Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi

Inducted: 2018
Born: 1958 - Died:

Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. He has received widespread recognition and numerous awards for his efforts to prevent and cure Alzheimer’s disease. This litany of acclaim includes the two highest awards for Alzheimer’s disease research: The Metropolitan Life Award and the Potamkin Prize.
Dr. Tanzi’s work also earned him designation as a “Rock Star of Science” by the Geoffrey Beane Foundation; Harvard University’s “100 Most Influential Alumni;” Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World;” and the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award, the nation’s highest honor for invention and innovation.
Despite this awe-inspiring national acclaim, Rudolph Tanzi is a Rhode Islander at heart. He was born here in September 1958, the son of Ann Tanzi and the late Rudolph Tanzi. His parents began a medical transcription business for hospitals, an enterprise which pioneered the now nationwide practice of outsourcing hospital medical records. That business sparked Dr. Tanzi’s interest in medicine. His mother, says Tanzi, was the “main reason” why he decided to pursue medical research.
Dr. Tanzi also gives great credit to his teachers in the Cranston public schools for preparing him for his notable medical achievements–first at the Gladstone Elementary School near his Laurel Hill Avenue home, and then at Cranston East High School. At East, Rudolph not only excelled in biology, chemistry, and physics; he also competed in soccer on the school’s state champion soccer team. In addition, he played several musical instruments and performed with a local band. Rudolph was voted “Most Musical” in his 1976 graduation class. He was no nerd!
From Cranston East, Tanzi went to the University of Rochester from which he received dual degrees in 1980–a B.S. in microbiology and a B.A. in history. Then he went to Harvard Medical School earning his Ph.D. in neurobiology. His doctoral thesis dealt with the discovery and isolation of the first Alzheimer’s disease gene–the amyloid precursor protein (APP).
After graduation, Tanzi continued his work at Mass General writing over 500 articles on his research, co-editing two books, Decoding Darkness: The Search for the Genetic Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease (2000, with Ann B. Parson); Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being (2012, with Deepak Chopra); and writing Super Genes: Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health and Well Being. To further inform the public, he also hosts medical shows on PBS.
In addition to his role discovering all three genes that cause early-onset familial Alzheimer’s Disease, Tanzi has collaborated on studies identifying several other disease genes, including those causing neurofibromatosis, ALS, Wilson’s Disease, and autism.
For relaxation, “Rockstar” Tanzi has put his musical talents to work playing professionally on the keyboard with Joe Perry of Aerosmith. He also co-wrote a song as a tribute to Alzheimer’s patients called “Remember Me.” It was performed by singer Chris Mann.
Today we remember the remarkable career of Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi by inducting him into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
(Dr.) Patrick T. Conley

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