Powers receives prestigious Veterans Affairs Middleton AwardNov. 6, 2023, 3:53 PM
By Jill Clendening
Alvin C. Powers, MD, Joe C. Davis Professor of Biomedical Science and professor of Medicine, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, has received the 2023 William S. Middleton Award, the highest honor awarded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development Service.
The annual award is given to senior VA biomedical research scientists in recognition of outstanding scientific contributions and achievements in biomedical research relevant to the health care of veterans. Middleton Award recipients have achieved international acclaim for research accomplishments in areas of prime importance to VA’s research mission.
Powers is chief of the Vanderbilt Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He is director of the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center (VDC) and director of the National Institutes of Health-funded Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center (DRTC). The DRTC is an interdisciplinary program that includes more than 140 faculty from 15 departments and three colleges or schools at Vanderbilt and Meharry Medical College who conduct basic, clinical and translational research on the cause, prevention, treatment and complications of diabetes and obesity.
“We are so pleased that Dr. Powers has received this prestigious and well-deserved recognition from Veterans Affairs for his decades of work devoted to building a better understanding of chronic metabolic disease,” said Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, the Hugh Jackson Morgan Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine. “His groundbreaking research on the pancreatic islet and how islet dysfunction contributes to diabetes has transformed our understanding of diabetes and has no doubt brought us closer to a cure for our veterans and for all.”
Powers’ research on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes focuses on the function and dysfunction of pancreatic islets and has emphasized translating discoveries into human islets and human diabetes. By studying the human pancreas and islets from organ donors with diabetes, Powers and his research colleagues defined distinct molecular alterations in different forms of human diabetes, including Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, a form of monogenic diabetes and post-transplant diabetes. In addition to VA support, his research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the JDRF, the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
“This award is incredibly meaningful to me and a great honor,” said Powers. “Research sponsored by VA is very important in improving the health care we deliver to Veterans,” Powers said. “I am honored to be both a VA physician and a VA researcher. VA research and patient care are synergistic.”
“This award also recognizes the work of my colleagues with whom I have had the privilege of working,” he said.
In 1991, Powers joined the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System as a research associate and in 1995 became a staff physician for the system. He subsequently served as chief of the Endocrinology and Diabetes Section from 2000-2005. He has held continuous VA Merit Review grant funding since 1993 with his current grant focused on islet alterations in Type 2 diabetes. Powers was named a senior clinical scientist investigator by the VA Office of Research and Development (ORD) in 2020.
The Middleton Award was established in 1960 to honor William S. Middleton, MD, distinguished educator, physician-scientist and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) chief medical director from 1955 to 1963.