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Emerging Scholars Symposium celebrates breakthrough clinical research

Allison Farrand/Daily
A. Alfred Taubman, one of the university's largest donors and the namesake of the Medical Research Institute, attends the Emerging Scholars Symposium Wednesday. Buy this photo

By Hillary Crawford, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 30, 2014

Six clinician scientists presented their research Wednesday at the first-ever Taubman Emerging Scholars symposium.

The symposium, which was hosted by the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, celebrated recipients of the Institute’s Emerging Scholars grant, a program which began in 2010.

Over the past four years, the Institute has selected 12 clinician scientists as emerging Taubman scholars. Through the program, the scholars receive funding from grants donated by philanthropists interested in medical research. These patrons donate $50,000 to a younger clinician scientist each year for three consecutive years.

Martin Fischoff, managing director of the institute, said the Emerging Scholars program addresses a current and urgent need to give early career support to young clinician scientists. He added that the symposium was created because the Institute was impressed with the work these individuals were doing, and wanted to share it with the public.

“Some have made such incredible progress that we thought the world should hear about them, so we invited the University community and the general public to find out what they’re doing,” Fischoff said.

The Taubman Institute promotes the continuance of laboratory research among clinicians. It is unique in that it only funds MDs and PhDs who do basic research and see patients.

“They actually treat patients and then they go back to the laboratories and try to find new cures and treatments for what they’re seeing in the clinic,” Fischoff said.

Additionally, the program perpetuates a cycle that allows senior scholars to mentor junior scholars, fostering greater collaboration and connectedness, Fischoff said. He said he hopes to watch the program grow so that it may include twenty scholars and support additional research. So far, the program has helped to fund nine clinician trials.

Neurology Prof. Eva Feldman, a senior Taubman Scholar, gave the opening remarks of the ceremony. She called the program the “jewel in the crown” of the Taubman Institute because of its focus on building upon the fresh ideas of younger clinician scientists.

The majority of presenters spoke about new treatments for cancer and depression. The six emerging scholars who spoke at the event included Ronald Buckanovich, Sung Won Choi, Erika Newman, Brian Mickey, Parag Patil, and Srijan Sen. Additionally, Assistant Pathology Prof. Scott Tomlins was announced as the latest Taubman emerging scholar for his new screening test for prostate cancer.

Choi, an assistant professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, spoke about her clinical trials of a new medication called Vorinostat, which decreases patients’ chances of developing graft versus host disease after undergoing bone marrow transplants especially. She has been a part of the program for two years.

“It’s been so great for young investigators like myself,” Choi said. “It’s been really incredible being able to be at the bedside with the patient and then go back and do research to help make a difference on a wider scale.”

She said that continuing both types of work has been particularly rewarding, and quoted another emerging scholar, Alon Kahana, to explain the impact of being able to do both through the grant.

“As a clinician, you make a difference one patient at a time,” she said. “But with research, you get to make it at a grander scale.”


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