November 4, 2005

Trio honored for excellence in research

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From left, Martha Martin, Anna Chytil and Gail Mayo, R.N., were the winners of this year's Research Staff Awards, given to non-faculty research employees.
photo by Dana Johnson

Trio honored for excellence in research

Vanderbilt University Medical Center honored three research assistants with awards for excellence earlier this month.

Martha V. Martin, D. Ed., received the Laboratory Science Award for Basic Research; Gail Mayo, R.N., received the Vivien Thomas Award for Excellence in Clinical Research; and Anna Chytil received the Award for Excellence in Research Contributing to Multi-investigator Teams.

The Medical Center's Research Staff Awards recognize “the valuable contributions research staff make to Vanderbilt's research enterprise,” said Jeffrey R. Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research. “Research may start as a single mind asking a unique question, but the process of discovery is a team effort.”

Vanderbilt owes its position as the fastest growing academic medical center in National Institutes of Health research funding to its “bright, talented, hard-working, and devoted research staff,” he added.

Martin, a research assistant in the Department of Biochemistry, has worked at Vanderbilt since 1973 and with F. Peter Guengerich, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry, since 1979.

She has been a “key player” in the laboratory's discovery and characterization of the major human cytochrome P450 enzymes, one of which is involved in the metabolism of half the drugs on the market today, Guengerich wrote in his letter nominating Martin.

“The early work done here, with Martha, laid the groundwork for how drugs are developed today,” he wrote.

Guengerich credited Martin with being the “real administrator” of his group, juggling the increasing protocols and regulations, equipment maintenance and some of the technical training of a total of 14 graduate students and 103 postdoctoral fellows.

Martin has completed a Doctor of Education degree in Mathematics and now teaches classes at Nashville State Community College in addition to working full time at Vanderbilt.

Mayo has been a research nurse associated with clinical investigators in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology for almost 20 years. She has interacted at one time or another with essentially all of the division faculty and postdoctoral fellows carrying out clinical research in the General Clinical Research Center, said Grant Wilkinson, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology, who, along with nine of his colleagues at Vanderbilt and other institutions, wrote letters supporting Mayo's nomination for the Vivien Thomas Award.

“To say that Gail has been a critical part of the Division's highly successful clinical research enterprise for almost two decades is an understatement,” Wilkinson wrote. He credited Mayo with educating and “training” the division's research fellows in the appropriate execution of clinical research.

“When I was a new fellow it was Gail who taught us how to recruit patients, how to get things done in the Clinical Research Center, how to keep good records, and how important the small details are,” wrote C. Michael Stein, M.D., associate professor of Medicine and Pharmacology. “Now my fellows work with Gail. (And) I know they will take something priceless away — a hands-on education in clinical research.”

Chytil is a senior research specialist in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. She joined the laboratory of Harold L. Moses, M.D., Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Molecular Oncology, in 1992 after serving in similar positions in the Washington, D.C. area for 11 years.

Chytil was instrumental in creating a genetically modified mouse model for cancer research.

The modified mice contain a “floxed” type II TGF-beta receptor gene and have been supplied to at least 20 other laboratories around the world, Moses wrote.

Studies utilizing the floxed mice have “changed the way the field views the role of TGF-beta signaling in carcinoma metastasis,” Moses wrote. “Anna Chytil is an outstanding senior research specialist who has made seminal contributions to science through generating a mouse model and in subsequent characterization of phenotypes and mechanistic studies.”

Each awardee received a crystal trophy and a $1000 check at the second annual Research Staff Awards luncheon.