Research Achievements – Hitting the Ball Out of the Park

It is the summer, the baseball season is in full swing, and as such I believe that a baseball metaphor is an apt description of our Department’s performance in research. Over the last two years, the Department of Internal Medicine has increased its National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding by more than $10 million, with the majority of this growth occurring in the last year. This impressive growth represents countless hours of quiet experimentation, creative thinking, the forging of new partnerships, and dogged tenacity in submitting new and revised grant applications. For those of you who follow financial investments, you often hear that past performance does not guarantee future results. However, I believe that our current research trajectory is one that is sustainable. The Department will continue its focus on improving research support infrastructure for all our faculty and to advocate for sustained institutional and philanthropic support to advance our ambitious research agenda. I am cognizant that this increase represents many years of investment in training, mentoring, learning from mistakes, and planning for the future. As we celebrate these achievements we should not be tempted to rest on our laurels, but to strategize to ensure a stronger and even more sustainable future. For now, please accept my congratulations and my gratitude for your exemplary teamwork and diligence in the pursuit of these extramural grant awards.

The NIH is not the only source of research funding that fuels our work. For example, we have seen a 20 percent increase since last year in funding obtained from the Veterans Administration. I applaud our faculty’s creativity and ability to leverage diverse funding sources as we compete for extramural support. I want to make a special mention of the TelePrEP program, which though only recently instituted, has experienced a dramatic growth over the last year. It is an elegant solution to a significant health-care need that uses technology in a way that meets people where they are, quite literally, by providing an at-risk population with proven-effective, preventive therapy. What is especially noteworthy is that many participants in this program that spans our entire state from urban centers to rural districts are being connected now to primary care physicians, receiving additional health screenings and getting other undiagnosed STIs addressed. It is small wonder that Dr. Michael Ohl and his colleagues Angie Hoth and Dena Dillon from the College of Pharmacy were recently awarded a $2M grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue and broaden this important work and that local news channel KCRG-TV also prominently featured their work. Congratulations!

The American Heart Association (AHA) has also proved to be a large supporter of Internal Medicine research over the decades, and certainly during these last few months. Ten members of our department recently received funding from the AHA. Four of these grants are Innovative Project Awards (IPAs), relatively short-term awards that will allow our investigators to pursue new questions or examine existing questions from new perspectives. These IPAs have been awarded to Drs. Sanjana Dayal, Isabella Grumbach, and Bill Thiel, who also recently received an NIH R01. The fourth IPA, we just learned this week, will go to Dr. Robert Weiss. A fifth AHA grant this cycle, a Transformational Project Award, has been awarded to Dr. Long-Sheng Song. Drs. Modar Kassan and Ajit Vikram received Career Development Awards from the AHA. MSTP student Alex Greiner, received an AHA predoctoral fellowship, and Drs. Prakash Doddapatar and Ofonime Udofot each received AHA postdoctoral fellowships. Congratulations to each of you as you continue to push the envelope toward innovative new discoveries.

PSTP_8-2-18Finally, I would like to offer my thanks to Dr. Joel Kline for his nearly 12 years of service as the Director of the Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP) in the Carver College of Medicine. Anyone would acknowledge that the future of health care relies on incredible and compassionate clinicians. Doctors healing patients. But the future of medicine also relies on what happens in the lab and in other research settings. For almost two decades, the PSTP at Iowa has provided graduating medical students with a clear pathway through residency and into fellowship, allowing them time, mentorship, and guidance to focus on discovery, while ensuring they meet their clinical skills-training milestones. The program has successfully identified scientific mentors across multiple disciplines to provide our future cadre of physician scientists with strong experiences that will increase their chances of long-term career success and academic advancement. Our Department has benefited greatly from this program, and the PSTP has provided an important pipeline for faculty recruitment. Those who come to know Iowa, come to love Iowa, and tend to stay at Iowa. As an institution, the PSTP represents a smart investment that provides a strong return. I have the utmost confidence that under its new Director, Dr. David Stoltz, the PSTP will build on Dr. Kline’s work and the program will continue to shine as one of the College’s brightest jewels.

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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