2020 Ellenhorn Award

Congratulations to 2020 Ellenhorn Award recipient Erica Liebelt, MD, FACMT. Dr. Liebelt will present the 2020 Ellenhorn Address at ASM on March 14th.

Below is a nomination letter from Fred Henretig, MD:

Dear Committee Friends,

Please allow me to here add my nomination for this year’s Ellenhorn award to the dossier of Dr. Erica Liebelt. I think Erica is an incredibly deserving candidate, whose career accomplishments incorporate virtually every conceivable quality that we would want in a representative of our specialty’s highest honor. She has already been acknowledged for her outstanding contributions by every institution and community she has ever worked in, and I believe now is the time for us to award her this recognition as well.

Erica is a renaissance woman. In her expansive career as a pediatric emergency physician and medical toxicologist, she has served poisoned patients at the bedside and via poison center consultation in New England, the Middle Atlantic states, the Southeast, and the Pacific Northwest. Few other candidates for the American College of Medical Toxicology’s Ellenhorn award have practiced in so much of America! She has taught students, residents and fellows in all of these locations, and won teaching awards at every one of them. She has made fundamental research contributions to our understanding of several important toxicological problems, affecting patients of all ages. Her toxicology wisdom has been codified in an impressive number and breadth of publications, both as peer-reviewed original papers and in textbook chapters and review articles. Erica has provided extraordinary service to our College, and held all of its most important, and demanding, leadership positions. She has also served our country through participation on numerous national committees and advisory panels, and by educating CDC staff and US Army physicians. And in every venue she has inspired a new generation of toxicologists to follow in her footsteps.

Dr. Liebelt has a 35 page CV that has earned her full professorship. My poor effort to summarize it in a relatively brief letter cannot possibly do it justice. But I will attempt to mention a few highlights that I find particularly compelling, beginning with honors and awards she has already received:

Clinical Service: The 1987 Kilgour Award from the University of Cincinnati for being the medical student who best expressed the ideals of medicine; the 2012 Department of Pediatrics Chairman’s award in honor of her commitment to the health and wellbeing of the children of Alabama; and in 2013 being named to the B-Metro’s top doctors in Birmingham list.

Education: Teaching awards, starting in residency, from Cincinnati Children’s; Yale (Pediatrics); Geisinger (Pediatrics, Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine); John’s Hopkins (Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine); University of Alabama, Birmingham (Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine); 

Service to the AMCT: Outstanding service awards in 20102 and 2018. 

And general recognition as a totally amazing person: in 2001, giving the resident graduation speech to the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins; in 2006, being named as Woman of the Year by the American Biographical Institute, and as one of the Great Women of the 21st Century; a 2012 Arts Patron of the Year award in Birmingham; and in 2018, becoming an Honorary Coach for Outstanding Women Leaders in the Community by the Seattle Storm professional basketball Team!

Dr. Liebelt has several research accomplishments that have made an indelible impact on our
practice of toxicology, emergency medicine and pediatrics. In 1995, her landmark Annals of
Emergency Medicine article describing the relation of the lead aVR changes on electrocardiograms of patients poisoned by tricyclic antidepressants immediately informed how such patients were diagnosed and managed. Who among us has not shown a few slides in our basic “toxic EKG” lecture with examples of this phenomenon? Erica was also among the earliest to do clinical studies in the US of the then novel lead poisoning antidote, DMSA, demonstrating its efficacy and decreased adverse effect profile compared to the previously available parenteral chelating agents. And, in 2001, she and co-authors noted the potential marked morbidity associated with over-thecounter cold and cough remedies in children, an awareness that grew and ultimately resulted in the FDA’s eliminating the indication for these useless and dangerous products in young children a few years later.

Erica’s reputation as an expert in many of these topics has resulted in her invitation to author numerous reviews and chapters, including work in many of our specialty’s most prestigious texts, such as those by Goldfrank et al, Dart, Ford et al, and Haddad, Shannon and Winchester. She has also lectured widely on the international, national and local / regional stages. 

Dr. Liebelt’s service to ACMT includes countless lectures and leadership roles in symposia and such at our national meetings. She served as Chair of the Education, Research and Liaison committees, not to mention rising through the ranks of officers starting in 2000 and culminating in becoming our President for the 2008-2010 term. She also is busy enhancing the College’s future by presiding over our Foundation’s Board of Directors (somehow, with everything else she has going on, she finds a way to send a little personal note gently nudging some of us who managed to let our annual donation become delayed- who can resist?). Erica has also held committee and leadership roles in the AAPCC and the ABP-ABEM Medical Toxicology Sub-board. 

In summary, I consider it an honor to be allowed membership in this medical community that Erica Liebelt has chosen to grace with her presence. It is time for her to win the Ellenhorn Award. Doing so would serve as an enormous inspiration to many of our College’s younger Fellows. And, perhaps we’d get some credit for being as savvy in recognizing talent as the Seattle Storm basketball team!

Thank you for considering these humble thoughts,