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Research Staff Awards honor contributions to discovery

Mar. 17, 2016, 9:31 AM

At last week’s Research Staff Awards were, from left, Robert Coffey, M.D., Ramona Graves-Deal, Gayle Johnson, R.N., André Churchwell, M.D., Shanda Phillips, BSN, Lynne Berry, Ph.D., and Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D. (photo by Steve Green)

Laboratory and administrative personnel at Vanderbilt University Medical Center were honored last week for research excellence during the 12th annual Research Staff Awards luncheon at the University Club.

Recipients of the 2015 Research Staff Awards are:

• Lynne Berry, Ph.D., associate director of the Vanderbilt Center for Quantitative Sciences, who received the Award for Excellence in Contributing to Multi-investigator Teams;

• Ramona Graves-Deal, senior research specialist in the laboratory of Robert Coffey, M.D., recipient of the Edward E. Price Jr. Award for Excellence in Basic Research; and

• Gayle Johnson, R.N., and Shanda Phillips, BSN, research projects managers in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, who shared the Vivien Thomas Award for Excellence in Clinical Research.

In his introduction, Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., the Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research and associate vice chancellor for Research, noted that VUMC’s research enterprise has grown over the past decade to over a half-billion dollars a year in federal funding.

“That’s a tribute to our faculty, our students and postdocs, and especially to our staff,” he said. “Without the dedication of research staff, we would not be making discoveries, training future scientists or helping to shape research protocol and public policy.”

Berry, who received her Ph.D. in Cell & Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt, was nominated by Yu Shyr, Ph.D., the Harold L. Moses Professor of Cancer Research and director of the Center for Quantitative Sciences.

Shyr could not attend the event, but in a pre-recorded video said Berry has been “a driving force for the design, development and implementation of Web-based electronic data capture solutions” for research.

Marnett introduced the Price Award, which honors the late Edward E. Price Jr., an internationally known research assistant in the Department of Biochemistry and Cardiovascular Physiology Core. Several members of the Price family attended the luncheon.

Graves-Deal was nominated by Coffey, the Ingram Professor of Cancer Research. “She’s the glue that really holds the lab together,” he said. “I can honestly say that any success that our lab has had is in large part due to Ramona.”

André Churchwell, M.D., holder of the Levi Watkins, Jr., M.D. Chair and senior associate dean for Diversity Affairs at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, introduced the Vivien Thomas Award, named for the pioneering surgical technician who began his career at Vanderbilt in the 1930s.

Johnson and Phillips, both Certified Clinical Research Professionals, were nominated by Buddy Creech, M.D., MPH, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, and the program’s scientific director, Kathryn Edwards, M.D., the Sarah H. Sell and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics.

Creech credited Johnson and Phillips with contributing to the successful renewal of the NIH-funded Vanderbilt Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit in 2013. Since then, “the work they are responsible for has generated nearly $12 million in NIH funding to Vanderbilt,” he said. “We’re incredibly grateful.”

Each recipient was given an award check and crystal trophy.

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