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Doris Duke Foundation lauds Van Driest’s research

Jul. 27, 2017, 8:37 AM

Sara Van Driest, M.D., Ph.D., who is developing methods for precision dosing of pediatric medications at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), has received a 2017 Clinical Scientist Development Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Sara Van Driest, M.D., Ph.D.

Van Driest, assistant professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Vanderbilt, is one of 17 junior physician scientists chosen this year from among 196 applicants to receive the award, which provides $495,000 in research support over three years to support their transition to independent clinical research.

Van Driest is the fourth current physician-scientist at VUMC to receive a Clinical Scientist Development Award from the New York-based foundation.

She said her grant is focused on using electronic health records data and leftover clinical specimens to understand the variability in response to the pain medicine fentanyl among pediatric patients. “We will use the methods we are developing to study other drugs and populations in the future,” she said.

“We are continually impressed by the high caliber of the Clinical Scientist Development Awardees, their research and the potential of that research to improve their patients’ lives,” said Betsy Myers, Ph.D., program director for medical research at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, in a news release.

Van Driest received her M.D. degree and Ph.D. in Molecular Pharmacology from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, in 2006.

After completing residency training in Pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where she also served as chief resident, Van Driest was named the Jason D. Morrow Clinical Pharmacology Chief Fellow at Vanderbilt for 2011. She joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2012 in the Division of General Pediatrics.

The author of 40 scientific publications, Van Driest is also a member of the Vanderbilt Center for Precision Medicine and the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute.

Her research has focused on the use of large data sources such as electronic health records and DNA sequences to predict and improve children’s response to medication. The project supported by the foundation is entitled “new approaches to precision dosing for special populations.”

Since 1998, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded 288 Clinical Scientist Development Awards totaling more than $128 million to physician scientists between one and five years into their first faculty appointments and transitioning to an independent research career.

Previous award winners currently on the Vanderbilt faculty are Michael Cooper, M.D., (2006), associate professor of Neurology; Kevin Ess, M.D., Ph.D., (2009), the Gerald M. Fenichel Professor of Neurology; and Cyndya Shibao, M.D., MSCI, (2014), assistant professor of Medicine.

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