June 6, 2024

Stokes, Austin, Rosas-Salazar honored by the American Thoracic Society

The mission of the ATS is to promote the respiratory health of children and adolescents and to improve the care of children with respiratory disease through research, education, patient care and advocacy.

The American Thoracic Society (ATS) recently honored three Vanderbilt Department of Pediatrics faculty at the International Conference of the American Thoracic Society, held May 19-22.

The three physicians, all members of the Division of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonary Medicine, are: Dennis Stokes, MD, MPH, professor of Pediatrics; Eric Austin, MD, MSCI, associate professor of Pediatrics and director of the Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt; and Christian Rosas-Salazar, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Pediatrics.

The mission of the ATS Assembly on Pediatrics is to promote the respiratory health of children and adolescents and to improve the care of children with respiratory disease through research, education, patient care and advocacy.

“Congratulations to Drs. Stokes, Austin and Rosas-Salazer on their tremendous achievements and for the well-deserved recognitions of their passion and commitment to improving the respiratory health of children,” said Paul Moore, MD, director of the division. “These three outstanding physician-scientists have made significant contributions to the field of pediatric pulmonology that will have a lasting impact.”

“Our team’s work to advance therapies and improve care for children with respiratory disease is made possible with the incredible community support for the research, education, and clinical missions in the Division of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonary Medicine,” added Moore, holder of the Janie Robinson and John Moore Lee Directorship in Pediatric Respiratory Diseases. 

Dennis Stokes, MD, MPH
Dennis Stokes, MD, MPH

Stokes received the ATS Assembly on Pediatrics Lifetime Contributions to Pediatric Respiratory Medicine Award. This award is given to a candidate who is recognized for achievement in teaching, clinical care, advocacy, scholarship or research over the course of his/her entire career. The award recognizes individuals who have contributed greatly to the specialty. Awardees are known for dedicating their life to the advancement of pediatric respiratory medicine.

“I was surprised and honored to receive this honor from the Pediatric Assembly, my professional ‘home’ since I attended my first ATS meeting in 1978,” Stokes said. “Pediatric Pulmonology is a ‘team sport,’ and I accept the award on behalf of all the great teams I have been honored to work with, including nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists and pharmacists.”

Stokes has a long and distinguished career, serving on the faculty at six institutions over the past 46 years, with two tours of duty at Vanderbilt. He first joined the faculty at Vanderbilt in 1990 as clinical director of the then new Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine and established new clinical programs in bronchoscopy and pediatric pulmonary function testing. He was also director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center and medical director for pediatric respiratory care. He left in 2007 to pursue leadership outside of Vanderbilt, returning to the faculty in 2018.

Stokes has made important scholarly contributions throughout. He was involved in the design and implementation of the Epidemiologic Study of Cystic Fibrosis, a large multicenter study which was the first to show variation in practice and outcomes in CF care centers. His early publications include the original clinical descriptions of sleep-disordered breathing in cystic fibrosis and pulmonary complications and lung function in achondroplasia. He was instrumental in adding cystic fibrosis to newborn screening in the state of Tennessee.

Eric Austin, MD, MSCI
Eric Austin, MD, MSCI

Austin received the ATS Assembly on Pediatrics Mid-Career Outstanding Contributions Award, given to a mid-career candidate who is recognized for achievements in research, mentorship, clinical care, education, advocacy or scholarship.

A National Institutes of Health-funded researcher, Austin studies pulmonary hypertension and other cardiopulmonary morbidities in children and adults with and without preexisting known genetic risks.

Austin, who developed a clinical research program focused on pulmonary hypertension, serves as director of Vanderbilt’s Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Program, which was lauded in 2017 earning the top level of accreditation from the national Pulmonary Hypertension Association.

“I am thrilled and honored to receive the Mid-Career Outstanding Contributions Award from the Pediatric Assembly of the American Thoracic Society,” Austin said. “This award truly represents the collaborative spirit that Vanderbilt continues to promote. I am grateful to so many terrific people in our Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Clinical & Research Program, as well as colleagues in the Pulmonary Circulation Center here at Vanderbilt and the Vanderbilt Master of Science in Clinical Investigation Program.”

Austin continued, “Collaborative science was a huge component of my foundational training at Vanderbilt and continues to this day, such that many thanks also extend beyond Vanderbilt to our clinical and research program’s partner organizations such as the Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Network and TBX4Life. Pulmonary vascular disease impacts people of all ages, and together we continue to pursue a broader understanding and progress toward curative therapies.”

Christian Rosas-Salazar, MD, MPH

During the ATS conference, Rosas-Salazar also received 2024 Parker B. Francis Jo Rae Wright Award for Scientific Excellence, given annually to a recent graduate of the PBF Fellowship Program whose research shows exceptional creativity and promise and who has demonstrated outstanding mentoring and professional leadership qualities.

Rosas-Salazar, who has been at Vanderbilt since 2013, is pediatric pulmonologist and physician scientist with extensive expertise in clinical and translational research. His research interests include early-life risk factors for childhood asthma, asthma health disparities, and biomarkers for asthma development. The main goal of his research is to identify pre-, peri-, and post-natal risk and protective factors for the development of common childhood respiratory diseases, including bronchiolitis and asthma. 

“The Parker B. Francis Fellowship was one of the first grants I obtained and was fundamental to support me as an early-career investigator, so I am honored to receive this award as a recent graduate of this program,” Rosas-Salazar said.