R. Rodney Howell, MD

Rodney Howell.

R. Rodney Howell, MD

Dr. R. Rodney Howell is a Professor and Chairman of Pediatrics Emeritus at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The author of more than 150 original articles and abstracts on genetic disorders in children, Dr. Howell’s pioneering work has benefited countless infants and children worldwide. Dr. Howell's skill in advancing the genetic and genomic medicine agenda has been pivotal in improving global public health.

Dr. Howell first became interested in metabolic disorders while a medical student at Duke University in the 1950s. Although he had initially planned a career in internal medicine, his plan was diverted when he went unmatched during intern day at Duke University Medical School. Doing so ultimately led him to accept a pediatric internship at Duke, a decision that forever altered his career path.  After finishing his training and residency in pediatrics at Duke, he completed a research fellowship under Dr. James Wyngaarden, who would famously go on to become the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After his fellowship in Dr. Wyngaarden’s lab, Dr. Howell spent four years on the NIH staff before he was recruited to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1964 as Associate Professor in Pediatrics. As the Joseph P. Kennedy Scholar in Mental Retardation at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Howell was responsible for the care of children with metabolic disease, including those with phenylketonuria (PKU).  During this time, he was visited by Dr. Robert Guthrie who was developing his dried blood spot assay for use in newborn screening for PKU.  Later, in 1972, he became the David R. Park Professor and Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Finally, in 1989, Dr. Howell joined the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where he served as the Chair of Pediatrics for more than 15 years.

Dr. Howell has had some of his most significant impact at the level of government health policy and public service. In 2004, Dr. Howell was part of the group convened by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics that established the recommended uniform screening panel (RUSP) -- a list of disorders recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services for inclusion in state universal newborn screening programs. Dr. Howell was the founding chair of the congressionally-mandated Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders of Newborns and Children and an advisor to the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). He has served as a member of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) for more than three decades, most recently serving as the chair of the MDA Board of Directors from 2007 to 2020.

Dr. Howell has received numerous accolades for his contributions to science and medicine, including the ACMG Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award and the March of Dimes Colonel Harland D. Sanders Lifetime Achievement Award in Genetics. In 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration named him one of the agency's 30 Rare Disease Heroes.  In 2019, he received the Robert Guthrie Award for his worldwide contributions in the field of newborn screening.  More recently, Dr. Howell received the inaugural “Dr. Michael S. Watson Genetic and Genomic Medicine Innovation Award” from the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) for his pivotal work in genetics, genomics, and newborn screening.