November 6, 2023—(BRONX, NY)—Albert Einstein College of Medicine has bestowed Ana Maria Cuervo, M.D., Ph.D., with the special designation of “distinguished professor” in the department of developmental and molecular biology (DMB). This designation represents the highest academic honor that Einstein can confer on a member of its faculty.
Dr. Cuervo is a tenured professor of DMB and of medicine. She also holds the Robert and Renée Belfer Chair for the Study of Neurodegenerative Diseases, is co-director of Einstein’s Institute for Aging Research, and is a member of the Montefiore Einstein Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Marion Bessin Liver Research Center.
“As a faculty member at Einstein for more than two decades, Dr. Cuervo has served as an inspiring, deeply admired, and collaborative colleague, an exceptional researcher, and a beloved and successful mentor to a generation of students and postdocs,” said Yaron Tomer, M.D., the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein and chief academic officer at Montefiore Medicine. “I know I speak for our leadership and the entire Einstein community in congratulating her for this well-deserved honor.”
Dr. Cuervo is an internationally renowned leader in the field of autophagy—a key process that cells rely on to break down and recycle unwanted material. While working in the labs of Erwin Kneckt at Institute Citogico in Valencia (Spain) and of the late J. Fred Dice at Tufts, she discovered that specialized proteins guide damaged proteins to lysosomes for digestion, a process they dubbed chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA). She also determined that autophagy is highly selective, not random, as previously thought.
After relocating to Einstein, Dr. Cuervo determined that autophagy slows with aging, and her research has linked autophagy dysfunction to a range of age-related disorders including neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. She is now working with collaborators to develop and test compounds that accelerate autophagy to help delay or prevent these disease conditions.
Dr. Cuervo’s research has resulted in more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, nearly 100 review articles, 2 patents, and nearly 500 presentations worldwide. Her work also has led to more than 80 honors, including election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Academy of Sciences of Spain, and the Royal Academy of Pharmacy of Spain.
Additionally, she is a founding member of the Academy for Health & Lifespan Research, has been appointed an International Academic of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Valencia, Spain, and served as co-editor-in-chief of Aging Cell for 14 years. She has also held multiple leadership roles within the Gordon Conference and the Keystone Symposium organizations, and as a member of the NIH National Institute on Aging Scientific Council, the NIH Council of Councils, and the NIA Board of Scientific Counselors.
At Einstein, Dr. Cuervo has received the Saul R. Korey Prize in Translational Medicine and Marshall S. Horwitz Faculty Prize for Excellence in Research. She currently is on the editorial boards of Cell Metabolism and of Molecular Cell and is an associate editor of PNAS.
Excellence in Education
In addition to her research, Dr. Cuervo is a widely sought-after mentor and a popular educator at Einstein, twice receiving Einstein’s LaDonne H. Shulman Teaching Award at commencement. Since 2002, she has served as a lecturer for numerous courses in the medical school and the graduate school, including “Molecular Cell Biology;” “Biology of Aging,” for which she currently serves as course co-director; and “Drug Development and Drug Design.”
As a faculty member at Einstein for more than two decades, Dr. Cuervo has served as an inspiring, deeply admired, and collaborative colleague, an exceptional researcher, and a beloved and successful mentor to a generation of students and postdocs.
Dean Yaron Tomer, M.D.
Within the graduate program, Dr. Cuervo serves as the chair of the academic affairs committee and is a member of the Medical Scientist Training Program steering committee. She also is program faculty member of the Paul Calabresi Career Development Program.
During her years at Einstein, Dr. Cuervo has been a thesis advisor to 23 graduate students, and served on the advisory committee, qualifying defense, or thesis defense for dozens more. She also has mentored 35 postdoctoral fellows, 3 clinical fellows, 2 postbaccalaureate students, and dozens of rotating students from high school through master’s level of education, as well as hosted 28 visiting scientists. With the untimely passing earlier this year of Dr. Cuervo’s late husband, Dr. Fernando Macian-Juan, who was a beloved mentor and colleague at Einstein, she has welcomed Dr. Macian-Juan’s students into her lab, so they are able to complete and defend their thesis work.
Finally, Dr. Cuervo is involved in women-oriented teaching and training. Among the large number of exceptional women scientists that have trained under Dr. Cuervo, some are now faculty at Einstein. She also has participated in the Committee for The Feinstein Institute’s Advancing Women in Science and Medicine, delivered the L’Oreal-UNESCO lecture for Women in Science, and founded the Women in Autophagy Network.