By Kathleen Phillips
COLLEGE STATION — Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of the Texas A&M University Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center in College Station, received the 2017 Healthy Living Lifetime Achievement Award at the Viva Fresh Produce Expo in Austin April 21.
The Healthy Living Lifetime Achievement Award is given to “individuals whose careers have demonstrated leadership with industry stakeholders and made substantial contributions to the advancement of science or promotion of produce for health through educational activities.”
The award was presented to Patil during the Viva Fresh Produce Expo luncheon, attended by more than 1,200 industry member participants from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He is the third recipient of this prestigious award, following Dr. David Katz of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in 2015, and Dr. Drew Ramsey of Columbia University, New York, in 2016.
In addition to his role with the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center, Patil is a professor of horticultural sciences. He was cited in his award nomination for “devoting his career to understanding the roles of health-promoting factors in plant-based foods and promoting the consumption of fresh, healthful and delicious varieties of fruits and vegetables.”
Patil’s multi-disciplinary research spans all aspects of fruit and vegetable production, from characterization of health-promoting compounds to plant breeding aimed to develop improved varieties. He is also involved in developing post-harvest handling practices that will prevent soil-borne contamination of produce.
During the last 20 years of his career, Patil has worked with diverse stakeholders, including producers, retailers, wholesalers, processors and seed companies.
“Dr. Patil has been an important asset to the Texas produce industry. Through his leadership at the VFIC, he and his team have helped develop safer, healthier and tastier fruits and vegetables. This in turn helps Texas producers succeed in the marketplace as they deliver healthful produce items to our dinner tables,” said Bret Erickson, president of Texas International Produce Association in Mission.
Patil is currently section chair for medicinal and aromatic plants in the International Society for Horticultural Sciences and has served as an international advisory board member for nine professional societies. He has published 170 peer-reviewed journal articles and has given more than 120 invited presentations at land grant institutions, professional societies, commodity groups and other organizations.
Among his awards are the Distinguished Service Award from the American Chemical Society-Division of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the Outstanding Graduate Educator Award from the American Society for Horticultural Sciences and the Outstanding Achievement Research Award from the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Four professional societies have recognized Patil as a Fellow, a title bestowed on those who have made exceptional contributions to research and academia.
Patil also was cited for his mission, which “encompasses education and outreach to colleagues, students, producers and the general public.”
He co-founded an International Symposium on Human Health Effects of Fruits and Vegetables, a global, biennial conference that draws researchers from almost 40 countries to share their latest findings on enhancing the healthy aspects of fruits and vegetables. He also served as chair of the Division of Agriculture and Food Chemistry of the American Chemical Society and chair or co-chair for 25 national and international symposia.
With U.S. Department of Agriculture support, he developed two multi-disciplinary and multi-state first-of-their-kind courses, “Science of Foods for Health” and “Phytochemicals in Fruits and Vegetables to Improve Human Health.”
Patil’s “passion for promoting fruits and vegetables as foods for health and his stakeholder-driven mission to improve agriculture for growers, processors, retailers and consumers has helped to improve the agriculture economy and human health in Texas and around the globe,” according to the award citation.