Famous American Surgeons

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While soap operas like Grey’s Anatomy hoodwink us into believing that successful surgeries are part melodrama and part skill, know that successful medical procedure only comes from best education, diligence, and copious research. Medical professionals who pioneered reconstructive surgical procedures, facial transplants, and other surgery types that revolutionized healthcare forever have held and exhibited unparalleled dedication and passion towards their profession. The medical surgeons of America are not only some of the highest earning professionals in the world, but also among the most forward-thinking, innovative and skillful of the lot, constantly making headlines with their medical breakthroughs. Surgeons like John Heysham Gibbon, who pioneered open heart surgery or Frederic E. Mohs who developed the Mohs Micrographic Surgery (MMS) technique, a widely used technique in detecting and curing cancer. Surgeons like them are the frontiers of America's medical scene, saving lives and giving hopes to millions with their avant-garde surgical advancements. Explore the collection of biographies of some of the America’s most celebrated surgeons. Read on to know more about their timelines, life stories and interesting trivia & facts related to their lives.
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 1 
Ben Carson
(U.S. Secretary of Housing & Urban Development (2017 – 2021))
Ben Carson
10
Birthdate: September 18, 1951
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is credited with many pioneering neurosurgical procedures. He became a Library of Congress “Living Legend” and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He later contested in the 2016 presidential primaries, has authored numerous books, was a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and earned 60 honorary doctorates.

 2 
Paul Nassif
(Plastic surgeon)
Paul Nassif
6
Birthdate: June 6, 1962
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

American plastic surgeon and television personality Paul Sabin Nassif is best known for specialising in rhinoplasty and for co-hosting the plastic surgery-themed American reality television series Botched and its spin-off series Botched by Nature with another plastic surgeon Terry Dubrow. Nassif owns the skincare line Nassif MD Dermaceuticals and is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

 3 
Charles R. Drew
(Surgeon and Researcher Who Improved Techniques for Blood Storage)
Charles R. Drew
4
Birthdate: June 3, 1904
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
Died: April 1, 1950

Born into a middle-class African-American family, Charles R. Drew initially excelled in football and track and field, and ended up earning athletic scholarships to fund his studies. He grew up to be a renowned surgeon and revolutionized the storage of blood plasma in blood banks.

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 4 
J. Marion Sims
4
Birthdate: January 25, 1813
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lancaster County, South Carolina, United States
Died: November 13, 1883

Known as The Father of Modern Gynaecology, J. Marion Sims is remembered for developing a surgical method to deal with vesicovaginal fistula, a childbirth-related complication. However, since his experiments were conducted on Black slave-women, without anesthesia, they were later deemed unethical. He had also headed the American Gynecological Society.

 5 
Vivien Thomas
(Surgeon)
Vivien Thomas
6
Birthdate: August 29, 1910
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New Iberia, Louisiana, United States
Died: November 26, 1985

Vivien Theodore Thomas was laboratory supervisor who never went to college; yet he rose above poverty and racism to develop a procedure for treating cyanotic heart disease. Initially billed as janitor, he began his career as assistant to surgeon Alfred Blalock first at Nashville University and later at Johns Hopkins, and in time discovered the life-saving technique, eventually becoming a teacher of operative techniques.

 6 
Mary Edwards Walker
(Surgeon, Feminist, Activist)
Mary Edwards Walker
4
Birthdate: November 26, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Oswego
Died: February 21, 1919

Mary Edwards Walker, or Dr. Mary Walker, was the only female surgeon who served injured soldiers during the American Civil War. A dress reform supporter, she believed women should value comfort more than tradition when it came to clothes. She was also the first and only Medal of Honor winner.

 7 
Joycelyn Elders
(15th Surgeon General of the United States (1993 -1994))
Joycelyn Elders
4
Birthdate: August 13, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Schaal, Arkansas, United States

The second female U.S. surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders is a renowned pediatrician and one of the first Black women to reach the pinnacle of the medical field in the U.S. She has been dragged into multiple controversies, one of them being a result of her support for sex education and masturbation.

William Stewart Halsted
4
Birthdate: September 23, 1852
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City
Died: September 7, 1922

William Stewart Halsted was the man behind the first American surgical school at the Johns Hopkins University. The master surgeon made a number of contributions to medical science, including the introduction of mastectomy and aseptic surgical procedures. He often injected cocaine into his body to develop anesthesia.

 9 
Younan Nowzaradan
(Specializes in vascular surgery and bariatric surgery.)
Younan Nowzaradan
2
Birthdate: October 11, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tehran, Pahlavi Iran Imperial State of Iran
 10 
C. Everett Koop
(13th Surgeon General of the United States (1982 - 1989))
C. Everett Koop
6
Birthdate: October 14, 1916
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 25, 2013

C. Everett Koop was a pediatric surgeon and public health administrator who served as the 13th Surgeon General of the United States under President Ronald Reagan. Previously, he had been a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He was well-known for his support of the rights of children with disabilities and his work with AIDS patients. 

 11 
Denton Cooley
(American Heart and Cardiothoracic Surgeon Who Performed the First Implantation of a Total Artificial Heart)
Denton Cooley
3
Birthdate: August 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States
Died: November 18, 2016

Denton Cooley was a heart and cardiothoracic surgeon. He is best known for performing the first implantation of a total artificial heart. He did his surgical training at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and later worked at Baylor College of Medicine. He founded The Texas Heart Institute and was a consultant at Texas Children's Hospital. 

 12 
Daniel Hale Williams
3
Birthdate: January 18, 1856
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: August 4, 1931

Daniel Hale Williams was a general surgeon known for performing the first documented, successful pericardium surgery in the US in 1893. Born to interracial parents, he faced numerous struggles in his journey to become a physician. He later founded the first non-segregated hospital in the United States, Chicago's Provident Hospital. He also founded a nursing school for African Americans. 

 13 
Patrick Soon-Shiong
(Inventor of Abraxane)
Patrick Soon-Shiong
0
Birthdate: July 29, 1952
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Gqeberha, South Africa
 14 
Robert Rey
(Brazilian American Plastic Surgeon)
Robert Rey
5
Birthdate: October 1, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: São Paulo, Brazil

Brazilian American plastic-surgeon and television-presenter Roberto Rey featured on the American reality television series Dr. 90210 that focusses on plastic surgery in the affluent suburb of Beverly Hills, California. He is a member of the American Medical Association and the Los Angeles Medical Association. He unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Brazil's Chamber of Deputies during the 2014 Brazilian general election.

 15 
William Chester Minor
(Former Surgeon known for Contributions to the Oxford English Dictionary)
William Chester Minor
10
Birthdate: June 22, 1834
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sri Lanka
Died: March 26, 1920

William Chester Minor was an army surgeon and lexicographical researcher. He studied at Yale Medical School and earned a medical degree with a specialization in comparative anatomy. He then became an army surgeon. He was later committed to a London psychiatric hospital for many years as he suffered from paranoid delusions. He became a lexicographical researcher while incarcerated.  

 16 
Michael DeBakey
(Cardiac Surgeon)
Michael DeBakey
5
Birthdate: September 7, 1908
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
Died: July 11, 2008

Cardiac surgeon Michael DeBakey pioneered many treatments of cardiovascular ailments and also invented instruments such as the roller pump, later used for open-heart surgery procedures. He was also instrumental in developing MASH units and was awarded several prestigious awards, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

 17 
Vivek Murthy
(19th and 21st Surgeon General of the United States)
Vivek Murthy
0
Birthdate: July 10, 1977
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Huddersfield, England
 18 
Jan Adams
(Physician)
Jan Adams
7
Birthdate: April 21, 1954
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Middletown

Cosmetic surgeon and TV personality Jan Adams made headlines after he conducted a liposuction, a tummy tuck, and a breast-reduction surgery on rapper Kanye West’s mother and she mysteriously died the following day. He has also penned books and appeared on shows such as Extra and The Other Half.

 19 
Walter Jackson Freeman II
(Physician Known for His Pioneering Work on How the Brain Generates Our Perception of the World)
Walter Jackson Freeman II
3
Birthdate: November 14, 1895
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: May 31, 1972

American neurologist Walter Jackson Freeman II is remembered for co-developing the technique of prefrontal lobotomy as a treatment for mental ailments, along with neurosurgeon James W. Watts. Though many of his patients died due to the treatment, he is still considered a pioneer in the field of neurosurgery.

 20 
Mehmet Oz
(Surgeon and Co-Author of the Best-Selling ‘YOU’ Series of Health Books)
Mehmet Oz
0
Birthdate: June 11, 1960
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

Born to Turkish immigrants in the U.S., Mehmet Oz, better known as Dr. Oz, is a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and professor. He is known for his multiple appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and for his YOU series of self-help books. He has also hosted The Dr. Oz Show.

 21 
James Andrews
(surgeon)
James Andrews
5
Birthdate: 1942 AD
Birthplace: Homer

One of the best-known American orthopedic sports surgeons, James Andrews has been associated with multiple sports teams, such as Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tampa Bay Rays. Among his clients are sports stars Michael Jordan and Tom Brady. He has also headed various organizations, such as the American Sports Medicine Institute.

 22 
Caldwell Esselstyn
(Nutritionist, Rower)
Caldwell Esselstyn
5
Birthdate: December 12, 1933
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
 23 
Dr. Miami
(Plastic Surgeon)
Dr. Miami
5
Birthdate: April 16, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

Internationally renowned plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer, better known as Dr. Miami, has soared to fame with his Snapchat stories that highlight his surgeries. He has also penned a book and released a single. He is quite a reality star, too, and has also inspired a series featuring himself.

 24 
James T. Goodrich
(American Neurosurgeon Who Gained Worldwide Recognition for Performing Multiple Successful Separations of Conjoined Twins)
James T. Goodrich
3
Birthdate: April 16, 1946
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
Died: March 30, 2020

Pediatric neurosurgeon James T. Goodrich was an expert in cranial reconstructive surgeries and also conducted multiple successful operations on separating conjoined twins. The Columbia University alumnus also had also served the US Marines during the Vietnam War. He was also fond of travel and surfing. He succumbed to COVID-19 at age 73.

 25 
Garth Fisher
(Presenter)
Garth Fisher
5
Birthdate: September 1, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mississippi

American plastic surgeon and television presenter Garth Fisher, who specializes in aesthetic/cosmetic plastic surgery of different parts of the body including the face, nose and breast, is best known as the plastic surgeon on ABC aired American reality television series Extreme Makeover. He was knighted Sir Garth Fisher to honour his contributions and feats the field of plastic surgery.

 26 
Alfred Blalock
5
Birthdate: April 5, 1899
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Culloden, Georgia, United States
Died: September 15, 1964

Remembered as a medical pioneer and a much-loved mentor, Alfred Blalock is especially noted for his work on traumatic and hemorrhagic shock, which saved thousands of lives during WWII. Working with Vivien Thomas and Helen Taussig, he also developed the Blalock-Thomas-Taussig shunt. Designed to treat children with Blue Baby Syndrome, it ushered a revolution in the field of cardiac surgery.

 27 
Antonia Novello
(The First Woman and First Hispanic to Serve as Surgeon General of the United States)
Antonia Novello
5
Birthdate: August 23, 1944
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Antonia Novello became the first female and the first person of Hispanic origin to become the U.S. surgeon general. Initially a pediatric nephrologist, she later switched to Public Health Service, after realizing she was too emotional to be a pediatrician. The Puerto Rican physician was also a UNICEF representative.

 28 
Andrew Baldwin
(Reality star, naval officer and athlete most famous as the star of the reality show "The Bachelor: Officer and a Gentleman.")
Andrew Baldwin
5
Birthdate: February 5, 1977
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States

Although best known for his appearances on the ABC reality dating show The Bachelor, Andrew James Baldwin is much more than just a television personality. A Medical Officer with US Navy, he is known for his humanitarian works and enthusiasm for triathlon, being named to the All-Navy triathlon team five times, besides competing internationally in numerous Half-Ironman and Ironman events.

 29 
Ephraim McDowell
(American Physician and Pioneer Surgeon Known for First Successful Ovariotomy)
Ephraim McDowell
5
Birthdate: November 11, 1771
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rockbridge County, Virginia, United States
Died: June 25, 1830

Considered the founder of operative gynecology, Ephraim McDowell was also the first person to perfect lithotomy, a surgical technique for removing stones obstructing urinary bladder. He came to limelight when he successfully removed a 20-pound tumor from Jane Todd Crawford’s ovary, later performing twelve more ovariotomies, out of which seven were successful, thus demonstrating the viability of elective abdominal surgery.

 30 
Regina Benjamin
(Surgeon General of the United States)
Regina Benjamin
5
Birthdate: October 26, 1956
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama, United States

Famed for her dedicated service to underserved community in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, American physician Regina Mercia Benjamin held several important positions including that of the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. Throughout her career, she worked for the disadvantaged people, focusing on preventive health measures, mortgaging her home to rebuild Bayou La Batre Health Clinic after Hurricane Katrina.

 31 
Jayant Patel
(Accused of gross negligence whilst working at Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland, Australia)
Jayant Patel
2
Birthdate: April 10, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Jamnagar, Gujarat, India

Indian-origin American surgeon Jayant Patel had a career chequered with medical negligence. After his medical license was restricted in the US, following a few cases of patient deaths, he was convicted for killing 3 patients at the Bundaberg Hospital in Australia and was banned from practicing in the country again.

 32 
Marci Bowers
(Gynaecologist)
Marci Bowers
3
Birthdate: January 18, 1958
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: United States of America

Considered to be the first transgender to specialize in sex reassignment surgery, American gynecologist Marci Lee Bowers is also a specialist in functional clitoral restoration. Beginning her career in obstetrics and gynecology, she later apprenticed under Stanley Biber, the father of sex reassignment surgery, and Pierre Foldès, a pioneer in clitoral restoration, before setting up her independent practice in California.   

 33 
David Satcher
(Former United States Surgeon General)
David Satcher
3
Birthdate: March 2, 1941
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Anniston, Alabama, United States

Former U.S. assistant secretary of health David Satcher has also served as the U.S. surgeon-general. The story of a near-fatal bout of whooping cough he recovered from at age 2 later inspired him to be a doctor. He addressed issues such as racially discriminating health policies and drug abuse in minors.

 34 
William James Mayo
(Physician and Surgeon)
William James Mayo
2
Birthdate: June 29, 1861
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Le Sueur
Died: July 28, 1939

Physician and surgeon William James Mayo is best-known as a principal co-founder of the non-profit American academic medical center Mayo Clinic. Son of British-American medical-doctor and chemist William Worrall Mayo, William James and his brother, Charles Horace Mayo, joined the sole-proprietorship medical practice of their father, which developed under them and other doctors intothe Mayo Clinic.

 35 
David Gorski
(Oncologist)
David Gorski
3
Birthplace: United States
Surgical oncologist David Gorski is a renowned name in the domain of breast cancer treatment. Apart from maintaining his science-oriented blog, Respectful Insolence, he also serves as the managing editor of Science-Based Medicine. He is a strong critic of alternative medicine and is also known by his pseudonym Orac.
 36 
Charles Horace Mayo
2
Birthdate: July 19, 1865
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rochester
Died: May 26, 1939

Part of the Mayo medical family of the U.S., Charles Horace Mayo had established the Mayo Clinic with his brother William James Mayo and others. He specialized in varied medical fields, mastering neurosurgery, goitre surgery, cataract operations, and other procedures. He later served the U.S. Army surgical team.

 37 
William Beaumont
(American Surgeon and the First Person to Observe and Study Human Digestion as It Occurs in the Stomach)
William Beaumont
5
Birthdate: November 21, 1785
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lebanon, Connecticut, United States
Died: April 25, 1853

Nineteenth-century U.S. Army surgeon William Beaumont pioneered the study of human digestion. While treating a person named Alexis St. Martin, who had been near-fatally shot in the stomach, Beaumont discovered a lot of gastric processes and later published them as a treatise on the physiology of digestion.

 38 
Howard Atwood Kelly
(Surgeon, Writer, Gynaecologist, University teacher)
Howard Atwood Kelly
2
Birthdate: February 20, 1858
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Camden
Died: January 12, 1943

American obstetrician/gynaecologist and professor Howard Atwood Kelly was among the four outstanding physicians, known as the Big Four, along with William Welch, William Halsted and William Osler, who became founding professors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Kelly established gynaecology as a specialty, and developed a systematic approach to gynaecological medicine and surgery as well as new surgical techniques and devices.

 39 
Thomas Starzl
(Physician, researcher, and expert on organ transplants)
Thomas Starzl
2
Birthdate: March 11, 1926
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Le Mars, Iowa, United States
Died: March 4, 2017

Thomas Starzl, the pioneer of the liver transplant surgery, initially wished to become a priest but deviated to medicine after the death of his mother from breast cancer. He is also known for his bestselling memoir, The Puzzle People, and for the documentary Burden of Genius, which was inspired by him.

 40 
James McHenry
(Surgeon)
James McHenry
2
Birthdate: November 16, 1753
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ballymena, Ireland
Died: May 3, 1816

Scotch-Irish American military-surgeon and politician James McHenry, who served as the 3rd United States Secretary of War, is noted as a signer of the United States Constitution from Maryland. He was elected a delegate to Maryland State Convention of 1788. He was instrumental in reorganizing the United States Army into four regiments and established the United States Department of the Navy.

 41 
Joseph E. Murray
(Plastic Surgeon)
Joseph E. Murray
2
Birthdate: April 1, 1919
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Milford, Massachusetts, United States
Died: November 26, 2012

Nobel Prize-winning American plastic surgeon Joseph E. Murray is remembered for conducting the first kidney transplant on identical twins. He later used immunosuppressive drugs and thus successfully conducted kidney transplants from unrelated donors. The Harvard alumnus later also taught at his alma. He appears in the book Beyond Recognition.

 42 
Crawford Long
(American Surgeon and Pharmacist Best Known for His First Use of Inhaled 'Sulfuric Ether' as an Anesthetic)
Crawford Long
2
Birthdate: November 1, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Danielsville, Georgia, United States
Died: June 16, 1878

American surgeon and pharmacist Crawford Long is best-known as the inventor of modern anaesthetics in the West. Long is believed to be the first to apply inhaled sulfuric ether as a general anaesthesia. He applied it for the first time in 1842 for removing a tumour from a patient’s neck and went on to perform several other surgeries using ether anaesthetic.

 43 
Sherwin B. Nuland
(American Surgeon and Writer Known for His 1994 Book 'How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter')
Sherwin B. Nuland
2
Birthdate: December 8, 1930
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: March 3, 2014

A surgeon with three decades of experience, Sherwin B. Nuland has also taught medicine at Yale and penned the bestselling and National Book Award-winning book How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter. A TED speaker, he once revealed he had been a victim of depression earlier.

 44 
William C. Gorgas
2
Birthdate: October 3, 1854
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama, United States
Died: July 3, 1920

U.S. Army physician William C. Gorgas was in charge of the sanitation of Panama and successfully eradicated both malaria and yellow fever from the zone, thus paving the way for the construction of the Panama Canal. He was later made part of the Hall of Fame For Great Americans.

 45 
Tenley Albright
(American Former Figure Skater and Surgeon)
Tenley Albright
2
Birthdate: July 18, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Newton Centre, Newton, Massachusetts, United States

Olympic figure-skating champion Tenley Albright was also a Harvard Medical School alumna and a qualified surgeon. A bout of mild polio in childhood couldn’t deter her spirit, and she ended up becoming the first female figure skater from the U.S. to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

 46 
Frank Jobe
(Surgeon)
Frank Jobe
2
Birthdate: July 16, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Greensboro, North Carolina, United States
Died: March 6, 2014

American orthopedic surgeon Frank Jobe is best remembered for pioneering the Tommy John surgery for baseball athletes, named after Los Angeles Dodgers player Tommy John, on whom the surgery was first performed. He also co-wote books such as Play Ball! and 30 Exercises for Better Golf.

 47 
Francis Davis Millet
(Painter, sculptor)
Francis Davis Millet
0
Birthdate: November 3, 1848
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 15, 1912
 48 
William Williams Keen
2
Birthdate: January 19, 1837
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: June 7, 1932

William Williams Keen pioneered brain surgery in the U.S. Working on neurological injuries as an army surgeon, he discovered many previously unknown neurological ailments. He was also part of a secret operation on a yacht to remove a tumor from the upper jaw of U.S. president Grover Cleveland.

 49 
Samkon Gado
(Football player)
Samkon Gado
2
Birthdate: November 13, 1982
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Taraba, Nigeria

Apart from being a qualified otolaryngologist, Samkon Gado is also a former NFL running back and has played for reputed teams such as the Green Bay Packers. The Nigerian-American sportsperson and surgeon once revealed he had used football in his college days to fund his medical studies.

 50 
Clarence Walton Lillehei
(American Surgeon Who Pioneered Open-Heart Surgery)
Clarence Walton Lillehei
2
Birthdate: October 23, 1918
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Died: July 5, 1999

A pioneer of cross-circulation, Clarence Walton Lillehei successfully conducted cardiac surgeries by linking the circulatory systems of healthy people with those of his patients, thus eventually developing the open-heart surgery. Affectionately known as the King of Hearts, he won awards such as the Harvey Prize and the Lasker Award.