• By Kelley Luckstein

Mayo Clinic announces Distinguished Alumni Awards

November 23, 2021
the bronze statues of the Mayo Brothers on steps outside the Gonda Building

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic announces the recipients of its Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2021:

  • John Burnett Jr., M.D.
  • Christopher Chute, M.D.
  • Richard D. Hurt, M.D.
  • Atul Malhotra, M.D.
  • F.J. Puga, M.D.
  • Carole Warnes, M.D.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 1981 to acknowledge and show appreciation for exceptional contributions of Mayo Clinic alumni to medicine.

Award recipients have been recognized nationally and often internationally in their fields. The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes the outstanding attributes and accomplishments of those who have served at high levels in all aspects of their respective fields.

Learn more about each recipient:

John Burnett Jr., M.D.

Dr. Burnett is a Mayo Clinic cardiologist with a joint appointment in the Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering. He is the Marriott Family Professor of Cardiovascular Research at Mayo Clinic and director of the Mayo Clinic Cardiorenal Research Laboratory.

Dr. Burnett has led translational research efforts in cardiovascular diseases to meet unmet patient needs. He studies the endocrine role of the heart in cardiorenal homeostasis, with a goal of the engineering and clinical development of novel designer natriuretic peptides to treat cardiovascular disease.

He has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1986. Along with his team, he has developed three novel designer peptides that are now in clinical trials to target heart failure and resistant hypertension.

Dr. Burnett's work has resulted in 29 patents, five new biotechnology companies and more than 580 peer-reviewed publications — some that have revolutionized the field. He received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Heart Failure Society of America.

Dr. Burnett joined the Mayo Clinic staff in 1982 after completing residency in internal medicine and fellowship in cardiology and nephrology research at Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester.

Christopher Chute, M.D.

Dr. Chute is an emeritus professor of biomedical informatics and associate professor of epidemiology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. He also is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Health Informatics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Dr. Chute is considered a visionary in biomedical informatics. He has had an enormous impact in health care digital transformation, helping to make biomedical data science and health care artificial intelligence possible.

Dr. Chute founded and chaired the Mayo Clinic Division of Biomedical Informatics and built the program into an international powerhouse of informatics research and education. He has worked to ensure consistency and compatibility around clinical data to ensure interpretable analyses, or interoperability. His most impactful achievement was transforming the International Classification of Diseases at the World Health Organization into a modern data science resource for disease classification and naming.

He founded the International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics and was president of the American College of Medical Informatics.

Dr. Chute's research has attracted more than $200 million of funding and resulted in more than 400 peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Chute joined the Mayo Clinic staff in 1988.

Richard Hurt, M.D.

Dr. Hurt is an emeritus professor of medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. He is an international leader in tobacco-related illness and treatment who helped reduce the tobacco addiction epidemic and its effects on patient lives.

Dr. Hurt was the first expert witness for the state of Minnesota in the historic 1998 Minnesota tobacco trial that resulted in a $6.1 billion settlement. He testified that Big Tobacco knew the harms and addictive potential of smoking and had strategies to expand marketing to children.

The trial resulted in the release of more than 70 million pages of previously secret internal tobacco company documents — a profound victory for tobacco control and public health. The settlement established the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco, now ClearWay Minnesota, whose mission is to reduce the toll of tobacco on Minnesotans.

Dr. Hurt was the inaugural chair of the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco board. He also founded the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and developed one of the first inpatient treatment programs for severe tobacco dependence.

Dr. Hurt contributed seminal works to the literature, including the first clinical trial of bupropion to help smokers quit. He was the principal investigator of 15 NIH grants and 34 industry or foundation grants.

Dr. Hurt joined the Mayo Clinic staff in 1976 after completing residency in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester.

Atul Malhotra, M.D.

Dr. Malhotra is a professor of medicine; chief of pulmonary and critical care; and research chief of pulmonary, critical care, sleep medicine and physiology at the University of California San Diego. His career has focused on sleep apnea, and the pathogenesis and mechanisms underlying lung injury.

His work has led to important insights and blazed a trail to personalized medicine for respiratory diseases, including sleep apnea and adult respiratory distress syndrome. His work has changed practice around the world.

Dr. Malhotra was president of the American Thoracic Society, and he received the William C. Dement Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Malhotra received the Distinguished Chest Educator Award from the American College of Chest Physicians three times.

Much of the next generation in sleep apnea pathogenesis trained in a Malhotra laboratory He has authored more than 625 peer-reviewed articles and been continuously funded by the NIH throughout his career.

Dr. Malhotra completed residency in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester.

F.J. Puga, M.D.

Dr. Puga is an emeritus professor of surgery, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

Dr. Puga played a key role in the evolution of congenital heart surgery in the U.S., and he was an initial member of the Congenital Heart Surgeons' Society. Dr. Puga trained at Mayo Clinic in the early years of congenital cardiac surgery and then returned to his home country of Mexico to work. Later he returned to Mayo Clinic and became known as the go-to congenital cardiovascular surgeon for infants and children.

Dr. Puga was the first surgeon to perform a number of procedures in the early era of the specialty — many that are still preferred today. He is credited with establishing the method of surgical management of Fontan patients involving the total caval pulmonary artery shunt.

Countless infants at Mayo Clinic benefited from his surgical expertise in the management of patients with transposition of the great arteries, with the arterial switch procedure. He also was recognized worldwide for his management of patients with pulmonary atresia requiring peripheral pulmonary artery unifocalization procedures.

Dr. Puga chaired the Mayo Clinic Division of Cardiovascular Surgery and Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

Dr. Puga joined the Mayo Clinic staff in 1977 after completing residencies in general surgery and thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester.

Carole Warnes, M.D.

Dr. Warnes is a Mayo Clinic cardiologist and the Penske Foundation Professor of Clinical Medicine in Honor of Ian D. Hay, M.D., Ph.D., and J. Eileen Hay, M.B., Ch.B. She has a joint appointment in Mayo Clinic's Division of Pediatric Cardiology.

Dr. Warnes is regarded as the world's most senior spokesperson on adult congenital heart disease. She was the first female cardiologist at Mayo Clinic and first adult congenital subspecialist. Due in large part to her efforts, adult congenital cardiology is now an integral part of Mayo's cardiovascular practice, with specialty clinics at Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Warnes' leadership was instrumental in advancing adult congenital heart disease to become a subspecialty accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Dr. Warnes also was the first at Mayo Clinic to coordinate multidisciplinary care for patients with cardiovascular disease who were pregnant.

Dr. Warnes' accolades include the Laennec Master Clinician Award from the American Heart Association, Distinguished Fellowship Award from the American College of Cardiology, Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Adult Congenital Heart Disease, and Distinguished Educator Award and Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to Medical Education from Mayo Clinic. Dr. Warnes also was dean of Mayo Clinic School of Continuous Professional Development.

Dr. Warnes joined the Mayo Clinic staff in 1988, and she completed her fellowship in cardiovascular diseases at Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester.

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