May 29, 2014

Faculty meeting highlights VUSM achievements

Despite a challenging health care landscape, Vanderbilt University Medical Center continues to advance the highest-quality patient care, train the next generation of physician leaders and push forward the frontiers of biomedical science.

Despite a challenging health care landscape, Vanderbilt University Medical Center continues to advance the highest-quality patient care, train the next generation of physician leaders and push forward the frontiers of biomedical science.

That was the message delivered by Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, Wednesday at the Spring Faculty Meeting.

A highlight of the meeting was the presentation of the 2014 VUMC Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Outstanding Contributions to Research. Award recipients, who are listed below, were nominated by their faculty colleagues and chosen by the 2014 Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards Selection Committees.

Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., far right, congratulates the winners of the 2014 VUMC Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Outstanding Contributions to Research. From left are Carlos Arteaga, M.D., Ann Richmond, Ph.D., Matthew Tyska, Ph.D., Bernard Rousseau, Ph.D., Harold Thompson, M.D., and Katherine Thompson Murray, M.D. Not pictured: Scott Hiebert, Ph.D., and Eric Skaar, Ph.D., MPH. (photo by Joe Howell)

Excellence in Teaching

• Robert D. Collins Award for Teaching Medical or Graduate Students or Practicing Physicians in the Lecture Setting — Katherine Thompson Murray, M.D., professor of Medicine and Pharmacology

Murray received her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology and M.D. degree from Duke University. After residency training in Medicine at Vanderbilt, she undertook fellowship training in Clinical Pharmacology at Vanderbilt, and Cardiovascular Medicine and Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology at Duke, with additional training in basic electrophysiologic techniques in the Stahlman Cardiovascular Research Program at Vanderbilt.

Murray was appointed assistant professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt in 1989, and was promoted to professor in 2012. In addition to her reputation as an educator, she is a highly respected arrhythmia clinician and researcher whose basic research program focuses on improving our knowledge of normal and abnormal cardiac electrophysiology, with an overarching goal to develop improved therapies for cardiac arrhythmias.

Murray’s commitment to medical and graduate education is legendary. From 1990 to 2008, she taught a comprehensive section on antiarrhythmic drugs to medical students in the second-year Medical Pharmacology course. She was a lead architect of the second-year course on Disease, Diagnosis and Therapeutics and served as course co-director from 2006 to 2013.

She also helped develop and is co-director of the Homeostasis Block for the first-year Foundations of Medical Knowledge course in the medical school’s recently implemented Curriculum 2.0. For more than a decade she has also taught antiarrhythmic drug action and mechanisms to Pharmacology graduate students in two courses, Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Targets, Systems and Drug Action.

Murray is described by colleagues and former students as a superb teacher with strong communication skills, exceptional mastery of her subjects and a willingness to utilize creative approaches, including in-class patient interviews, to connect with both medical and graduate students. She always makes time to meet with graduate students to review material and reinforce key concepts. She has consistently received high marks from students and twice received the Clinical Pharmacology Faculty Teaching Award.

• Elaine Sanders-Bush Award for Mentoring Graduate and/or Medical Students in the Research SettingBernard Rousseau, Ph.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology, Hearing & Speech Sciences and Mechanical Engineering

Rousseau earned his Bachelor and Master’s degrees from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and his Ph.D. in Communicative Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing a clinical fellowship in Speech-Language Pathology in the Vanderbilt Voice Center, he joined the Vanderbilt faculty as an assistant professor of Otolaryngology in 2005 and was promoted to associate professor in 2013.

A recipient of the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Language Pathology from the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Rousseau has served as a speech-language pathologist in the Vanderbilt Voice Center since 2004. He is director of the Laryngeal Biology Laboratory in the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, co-director of the Voice Specialty Track for graduate studies in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, an affiliate faculty member of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, and a research investigator in the Center for Matrix Biology.

His research program focuses on the molecular pathophysiology of acute phonotrauma and outcome studies related to the assessment and management of benign vocal fold disease. He has been involved in the formation of a novel, interdisciplinary research program called Modulation Of Disease Environments Laboratory by Engineering Nano Therapeutics (MODEL ENT), which involves the Schools of Medicine and Engineering and the College of Arts and Science. Equally important is education, both in the lab and classroom setting. He has mentored more than 40 research trainees, including pre- and postdoctoral research fellows, residents, medical students, graduate students and undergraduates. Several have gone on to become leaders in academic medicine.

Rousseau is principal investigator of several competitive research awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 2013, he became one of only nine non-physician scientists to be elected a fellow of the American Laryngological Association for distinguished contributions to the field of laryngology through research, patient care and teaching.

• Jacek Hawiger Award for Teaching Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows in the Classroom, Lecture or Small Group SettingScott Hiebert, Ph.D., Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and professor of Biochemistry

Hiebert earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology from Northwestern University. After completing post-doctoral studies at Duke University as an American Cancer Society Fellow and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Research Associate, he joined the Department of Tumor Cell Biology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. He came to Vanderbilt as associate professor of Biochemistry in 1997, and was promoted to professor in 1999.

Hiebert’s research focuses on mechanisms of malignancy and how to use biochemistry and molecular genetics to attack cancer at its roots. He is known internationally for his research on the mechanistic basis of acute myeloid leukemia and has contributed to more than 100 scientific publications. He and colleagues in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) are working to uncover the molecular basis for leukemia development while testing potential new therapies for leukemia and other blood-related cancers. Earlier this year he won a Medical Research Advancement Award from the T.J Martell Foundation, which supports research and outreach efforts for patients with leukemia, cancer and AIDS.

Hiebert has made a major commitment to training young scientists. He coordinates and is a full-time instructor for the flagship course for Biochemistry graduate students, Advanced Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Genetics, and also lectures on cancer biology and biochemistry. He mentors graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, several of whom have gone on to careers in academia and industry. He has served as leader of the VICC Signal Transduction and Cell Proliferation Program, and currently is the cancer center’s associate director for Basic Research and Shared Resources. Part of the latter role involves the development of cancer education programs and the integration of cancer-related activities throughout the university.

• R. Michael Rodriguez Award for Teaching Medical Students, Residents and/or Fellows in the Clinical Setting — Harold Thompson, M.D., professor of Clinical Radiology

Thompson earned his Bachelor of Science degree from South Carolina State College, now South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, and his M.D. degree from Howard University. After completing his residency at Howard University Hospital, he served on the faculties of Howard University and Meharry Medical College, where he chaired the Department of Radiology and was Senior Associate Dean. He was also Chief of Radiology, president of the medical staff, and education coordinator for the Vanderbilt Radiology Residency Program at Metropolitan Nashville General Hospital.

Thompson has held joint faculty positions at Meharry and Vanderbilt for more than a decade. He is chief of Medical Imaging for the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which includes two acute care hospitals, in Nashville and Murfreesboro, as well as nine outpatient clinics. Thompson also is part of the radiology team at the Vanderbilt Breast Center.

In part because of what one resident described as his “astounding” knowledge of radiology and anatomy, Thompson is one of the most highly regarded teachers of medical imaging at Vanderbilt. He has received outstanding teacher awards at Howard, Meharry and from the senior radiology residents at Vanderbilt, and in 2013 was named the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences Teacher of the Year.

His passion and enthusiasm for teaching have been described as “infectious.” He brings out the best in his students by challenging them “with affirmation” and with a Socratic teaching approach that encourages them to develop their own problem-solving skills and gain deeper understanding on their own. He also is humble enough to appreciate that he can learn from his students – yet another way that he inspires and leads by example. Another colleague described his generous, compassionate and collegial demeanor as a model of professionalism – for both residents and fellow faculty members alike.

Outstanding Contributions to Research

• Stanley Cohen Award for Research Bridging Diverse Disciplines, such as Chemistry or Physics, to Solve Biology’s Most Important Fundamental Questions — Eric Skaar, Ph.D., MPH, Ernest W. Goodpasture Professor of Pathology

Skaar earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis and Master’s Degree in Public Health in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Northwestern University. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in Microbiology at the University of Chicago, Skaar joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2005 as an assistant professor, and was named to the endowed Ernest W. Goodpasture Chair in Pathology in 2012. He also is director of the Program in Microbial Pathogenesis and of the Division of Host-Pathogen Interactions, both in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology.

During the past nine years, Skaar has brought a diverse array of methodologies to his investigations of microbial pathogenesis and the body’s response to infection. In a landmark paper published in Science in 2008, he and his colleagues showed that calprotectin, a white blood cell protein, can inhibit the growth of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus by chelating or binding zinc and manganese required for bacterial growth. This report led in 2012 to the development of calprotectin as a marker for visualizing the inflammatory response to bacterial infection in whole animals. By integrating imaging mass spectrometry and magnetic resonance imaging, Skaar and his colleagues have been able to construct an unparalleled, three-dimensional view of the host-microbe interaction.

They also have documented the role of calprotectin in inhibiting Acinetobacter baumannii pneumonia, a hospital-acquired infection that is resistant to common antibiotics, and determined the structure of calprotectin bound to manganese, a finding that could lead to the development of new, broad-spectrum antibiotics which augment host-mediated nutritional immunity. Last year, Skaar and his colleagues also reported that a small molecule activator of heme synthesis is toxic to the fermentative growth of S. aureus, yet another potential approach to dealing with this highly virulent infection.

• John H. Exton Award for Research Leading to Innovative Biological ConceptsMatthew Tyska, Ph.D., associate professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

Tyska earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at the University of Notre Dame, and his Ph.D. in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Vermont. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, he joined the Vanderbilt faculty as an assistant professor of Cell and Developmental Biology in 2004 and was promoted to associate professor, with tenure, in 2010. He also is director of Graduate Studies for the department.

Tyska’s research has focused on the “brush border,” an array of subcellular protrusions known as microvilli that extend from the surface of polarized epithelial cells. In the intestine, the brush border serves as the sole site of nutrient absorption and a barrier to microorganisms living in the lumen.

Tyska and his colleagues have applied a unique combination of biophysical, biochemical and cell biological approaches to study how the brush border is assembled and how microvilli function in maintaining intestinal homeostasis. Early investigations led to the discovery that the microvilli generate and shed vesicles containing enzymes that can detoxify bacterial toxins, prevent bacteria from attaching to epithelial cells, limit bacterial growth and modulate epithelial-microbial interactions.

His lab’s use of super-resolution imaging to elucidate the mechanism of brush border assembly has been described by colleagues as nothing less than “paradigm-shifting.” Tyska’s long-term goal is to determine molecules and pathways that may be perturbed in gastrointestinal disorders characterized by the loss of the brush border, including celiac disease, and to develop new treatments for them. His work also has relevance for understanding other disorders as diverse as sensorineural hearing loss and retinitis pigmentosa.

Tyska also played a key role in obtaining an NIH grant last year to acquire two “super-resolution” optical microscopes that have helped put Vanderbilt on the cutting edge of cellular imaging.

• Grant W. Liddle Award for Outstanding Contributions in Clinical Research — Carlos Arteaga, M.D., Donna S. Hall Professor of Breast Cancer Research and professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology

Arteaga earned his M.D. at the Universidad de Guayaquil in Ecuador. He trained in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology at Emory University and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, respectively. In 1989, he joined the Vanderbilt faculty and was promoted to professor in 1998. In the VICC, he serves as associate director for Clinical Research, director of the Breast Cancer Research Program, director of the VICC Research Network and founding director of the Center for Cancer Targeted Therapies.

Arteaga is a world-renowned authority on growth factor signaling in breast cancer. His translational research has helped provide the rationale for several new targeted cancer therapies. Early in his career, Arteaga was the first to identify the roles of IGF-1 receptors and TGF-beta in breast cancer progression and their use as therapeutic targets.

His research also has helped define the role of signaling by ErbB receptors in human cancer, and he has been involved in seminal clinical trials of the HER2 antibody trastuzumab in combination with chemotherapy and with EGFR inhibitors. He is a principal investigator in the Stand Up To Cancer “Dream Team” focused on targeting the PI3K kinase pathway in women’s cancers. More recently he has focused on presurgical and neoadjuvant therapies to discover molecular biomarkers of drug action and resistance, which could aid patient selection in clinical trials and accelerate drug development.

Since 2002, Arteaga has directed VICC’s Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Breast Cancer, where he co-leads several investigator-initiated clinical trials. He has built the VICC Breast Cancer Research Program into a nationally-recognized, multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary effort involving experts from the Schools of Medicine and Nursing and Meharry.

He has won many honors for his research, and will serve this year as president of the American Association for Cancer Research, the world’s largest cancer research organization.

• Charles R. Park Award for Basic Research Revealing Insights into Physiology and Pathophysiology Ann Richmond, Ph.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and professor of Cancer Biology and Medicine

Richmond received her Bachelor of Science degree from Northeast Louisiana University, her Master of Natural Sciences degree from Louisiana State University and her Ph.D. in Developmental Biology at Emory University. She conducted postdoctoral research in Tumor Biology at Emory, and then joined the faculty there, rising to associate professor of Medicine before moving to Vanderbilt in 1989 as tenured associate professor of Cell Biology and Medicine and as a research career scientist at the VA Nashville campus. She was promoted to professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and of Medicine in 1995, and in 2000 she was appointed professor and vice chair of the Department of Cancer Biology.

Richmond is internationally known for her research on chemokines, small “chemotactic” proteins that attract inflammatory cells. She was the first to demonstrate that a chemokine can regulate tumor growth. Early research involved purification and sequencing of one of the first known chemokines, CXCL1. Her lab contributed significantly to characterizing the role of its receptor, CXCR2, in leukocyte trafficking, inflammation, angiogenesis, wound healing and tumor progression. She and her colleagues helped elucidate the role that inhibition of kappa-beta kinaseβ (IKKβ), an activator of the transcription factor NF-kB, plays in chemokine expression and melanoma cell survival, suggesting that IKKβ may be a potential target for melanoma therapy.

Richmond’s body of work has shed light on how the inflammatory process, combined with other genetic and environmental factors, contributes to tumor progression and metastasis. A goal of her research is advancing “personalized cancer therapy,” determining which genes are mutated or amplified in individual tumors and delivering drugs that specifically inhibit their activity. Antagonizing chemokine receptors may provide new therapeutic options. Richmond and her colleagues also are working to learn more about the effects of therapy on the tumor microenvironment, including the development of drug resistance.