June 25, 2015

Boston VA physician-researcher cited for work on fetal alcohol disorders

CharnessMichael Charness, M.D.

Michael Charness, M.D., a professor at Boston University School of Medicine and chief of staff of the VA Boston Health Care System, is the 2015 recipient of the Henry Rosett Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Field from the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Charness has been studying fetal alcohol syndrome for more than 20 years. His lab, with support from VA and the National Institutes of Health, studies the mechanisms of alcohol toxicity in the nervous system and the development of drugs that block alcohol toxicity. He has cared for patients with neurological complications of alcoholism and peripheral nerve disorders throughout his career.

An active participant in educational efforts to broaden public awareness about FASD, Charness has helped present a balanced view on the risks of moderate drinking during pregnancy through letters and comments published in the scientific literature, including most recently in Nature. His finding that low concentrations of ethanol disrupt a molecule that is critical to development has served as a touchstone in the public debate about the safety of moderate drinking during pregnancy.