February 1, 2018

Research Staff Awards honor lab, administrative excellence

Laboratory and administrative personnel at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine were honored last week for research excellence during the 14th annual Research Staff Awards luncheon at the University Club.

Presenters and award winners at last week’s Research Staff Awards included, from left, Lawrence Marnett, PhD, Deborah Myers, CCRP, Buddy Creech, MD, MPH, Rob Taylor, Paul Harris, PhD, Lisa Rogers, David Aronoff, MD, and Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Laboratory and administrative personnel at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine were honored last week for research excellence during the 14th annual Research Staff Awards luncheon at the University Club.

Recipients of the 2017 Research Staff Awards are:

  • Robert “Rob” Taylor, senior developer and REDCap team leader in the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR), who received the Award for Excellence in Research Contributing to Multi-investigator Teams;
  • Lisa Rogers, senior research specialist in the Division of Infectious Diseases and manager of the lab of David Aronoff, MD, recipient of the Edward E. Price Jr., Award for Excellence in Basic Research; and
  • Deborah Myers, CCRP, clinical trials manager in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, who received the Vivien A. Thomas Award for Excellence in Clinical Research.

In her opening remarks, Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Executive Vice President for Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, noted that Vanderbilt’s research enterprise has grown tremendously over the past decade and currently ranks eighth in the country in its portfolio of federally funded research.

“But making discoveries requires a team,” said Pietenpol, who also holds the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development and is the Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology, professor of Biochemistry and professor of Otolaryngology.

“Without the dedication and service of research staff like these honorees, we would not be making discoveries, training future scientists, continuing to achieve remarkable grant funding or blazing trails through research. Some of the research done here is actually changing the practice of medicine,” she said.

In introducing the first award, VICTR Director Gordon Bernard, MD, Executive Vice President for Research and senior associate dean for Clinical Sciences, noted that the emphasis on collaborative, interdisciplinary and multi-investigator research is growing.

“These large and complex teams present new challenges to members of the research team and require some pretty unique management skills,” said Bernard, who is the Melinda Owen Bass Professor of Medicine.

Vanderbilt is a world leader in multi-investigator research through such innovations as REDCap, or Research Electronic Data Capture, a Web-based research data management platform devised by Paul Harris, PhD, professor of Biomedical Informatics and Biomedical Engineering.

Since the REDCap consortium was officially launched in 2016, more than 2,700 institutions and 647,000 users in 117 countries have adopted REDCap and nearly 5,000 research studies utilizing the research tool have been published. “REDCap has transformed research across the world,” Harris said.

Harris credited Taylor with much of REDCap’s success. “Rob is a rock star,” he said. At conferences, “people pull him aside to get their pictures taken with him.”

Lawrence Marnett, PhD, dean of Basic Sciences and University Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, introduced Rogers’ award, named for 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.

Rogers came to Vanderbilt four years ago with Aronoff, whose lab she had managed at the University of Michigan.

“She’s fantastic,” said Aronoff, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Addison B. Scoville Jr. Professor of Medicine and professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology.

Aronoff noted that Rogers also contributes to research and has co-authored several scientific publications. “She is a rare breed,” he said.

Pietenpol introduced Myers’ award, named for the late Vivien A. Thomas, the pioneering surgical technician who began his career at Vanderbilt in the 1930s.

Myers, a Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP), was introduced by C. Buddy Creech, MD, MPH, Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program director and associate professor of Pediatrics.

“Deborah has this laser-sharp ability to say what’s needed when it’s needed,” Creech said. “Her knowledge of regulatory affairs is phenomenal. She makes me better. I’m so grateful to have her as a partner.”

Each recipient was given an award check and crystal trophy.