January 30, 2024

Four physician-scientists from VUMC receive national early-career awards

Four Vanderbilt physician-scientists have received awards from the American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Margaret Salisbury, MD, MS, a leader in the study and treatment of interstitial lung diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has received a Young Physician-Scientist Award from the Council of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) for “notable achievements” in research.

Additionally, three pre-faculty fellows and instructors who are involved in “immersive research” at VUMC are among this year’s recipients of the ASCI Emerging Generation Award, recognizing their potential as physician-scientists, the organization has announced. They are:

  • Daniel Cook, MD, PhD, instructor in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, whose research involves development and testing of new therapies for modifying allergic and inflammatory lung diseases, including cystic fibrosis.
  • Debra Dixon, MD, MS, instructor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, who is investigating the drivers of disparities and inequities in heart failure incidence, care and outcomes in historically marginalized populations.
  • Kevin Seitz, MD, MSc, a postdoctoral research fellow in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, who is designing pragmatic randomized trials of complex interventions in the intensive care unit (ICU) with the goal of improving patient care.

“I congratulate this group of outstanding physician scientists,” said Jane Freedman, MD, the Gladys Parkinson Stahlman Professor of Cardiovascular Research, and interim chair of the Department of Medicine.

“These four early-career investigators represent the highest achievement and commitment to research and academic pursuits that are required to receive these prestigious awards,” Freedman said.

“The exceptional physician-scientists being honored with these prestigious awards have set an incredibly high bar,” added Christopher Williams, MD, PhD, professor of Medicine, associate dean for Physician Scientist Education and Training, and ASCI Institutional Representative.

“These awards serve as a testament to the immense value of their work, not only on a national scale but to the entire scientific community,” Williams said. “It is clear that their careers are on an accelerated path, and their contributions are truly laudable.”

As one of the nation’s oldest and most respected medical honor societies, the ASCI supports the unique role of physician-scientists in advancing research, clinical care and medical education.

Since 2014, 23 VUMC faculty members have been honored with the ASCI Young Physician-Scientist Award, and seven pre-faculty physician-scientists from VUMC are among the recipients of the Emerging-Generation Award, now in its third year.

This year’s awardees will be recognized in April during the society’s joint annual meeting with the Association of American Physicians, and American Physician Scientists Association.

Margaret Salisbury, MD

Salisbury, an assistant professor in the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary, and Critical Care Medicine, is a cum laude graduate of the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

She completed clinical and research fellowships in pulmonary and critical care medicine and earned a master’s degree in clinical research design at the University of Michigan before joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 2019.

Her clinical experience in caring for patients with interstitial lung diseases inspired her research, which aims to understand the natural history of and risk factors for pulmonary fibrosis, with a long-term goal to develop novel therapies and preventive interventions for this devastating disease.

Salisbury directs the Familial Pulmonary Fibrosis Registry and clinical aspects of VUMC’s Familial Pulmonary Fibrosis Program, participates in numerous clinical trials testing new therapies for the disease, and has had research papers published in top pulmonary journals.

Widely recognized as a leader in understanding the role of environmental exposures in the development of pulmonary fibrosis and other interstitial lung diseases, Salisbury has served as a member of several international guideline committees and is a sought-after speaker at national and international meetings.

Daniel Cook, MD, PhD
Daniel Cook, MD, PhD

Cook earned his MD and PhD at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, where he began studying cystic fibrosis. He came to VUMC for residency training in Internal Medicine through the Physician Scientist Training Pathway, and recently completed a clinical fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

A recipient of the LeRoy Matthews Physician-Scientist Award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Cook has a particular interest in understanding inflammation within the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis. His long-term goal is to translate basic science discoveries into meaningful clinical outcomes for patients.

Debra Dixon, MD, MS
Debra Dixon, MD, MS

Dixon earned her MD and Master of Science degree in Clinical Research at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. She completed an Internal Medicine Residency and a Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship at VUMC through the Harrison Society Physician Scientist Training Pathway.

In 2022 she received an American College of Cardiology/Association of Black Cardiologists Bristol Myer Squibb Research Fellowship Award. A goal of her research is to mitigate disparities in heart failure through the design and implementation of interventions that address barriers to equitable care.

Kevin Seitz, MD, MSc
Kevin Seitz, MD, MSc

Seitz earned his MD and a Master of Science degree in Clinical Research from Emory University. He completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Washington, and chief residency in quality and safety at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he developed an interest in working in the ICU.

Upon arriving at VUMC, Seitz joined three faculty researchers, Todd Rice, MD, Matthew Semler, MD, MSc, and Jonathan Casey, MD, who are developing pragmatic methods for conducting rigorous, prospective, randomized trials that can efficiently answer important research questions, and which potentially may improve care for millions of critically ill adults each year.