree.
In 1970, during his clinical rotations at Einstein, Allan joined the lab of Win Arias who was then Chief of the Gastroenterology and Liver Division. This began a long and productive scientific relationship and friendship. While a student, Allan performed an outstanding study of coproporphyrin isomer secretion in the Dubin Johnson Syndrome, providing a noninvasive method of diagnosis and detection of heterozygosity. During the course of this research, Win sent Allan off to Puerto Rico to study an unusually large family with the Dubin Johnson Syndrome. Although the trip caused him to miss his medical school graduation ceremony, Allan received the American Gastroenterological Association Student Research Award, presented his work at the annual meeting and published his first paper as a lead article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
After medical school, Allan spent two years on the medical house staff at Albert Einstein-Jacobi Hospital during which time he continued his research with Win Arias. He then moved to the National Institutes of Health as a Clinical Associate in the section on Diseases of the Liver. Allan undertook seminal studies on hepatic organic anion transport, bilirubin metabolism, and the hereditary hyperbilirubinemias in the laboratory of Paul Berk, a prior recipient of this Distinguished Service Award. His development of a simple technique for the isolation of purified, radiolabeled bilirubin conjugates permitted him to carry out some of the first physiologic studies with this important bile pigment and led to the publication of six papers during his two-year fellowship. In addition to Paul, Allan established long-standing professional and personal relationships with others who would, like him, become prominent physician-scientist members of the AASLD, including Bruce Scharschmidt and John Vierling, our current president.
Following his NIH fellowship training, Allan returned to Einstein as an assistant professor in the Liver Research Center. Over the years, he has established himself as an international leader in the field of hepatic transport mechanisms. His research has been innovative and brilliant and has led to numerous major publications. Allan's experimental approaches draw heavily upon his combined expertise in mathematics, computer programming, organic anion chemistry and physiology, and hepatic transport mechanisms. Using the isolated perfused rat liver model, he made fundamental contributions to our understanding of mechanisms of hepatic uptake of bilirubin. He also demonstrated that an antibody to the hepatocyte surface receptor for desialylated glycoproteins specifically blocks transport of these ligands but not of bilirubin. Other studies clarified the role of extracellular and intracellular organic anion binding proteins on transport. Allan was instrumental in the identification and cloning of the sinusoidal organic anion transporter oatp-1. In an elegant series of studies, he has elucidated the molecular and cellular mechanisms of oatp-1 activity.
Allan's research has also made fundamental contributions to our understanding of receptor-mediated endocytosis in hepatocytes. While on sabbatical at the NIH in 1982, he obtained background training from Drs. Gilbert Ashwell and Richard Klausner. Again, based on his unique expertise, he has performed seminal studies that have enhanced our understanding of intracellular mechanisms that follow ligand internalization due to surface receptor binding. Most recently, he developed a highly novel approach to isolating, visualizing and characterizing the vesicles, cytoskeletal motors and adapter proteins, which constitute the hepatocellular trafficking system that is responsible for receptor uptake and sorting.
Allan Wolkoff's service to the AASLD and to hepatology in general covers nearly every facet of science and clinical practice. In support of our journal Hepatology, Allan has served on the editorial board and as associate editor. For the AASLD, he has served on numerous committees including Research, Program Evaluation, Training and Workforce. He has been Chair of Abstract Review Committees on Metabolism and Cell and Molecular Biology. Allan was elected by the AASLD membership to Councilor at Large (1998-01). Allan has also been selected as the representative of AASLD membership to other key organizations, including NIH and FASEB. At our annual meetings, Allan has been an active participant as invited speaker and chair of early morning sessions. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Liver Foundation, where he serves as chair of the Public Policy Committee. He also inaugurated the “Liver Transport Dinner”, which is a lively informal social gathering of liver researchers that occupies an evening during the AASLD meeting.
An integral component of Allan Wolkoff's service to the AALSD membership has been his commitment to the NIH. Since 1982, he participated in an almost uninterrupted series of study sections. He was also a member of a selected group of researchers who advised the NIH during the reorganization of NIDDK study sections, and now serves as Chair of the newly formed Hepatobiliary Pathophysiology (HBPP) study section.
Notwithstanding all his service and achievements, Allan has always remained steadfastly devoted to his family and proud of their accomplishments. Claire, his wife of 37 years, is a talented mathematician, who is a Principal Consulting Actuary at Buck Consultants. His two children both were graduated from Dartmouth College: Steven is an aspiring director who is currently a writer, artist and tutor. Hilary is currently attending New York University Law School. In addition to his intellectual pursuits, Allan enjoys cooking and being a handyman at home, referring to himself as his “wife's super”. To his extended family at Einstein and the broader hepatology community, Allan is a devoted colleague, teacher, mentor and friend. Finally, no description of Allan Wolkoff could be complete without mention of his love for boating, fishing and the sea. His boat is aptly named the “Hepatocyte”. Even while boating, Allan serves the greater good: He is currently a coxswain in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and previously held the rank of Flotilla Commander. As the beneficiary of more than 25 years of his devoted service, the AASLD salutes Allan Wolkoff with one its highest honors. 1