Meet Distinguished Scientist William Rizzo, M.D.

April 11, 2014

Image with caption: William Rizzo, M.D.

William Rizzo, M.D.

This profile is part of a series to highlight the 16 researchers and one community member who will be honored at an April 21 ceremony. The recipients include the 2013 Scientist Laureate, six New Investigators, eight Distinguished Scientists, two Research Leadership awardees, and a Community Service to Research honoree.

  • Name: William B. Rizzo, M.D.
  • Title: Professor of pediatrics and chair, division of inherited metabolic diseases
  • Joined UNMC: 2002
  • Hometown: Chicago

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms.
My research is directed at understanding the genetic and biochemical basis of inherited metabolic diseases, with a particular emphasis on disorders of lipid metabolism. These diseases cause a variety of symptoms involving the brain, nerves, skin and eyes. The ongoing investigations in my lab range from basic research on biochemical pathways to discovering unrecognized genetic diseases that affect metabolism in children and adults.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?
Our research has identified the cause of several genetic diseases and led to the development of new diagnostic tests and treatment approaches.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?
In science and medicine, experience, persistence and focus usually trumps unbridled brilliance and a capricious mind.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I was portrayed in the popular film "Lorenzo's Oil" (1992) that was based on my research on X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy.
  • Having failed to be accepted into medical school twice, I spent two years getting addicted to the "research bug" and was subsequently admitted directly into the second-year medical school class at the University of Illinois.
  • I have been a licensed ham radio operator for almost 50 years.


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Rebecca Brooks
October 20, 2016 at 5:48 PM

Congrats Dr Rizzo. Well deserved. R Brooks

Katherine Rossiter
April 12, 2014 at 5:27 PM

Congratulations Dr. Rizzo! You certainly deserve this honor! K. Rossiter

Hal Maurer
April 11, 2014 at 8:23 AM

Great recruit, here and at MCV. Hal M.