Research Drives Many of Our Missions

The Department continues to push the envelope in terms of research innovation and our successes in obtaining extramural funding. Year-to-date (through the end of March), our total research awards have increased by 16% or $5.2M above last year; 62% of this increase represents federal grant support. I continue to be impressed by the tempo of grant submissions and awards. I cannot comment here on every recent award but will choose to focus on a few examples that highlight the effort of junior faculty, that represent interdepartmental collaborations, and that support research training as we continue to build our bench.


Dr. Prajwal Gurung has had a long-standing interest in the role of cytokines in gut and mucosal immunity. More recently, in an effort to understand mechanisms for the immune system changes that he studies, he asked the question of whether those changes could be passed on to the next generation. A pilot grant from the College of Public Health will allow him to pull on that thread. It is a fascinating question and I am eager to see what he learns. I believe that some of our most innovative ideas come from collaborations established outside of our primary fields of expertise. For example, Dr. Jeff Meier in Infectious Diseases and Dr. David Price in Biochemistry combined their unique talents to develop a never-before-used process to map the transcription mechanism within a virus. Their recently funded R21 grant should generate additional support for this approach that we hope will lead to larger awards in the future. Multiple collaborations, but particularly one between the Nephrology Division and the Center for Hypertension, undoubtedly contributed to the renewal of the T32 training grant in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension. This training grant that now funds three fellowship training positions has been renewed five times. I believe the only other T32 grants in the Department with longer lifespans are the training grant administered by the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Abboud Cardiovascular Research Center, which began its fifth decade a couple years ago, and the one that has funded the Multidisciplinary Lung Research Career Development Program for more than 30 years. The durability of these programs speaks well not only of our traditions of academic excellence but also indicates that longevity does not necessarily imply stagnation, an example of the synergy between experience and innovation.

collaborationThe Department is strongly committed to expanding our research portfolio. One strategy to do this is for us to form teams that will increase our competitiveness for large-program project and center grants. The Department already houses a number of such awards, but many impressive opportunities remain on the table. As such, we hope that many of you were able to attend the presentation offered by members of the Division of Sponsored Programs earlier this week that discussed additional funding mechanisms available at the NIH that transcend the traditional individual R01 grants. To encourage greater collaborations within the Department, we also instituted a monthly Internal Medicine Research Seminar Series, now at a new time and location. The next presentations will be by Drs. Chou-Long Huang and Robert Blount from the Nephrology and Pulmonary Divisions, respectively. I hope to see you there on May 15 from 1 to 2 pm in the Bean Conference Room (SE301 GH).

Rigorous research not only advances scholarship, but plays an important role in clinical operations, patient quality, and safety. This interface is exemplified by Dr. Jorge Salinas, who joined the Division of Infectious Diseases less than a year ago, succeeding Dr. Loreen Herwaldt as hospital epidemiologist. In his previous role in the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Salinas responded to outbreaks around the world of yellow fever and the Zika virus and evaluated Kenya’s response to tuberculosis. His experience investigating and adapting to rapidly changing landscapes of disease outbreaks directly benefited our institution during the most recent flu season. Dr. Salinas and his colleagues are assessing the effectiveness of the various measures taken last winter before and during what was a severe flu season; they have already reached some early conclusions that will better position us to adapt to the next epidemic.

Finally, I want to offer my congratulations to Dr. Nicole Nisly. Her recent receipt of the 2018 Michael J. Brody Award for Faculty Excellence in Service is confirmation of a greatness we all regularly witness. Her list of accomplishments is long, and every project she begins has the same underlying goal of breaking down barriers to care for as many people as possible. Her courage and boldness to do what has not been done before springs from a very simple belief that every human, regardless of their identity, deserves access to health care that is free of prejudice. She continues to teach us by example how to be better doctors and better people. Congratulations, Nicole. You are an inspiration to many of us.


About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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