EHE professor awarded society’s highest honor in nutrition
Professor Emeritus Mark Failla has been honored as a 2015 fellow of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) for his distinguished academic career, which includes pioneering efforts to better our understanding of how humans absorb carotenoids.
Carotenoids are organic pigments found in plants and other organisms that have antioxidant properties. Familiar carotenoids include beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein most commonly found in fruits, vegetables and egg yolks.
For more than 30 years, Failla has been a leader in nutrition on an international scale. He was the first to simulate the digestion of carotenoid-rich foods and the uptake of these pigments by human intestinal cells. This method has been widely adopted by investigators throughout the world to screen the influences of foods such as cassava, sweet potato and corn which are the primary energy source for individuals living in remote areas of developing countries.
Being honored as an ASN Fellow is humbling, Failla said. He credits his family, colleagues and students for the success he has achieved during his career.
“I was most fortunate throughout my education and career to be surrounded by wonderful mentors, brilliant colleagues, enthusiastic students, administrators who provided me opportunities for leadership and the loving support of my wife and our sons, who encouraged me to pursue my passions for teaching and research,” he said.
A career of innovation
Throughout his career, Failla’s work has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health for making significant advances in dietary supplement research and has received more than 20 international, national and local awards.
Mario Ferruzzi, a professor of food sciences at Purdue University, describes his former mentor’s career as significant and impactful.
“Mark’s creativity and pioneering approaches have changed our view of how the body uses food and how it should be studied,” Ferruzzi said. “His leadership in the development and application of laboratory models has allowed us to extend our ability to understand the mechanisms of food digestion, absorption and metabolism.”
Failla’s 14-year career at Ohio State also has been instrumental in raising the reputation of university’s human nutrition program. He was a leader in the development of The Ohio State University Interdisciplinary Nutrition PhD Program, the only such program in Ohio. His international reputation is widely recognized by several professional organizations, he continues to serve on editorial boards for leading journals, provides input for many national and international academic programs, and has mentored many graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty.
Even in retirement, he has raised the visibility of the program by co-leading a successful Ohio State Discovery Theme proposal that targets personalized nutrition for improved health. The $15 million award will support new faculty hires at the university to advance food and nutrition research and its applications in the colleges of education and human ecology; food, agriculture and environmental sciences; and medicine. He and his wife, Lori, have also established a planned gift in their will to create an endowed fund supporting future graduate students in human nutrition.
Fulbright accolades too
The last year has been one of high honors for Failla. He was also awarded the prestigious Fulbright scholar grant in 2014. From August to December, he conducted research on the health-promoting properties of mangosteen fruit at the Institute of Nutrition at Mahidol University in Thailand. Additionally, he assisted faculty with the preparation of grant proposals, edited manuscripts and taught graduate courses on critical evaluation of research literature and oral and written communications skills.
Failla is one of 10 named American Society for Nutrition Fellows this year. He joins more than 400 other Fellows since 1952 who have received the highest honor the society gives to scientists for significant discoveries and distinguished careers in nutrition.
“One of the most esteemed titles in our field is to be named an ASN Fellow, and I commend [Dr. Failla for his] lifetime contributions to nutrition,” said Robert M. Russell, MD, Fellows committee chair and past president, in a release announcing the Class of 2015 Fellows.
Failla will be inducted into the ASN Fellowship March 30 during the ASN Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting in Boston.