Medical Center Researchers Honored for Excellence

October 9, 2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Wake Forest University School of Medicine honored eight of its researchers with awards for excellence at the 13th Annual Research Awards Day Oct. 1.

The School of Medicine established the Basic and Clinical Sciences Research Awards in May 1996 to recognize research excellence, presenting annual awards to exceptional faculty members in basic and clinical disciplines at three levels: new investigator, mid-career investigator and established investigator.

The New Investigator Award honors researchers who have made significant contributions to scientific literature and who have the potential for outstanding careers as scientists. This year’s honorees were:

Cristina M. Furdui, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Section on Molecular Medicine. Furdui received the “New Investigator in Basic Sciences Award” for her research, which focuses on understanding how the human body reacts to disease, and finding ways to predict how individuals will respond to drugs and other therapies. 

Furdui and colleagues are working to develop biological models of how healthy cells operate and how these cells change during the development of different diseases or during the course of treatment. They hope to be able to compare these models and identify unique biological signatures for individual patients to guide the choice of treatment. 

Furdui is a graduate of Babes-Bolyai University in Romania. She earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she received several awards before continuing her postdoctoral training in mass spectrometry and molecular signaling as a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. Furdui joined the faculty at the School of Medicine in 2006.

Matthew S. Edwards, M.D., M.S., associate professor in the Division of Surgical Sciences and the Department of Public Health Sciences. Edwards received the “New Investigator in Clinical Sciences Award” for his work in renovascular disease research.

Edwards and colleagues are focused in the area of improving clinical outcomes in patients with atherosclerotic renovascular disease and determining what characteristics can help identify patients who will most benefit from surgery and other interventions. They are currently enrolling patients in a study looking at ways to prevent kidney damage during angioplasty and stenting. Edwards has also applied for funding to begin studying the use of innovative MRI technologies to better identify patients likely to benefit from surgery on their kidney arteries.

Edwards earned his medical degree from the University of Virginia and completed his general and vascular surgical training at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. He completed a Master of Science degree in clinical epidemiology and health services research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The Mid-Career Investigator Award goes to researchers who have made a significant contribution to the field, who have developed outstanding research programs, have received a high level of national and international recognition, and who contribute as both mentor and colleague. Recipients of this year’s award were:

Sara R. Jones, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, with a cross appointment in the Neuroscience Program. Jones, who also serves as co-director of graduate studies for the department of physiology and pharmacology, was a co-recipient of the “Mid-Career Investigator in Basic Sciences Award” for her research on drug abuse and addiction.

Jones’ research focuses on brain changes induced by chronic exposure to drugs of abuse, including alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine and methylphenidate (Ritalin). Her lab investigates the long-term adaptations that occur in the brain in response to drug use – changes that may last months to years after the use has stopped, with implications for long-term cognitive and emotional deficits following brief drug abuse periods.

Jones received her Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University Medical Center before joining the Wake Forest faculty in 2000.

Carl D. Langefeld, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biostatistical Sciences, shared the award for “Mid-Career Investigator in Basic Sciences” with Jones. Langefeld serves as section head of Statistical Genetics and Bioinformatics, director of the Center of Public Health Genomics and is a former co-director of the Translational Science Institute’s Biomedical Informatics Program.

Langefeld’s research focuses on developing and using mathematical, statistical and computer science tools to search the human genome to discover the genetic causes of disease and disease complications.  He co-directs the International Consortium on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Genetics and the International Consortium on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Genetics.  He leads the analytic efforts in the search for the genetic causes of a variety of diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, renal disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and cystic fibrosis.

Langefeld was a pre-doctoral trainee in Genome Sciences at the University of Michigan, where he received his Ph.D. in biostatistics. He has earned M.S. degrees in applied statistics from Florida State University as well as in ecology, evolutionary biology and systematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Joseph G. Grzywacz, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and associate director for research in the School of Medicine’s Center for Worker Health. Grzywacz received the “Mid-Career Investigator in Clinical Sciences Award” for his research on work and family, and its implications for individual health and well-being.

Grzywacz has provided expert consultation on the Singapore National Study of Work-Life Harmony, and his expertise has been sought out by premiere employers including IBM and GlaxoSmithKline. He is a standing member of a National Institutes of Health scientific review panel and an editorial board member for three scientific journals.

Grzywacz’s focus is on the health-related implications of everyday work and family life. His research projects study unique work arrangements, such as nonstandard work schedules and migrant farmwork, and it considers outcomes for both adults and children. He has published nearly 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles appearing in top-ranked journals, and his research has been recognized as among the “Best of the Best” in work-family research four times in the past seven years.

The Established Investigator Award honors internationally recognized faculty members who contribute as both mentor and colleague, have established an important research program that has shaped or furthered a field of discipline, and who have contributed significantly to the research environment of the school and the nation. This year’s honorees were:

Thomas D. DuBose, Jr., M.D., Tinsley R. Harrison Professor and Chair of Internal Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, was co-recipient of the “Established Investigator in Basic Sciences Award” for his work investigating acidosis and kidney tubule function.

DuBose earned his medical degree from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and completed his residency training in internal medicine and in nephrology at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Texas. He completed a research fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, accomplished a sabbatical in molecular physiology at the Baylor College of Medicine, in Texas, and began his academic career at the University of Texas Health Science Center, later joining the University of Texas Medical Branch, University of Texas Medical School, in Houston, and the University of Kansas School of Medicine before coming to Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He previously served as president of the American Society of Nephrology, and as chairman of the American Heart Association’s Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease. DuBose holds membership in numerous professional societies and is an author of more than 140 published papers and chapters in textbooks. He is co-editor of the textbook “Acid-Base and Electrolyte Disorders.”

Current work in DuBose’s laboratory focuses on discovery of how slight decreases in blood pH activate transporters in the kidney to prevent acidosis. These transporters in the kidney, when abnormal or impaired, cause the disease renal tubular acidosis. This disorder causes chronic metabolic acidosis, which in adults causes bone and muscle disease, hypokalemia and progressive kidney disease. In children, it causes abnormalities in growth.  

Douglas Lyles, Ph.D., professor and chair of biochemistry, director of the Cell Growth and Survival Program of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, and former co-director of the Translational Technologies and Resources Program of the Translational Science Institute. Lyles shared the award for “Established Investigator in Basic Sciences” with DuBose. His work focuses on viruses and how they develop and kill cells.

Lyles has two active research programs that have led to translational projects on the development of novel vaccines and the development of novel viruses for the treatment of cancer. He and his colleagues are also currently working on the development of a vaccine against HIV/AIDS, based on the findings of their previous research.

Lyles received his degree in biochemistry from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and was a postdoctoral fellow in the virology laboratory at Rockefeller University until 1978, when he joined the faculty of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University as an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology and rose through the ranks to his current position. Lyles has served on numerous study sections and grant review panels, most recently serving as chair of the Virology B Study Section from 2006 to 2008. Lyles also serves as an editor for the Journal of Virology.

Deborah A. Meyers, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Co-Director of the Center for Human Genomics. Meyers received the “Established Investigator in Clinical Sciences Award” for her work in the genetics of common respiratory diseases.

Meyers is a founding member of the International Society for Genetic Epidemiology. She has had extensive experience with family studies and case-control studies of common diseases, such as asthma, allergy and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), aimed at finding genetic changes that make some individuals more susceptible to developing these diseases than others. She has been involved in genetic studies of asthma and allergy for many years, resulting in the identification of multiple genes important in disease susceptibility, disease severity and response to treatment. She currently has ongoing studies looking into asthma and related measures of lung function and different aspects of obstructive airways diseases, such as smoking related COPD.

Meyers has authored or co-authored more than 270 scientific manuscripts, reviews and book chapters, is a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and is associate editor for Human Genetics and the European Respiratory Journal.


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