Awards & Accolades 5 August


Nicholas L. Balderston, PhD, a research assistant professor of Psychiatry with the Center for Neuromodulation in Depression and Stress, has been honored by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation with the 2021 Klerman Prize for Exceptional Clinical Research. The annual award recognizes exceptional clinical and basic research in mental illness. Balderston’s lab uses experimental design, psychophysiology, neuroimaging, and neuromodulation to explore the mechanisms that mediate the expression and regulation of anxiety. The ultimate aim of his research is to provide the foundation for novel neuromodulatory treatments for individuals suffering from severe anxiety.

huang alexander

Alexander C. Huang, MD, has been named the Damon Runyon-Doris Duke Clinical Investigator by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. Huang — who studies T-cell responses to immune checkpoint inhibitors and their role in efficacy and toxicity — is one of six early-career physician-scientists working to develop new cancer therapies under the mentorship of a leading scientist to receive the recognition. Each awardee receives a total of $600,000, and the foundation will retire up to $100,000 of medical school debt owed by the awardee. Huang’s mentor is Gerald P. Linette, MD, PhD, a professor of Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine.

denise lamarra

Denise LaMarra, MS, CHSE, director of Penn Medicine’s Standardized Patient Program, received an Outstanding Educator of the Year award from the Association of Standardized Patient Educators (ASPE). LaMarra, who has been in her role since 2006, helps the Standardized Patient Program serve thousands of learners across professions and at all levels of learning at Penn Medicine. Through the program, actors assist in the training and assessment of medical students, residents, practicing physicians, frontline staff, and other professionals. Just in the past year, the program conducted more than 10,000 remote sessions with medical students; 800 for residents, fellows, and other health system staff/providers; plus 1,000 for external clients — including Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Social Policy & Practice. LaMarra led the creation of a Standardized Patient Management System (SPMS), which around 12 other medical schools in the U.S. and Canada have acquired to facilitate hiring, scheduling, managing expenses, and other related administrative tasks.

meghan lane fall

Meghan Brooks Lane-Fall, MD, MSHP, FCCM, the David E. Longnecker Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, and associate professor of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Informatics, has been chosen by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine as a member of its 2021-2023 New Voices cohort of 22 early-career leaders from academia, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. Lane-Fall and other new members are rising stars in their fields and have been selected through a competitive review process out of nearly 300 applicants. The New Voices program was launched by the NASEM in 2018 to bring diverse perspectives from early-career U.S. leaders to important dialogues around how science, engineering, and medicine are shaping the future. The group will gather over a two-year period with a senior advisory committee to discuss key emerging challenges in science, engineering, and medicine, engage nationally with a wider group of young leaders from diverse groups, and attend international events on science policy.

sally nijim

Sally Nijim, a Perelman School of Medicine student, placed first, along with her team of four other aspiring physician-innovators, in a national pitch competition hosted by MD++.Through the innovation pitch competition, teams of medical students from across the United States came together to develop and propose solutions for improving health systems or for enhancing current health practices. Nijim and team developed the concept for iKidney. The proposal surrounded creating personalized kidney care for patients with chronic kidney disease that brings together hardware (blood pressure and kidney function analysis in real time) with personalized software and coaching.

christoph thaiss

Christoph A. Thaiss, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology and a member of the Institute for Immunology (IFI) and the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism (IDOM), is among a multidisciplinary group of early-career researchers selected to address the global threat to human health from animal-borne infectious diseases as part of a new initiative, Scialog: Mitigating Zoonotic Threats. Sponsored by Research Corporation for Science Advancement and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the three-year initiative will fund selected projects aimed at transforming the detection, prevention, and treatment of new and emerging pathogens. As part of his work at Penn Medicine, Thaiss applies state-of-the-art sequencing-based technologies to deciphering the impact of environmental factors, including microbial pathogens, on systemic physiology. In particular, his lab is interested in identifying new sensing systems of the body that detect deviations from tissue homeostasis and initiate immune and metabolic responses to restore tissue function.


Neha Vapiwala, MD, a professor of Radiation Oncology and vice chair of Education in Radiation Oncology, and Amit Maity, MD, PhD, the Morton M. Kligerman Professor and executive vice chair of Radiation Oncology, have been named among the 28 Fellows of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (FASTRO). The ASTRO Fellows program recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to radiation oncology through research, education, patient care, and/or service to the field. Vapiwala and Maity will receive the FASTRO recognition in October during the organization’s 63rd annual meeting in Chicago.

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