Reece, E. Albert

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E. Albert Reece


Physician, medical school dean

As an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) and researcher, Dr. E. Albert Reece became one of the world's leading experts on diabetes-induced birth defects and prenatal diagnosis. He pioneered a technique called embryofetoscopy or embryoscopy to detect fetal birth defects. Reece and his collaborators discovered biochemical and molecular causes of diabetes-induced birth defects and pioneered methods for preventing such defects. In 2006 he became dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine (SOM).

Attracted to Specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology

E. Albert Reece was born in 1950 in Spanish Town, Jamaica, where his mother taught school and his father was a homebuilder. As a child Reece gave up music lessons to pursue his passions for soccer and cricket. After graduating from high school in Jamaica, Reece earned an honors degree from Cambridge University and a bachelor's degree magna cum laude from Long Island University in New York. He received his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine in 1978.

Reece told the University of Maryland Medical Alumni Association's Bulletin in 2006: "My interest in obstetrics and gynecology can be traced back to medical school. I liked surgery because of its rapid pace and contemporaneous answers, but I also enjoyed internal medicine because of its intellectual challenge and the long-term relationships an internist develops with patients. I chose my specialty because it combines these attractive elements."

Not only did obstetrics and gynecology combine two "attractive elements" for Reece, the specialty also offered him opportunities to explore new medical horizons. In the late 1970s Reece began studying why diabetic women were more likely to have children with birth defects. He told Diabetes Forecast in 1992: "I realized there were only a handful of people in the world who were actually looking at the mechanism that explains these defects, either in terms of animal models or basic research. So I concluded that there was a real need for basic studies."

Pioneered Embryoscopy

Reece's research focused on pregnant and lactating women with type 1 diabetes, as well as women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), both of which can cause complications for the mother and fetus. During late pregnancy 3-5 percent of healthy women develop GDM, a resistance to the effects of insulin on sugar metabolism. Reece and his coworkers showed that this insulin resistance preserves sugar and fatty acids for the nutritional needs of the mother and fetus.

While at Yale University School of Medicine, Reece and Dr. Ruben Quintero researched viewing scopes that were small enough to examine a fetus for birth defects during its first trimester. Reece tested the safety of his procedure by examining the fetuses of women who were planning to have abortions. He then began using the technique on women at high risk of having a fetus with inherited defects. Reece performed his first 100 or so embryoscopies by inserting a needle-thin camera through the patient's vagina. Later he performed embryoscopies through the abdomen to reduce the risk of infection. Reece told Gina Kolata of the New York Times in 1993: "Embryoscopy opens a whole new world, a whole new frontier that we never had before. It's just unbelievable. You can make a diagnosis much more rapidly early in pregnancy and with a high degree of confidence." In 1997, when Reece was one of only three doctors in the country utilizing the procedure, he told Good Housekeeping: "People expect the worst, so they are absolutely joyous when things work out." Reece's techniques may eventually be utilized to cure or repair birth defects before birth.

In 1991 Temple University School of Medicine recruited Reece as chairman of its Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. There Reece helped establish a Pre-Pregnancy Program to assist women in controlling their diabetes before becoming pregnant. His laboratory research focused on the first eight weeks of embryonic development when, in some diabetic women, the fetus may be nutritionally deprived, and on the role of the yolk sac in embryonic nutrition.

Appointed Dean at University of Arkansas

Reece did not limit his energy to medicine. In his spare time Reece earned a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of the West Indies, with a dissertation entitled Cellular and Biochemical Mechanisms of Diabetic Embryopathy, and an MBA from Temple's Fox School of Business and Management. His MBA, Reece told SOMNews in 2006, "influences my approach to management by making me much more analytic when evaluating new or existing ventures. I do more business and market analysis, return on investment and business plans to confirm my intuition and to give me greater confidence in initiating and/or staying with projects."

In 2001 Reece was named dean of the College of Medicine and vice chancellor for medical sciences at the University of Arkansas. There he doubled the school's research funding, recruited more than 30 well-funded scientists, initiated new multidisciplinary research centers, reformed the medical school curriculum, and launched three joint-degree programs and the state's first liver transplant program. He also helped create the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. In addition to his administrative responsibilities and research, Reece continued to see patients at the high-risk pregnancy clinic.

At a Glance …

Born E. Albert Reece in 1950 in Spanish Town, Jamaica; married Sharon A. Reece; children: Kelly, Brynne, Sharon-Andrea. Education: Long Island University, BS; New York University School of Medicine, MD, 1978; Columbia University-Presbyterian Medical Center, OB/GYN internship, 1978-79, OB/GYN residency, 1979-82; Yale University School of Medicine, perinatology fellowship, 1982-84; University of the West Indies, PhD, biochemistry, 2000; Temple University, MBA, 2001.

Career: Yale University School of Medicine, Department of OB/GYN, New Haven, CT, assistant professor, 1984-86, associate professor, 1986-90; Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, Abraham Roth Professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, chair, 1991-2001; University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, vice chancellor, College of Medicine, dean, professor in Departments of OB/GYN, Internal Medicine, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2001-06; University of Maryland, Baltimore, vice president for medical affairs, SOM, dean, John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, 2006-.

Selected memberships: Arkansas Symphony, board; Association of American Medical Colleges, Administrative Board; Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, Board on Health Sciences Policy, vice-chair and chair of section on pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, committee on Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research; March of Dimes, Scientific Advisory Committee; National Council of Deans, Executive Committee.

Awards: Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society; Blacks Networking for Progress, Inc., honored for significant contributions in health care, 1994; Baltimore Daily Record, Influential Marylander, 2007.

Addresses: Office—Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 655 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.

A series of tragedies at the university prompted Reece to form a panel charged with developing a system for identifying stress and mental disturbances in medical personnel and providing intervention. He described his initiative in the Arkansas Times as a "brotherly-sisterly approach. We are all our brothers' and sisters' keepers."

Moved to University of Maryland

Reece moved to Maryland as the nation's oldest public medical school was beginning a yearlong celebration of its bicentennial and as the SOM's research component and reputation were undergoing rapid growth. He immediately issued a series of open letters outlining his visions for medical research, for education, including an expansion of joint-degree programs and minors, and for the clinics of the University of Maryland Medical System. The latter included the development of cardio-vascular disease and cancer magnet programs with the goal of becoming a National Institutes of Health-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Just as the SOM was planning a new research facility for regenerative medicine, including stem-cell research, Reece was appointed by the National Academy of Sciences to a new commission to monitor and revise standards for human embryonic stem-cell research.

University of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan was quoted in the Baltimore Sun in 2006, describing Reece as a "visionary who can articulate a sense of what a medical school must be like in the decades to come. He sees the close connection between world-class research on one hand and clinical practice on the other…activities that many see as separate silos in medical schools."

As of 2007 Reece had published four monographs and some 450 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and abstracts, and was a sought-after lecturer. Some of his 11 books have appeared in multiple editions—unusual for specialized medical anthologies. Having brought some of his collaborators to Maryland, Reece continued to conduct research focusing on drugs for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

Selected writings


(With Donald R. Coustan, eds.) Diabetes Mellitus in Pregnancy: Principles and Practice, Churchill-Livingstone, 1988, 1995.

(With J. C. Hobbins) "Embryoscopy: An Evolving Technology for Early Prenatal Diagnosis," in The Embryo: Normal and Abnormal Development and Growth, M. Chapman, G. Grudzinskas, and T. Chard, eds., Springer-Verlag. 1991, pp 123-140.

(With John C. Hobbins, Maurice J. Mahoney, and Roy H. Petrie, eds.) Medicine of the Fetus and Mother, Lippincott, 1992, 1995, 1999.

(With I. Goldstein and J. C. Hobbins) Fundamentals of Obstetric and Gynecologic Ultrasound, Appleton & Lange, 1993.

(With D. R. Coustan and S. G. Gabbe, eds.) Diabetes in Women: Adolescence, Pregnancy, and Menopause, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2004.

(With J. C. Hobbins, eds.) Clinical Obstetrics: The Fetus & Mother, Blackwell, 2007.


(With others) "Clinical Research in the United States at a Crossroads: Proposal for a Novel Public-Private Partnership to Establish a National Clinical Research Enterprise," Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 291, No. 9, 2004, pp. 1120-1126.

(With others) "Effects of Pioglitazone and Metformin on [Beta]-Cell Function in Nondiabetic Subjects at High Risk for Type 2 Diabetes," American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, Vol. 292, No. 1, January 2007, p. E359.

(With Peixin Yang and Zhiyong Zhao) "Involvement of c-Jun N-Terminal Kinases Activation in Diabetic Embryopathy," Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol. 357, No. 3, June 8, 2007, pp.749-754.



Arkansas Times, January 13, 2005, p. 9.

Baltimore Sun, June 8, 2006.

Daily Record (Baltimore, MD), June 8, 2006; November 30, 2006.

Diabetes Forecast, August 1992, p. 66.

Good Housekeeping, August 1997, p. 54.

New York Times, July 6, 1993, p. C3.


"E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA," University of Maryland School of Medicine, (June 25, 2007).

"Off and Running: An Early Start for Maryland's New Dean," MAA (June 27, 2007).

"Physician Spotlight: UAMS Dean E. Albert Reece," Medical News of Arkansas, (June 27, 2007).

"A Q&A with Dean E. Albert Reece," SOMNews, (June 18, 2007).

"Reece Appointed Dean of University of Maryland School of Medicine," University of Maryland Medical Center, (June 27, 2007).

"Reece, E. Albert M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.," University of Maryland School of Medicine, (June 18, 2007).