January 17, 2013

Awards honor research staff’s critical role in discovery

Karen Adkins, R.N., Elizabeth Card, R.N., and Frances Smith-House are the recipients of the 2012 Research Staff Awards at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Susan Wente, Ph.D., left, and Kathleen Gould, Ph.D., right, with Research Staff Award winners, from left, Frances Smith-House, Elizabeth Card, R.N., and Karen Adkins, R.N. (photo by Steve Green)

Karen Adkins, R.N., Elizabeth Card, R.N., and Frances Smith-House are the recipients of the 2012 Research Staff Awards at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The awards, which recognize laboratory and administrative staff for research excellence, were announced Jan. 11 during a luncheon at the University Club.

“In research, it takes many individuals in order to answer questions, in order to make discoveries and in order … to have an impact on human health,” Susan Wente, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences, said in her opening remarks.

“And all of our research achievements are built upon a really critical foundation of bright, talented, hardworking and devoted research staff,” Wente said.

Adkins, project manager for Vanderbilt’s NeuroNEXT (Network of Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials) site, was recognized for excellence in Contributing to Multi-investigator Teams.

A certified clinical research coordinator, Adkins oversees Phase II trials in adults and children with neurological disorders, and works with a wide variety of investigators.

“Karen’s major strengths are her perseverance, attention to detail, and ability to get things done in a way that strengthens relationships with others,” wrote Beth Malow, M.D., Vanderbilt NeuroNEXT principal investigator and Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development, in her nomination letter.

“I don’t know what the collaborative sleep studies for children with autism would do without Karen,” added Susan Hyman, M.D., professor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester, who has collaborated with Malow.

Card, lead research nurse coordinator in the Anesthesiology Department’s Perioperative Clinical Research Institute, received the Vivien Thomas Award for Excellence in Clinical Research.

A certified post anesthesia nurse and certified clinical research professional, Card has been “a driving force behind many of our research projects,” Edward Sherwood, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Anesthesiology and vice chair for Research, wrote in his nomination letter.

She has been a leader in the effort to make delirium monitoring the standard of care in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), wrote Pratik Pandharipande, M.D., associate professor of Anesthesiology and Surgery.

“Elizabeth is a leader in the broadest sense of the word, and she is an inspiration for all nurses here at Vanderbilt,” added Tina Tomes, R.N., Holding Room/PACU educator.

Smith-House, research lab manager for James Crowe Jr., M.D., professor of Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, received the Edward E. Price Jr. Award for Excellence in Basic Research.

“Fran is the most accomplished and capable research staff member in the medical center of whom I am aware,” Crowe wrote.

Her technical expertise, for example, contributed greatly to the isolation of immune cells from survivors of the 1918 influenza pandemic, a project that generated “some of the most unique human monoclonal antibodies ever described,” he wrote.

“Whatever it is, she is fearless,” Crowe said at the awards ceremony. “She’ll be the first in the lab to do it. She is still pushing into the newest, hardest things we need to do.”

Research Staff Award recipients are given a crystal trophy and a check for $1,000.