Republished from the UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine Newsroom
R. Balfour Sartor, MD, the Midget Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology, received the inaugural Healthcare Hero in the Field of Crohn’s Disease from the National Liberty Museum for his commitment to finding cures for inflammatory bowel diseases and improving the quality of life for patients. Each year, this award will be given to a Crohn’s researcher or clinician for pioneering work that has propelled forward Crohn’s disease research, patient health, and better treatments.
A Crohn’s disease patient himself, Sartor is a physician-scientist who has made breakthrough discoveries involving the role played by bacteria that inhabit the human gut in the onset and progression of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (together, known as inflammatory bowel diseases, or IBD).
Early in his career when IBD was considered an autoimmune disorder, and despite widespread skepticism, Sartor hypothesized that gut bacteria must have some involvement in causing Crohn’s disease. Today, bacteria’s role in IBD is acknowledged worldwide, and Sartor’s research continues to unravel how the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that inhabit the human gut (i.e., the microbiome) act together with genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers to lead to the onset and progression of IBD.
Sartor, who is the co-director of the UNC Multidisciplinary IBD Center, is a passionate advocate for supporting research with the greatest potential to improve the health and enhance the quality of life of patients, and is a compassionate and empathetic IBD specialist physician who has been listed among America’s Top Doctors 15 times.