Research Update from Steve Dewhurst
Thursday, February 8, 2024
Twice a year—in February and in March—the Office of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) at the School of Medicine Dentistry (SMD) hosts "Discover UR SMD Weekend" for applicants to our PhD programs. The event provides an opportunity both to showcase research at the Medical Center, and to reflect on what makes UR a special place.
Highlights of SMD’s research activities in 2023 include a total of $265 million in research funding, and some 382 newly funded clinical trials (315 of them industry-supported)—underscoring the impact of the CTSI’s Office of Clinical Research, which is led by newly recruited director, Ashlee Lang. A related highlight is the growth of cancer-related funding at the Wilmot Cancer Institute to a record high of $30.3 million, including $13.1 million in support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
While funding is essential for the conduct of research, it is not what makes SMD special. Our special sauce, to use a signature phrase of one of my favorite people at UR, lies in the combination of our unique resources, our institutional culture, and above all, our people.
In that regard, new SMD Dean and URMC CEO, David Linehan, sets the tone. I’m excited that my new boss is an accomplished physician-scientist with a two-decade history of continuous research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But, I’m even more excited that—in the words of my colleague, Calvin Cole (assistant professor of Surgery)—"he is a very caring individual" who "leads with his heart." If you haven’t already, check out Dr. Linehan’s message to all of our learners.
One of the best parts of Discover UR SMD Weekends are the dinners that faculty members host in their homes. Nathan Smith, associate dean for Equity and Inclusion in Research and Research Education regularly gathers students and faculty in his home because "it creates an environment that is warm and inviting, making it easier for visiting students, current students, and faculty to connect with one another." That experience was borne out in the words of one applicant who emailed Nate to say that "I was genuinely impressed by the sense of camaraderie and inclusivity within the program's group. The conversations I had with faculty and fellow applicants left me with a strong sense of community and belonging."
Finally, Discover UR SMD Weekends also provide an opportunity to put the spotlight on our amazing learners. A few examples include:
- John Miller, a PhD candidate in Microbiology and Immunology, won first place in the 2023 America's Got Regulatory Science Talent competition, held by UR CTSI. With his presentation "Stopping Runaway CAR-T Cells", Miller earned the opportunity to present directly to FDA representatives this spring.
- Lily Cisco, a graduate student in Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, worked with faculty members John Lueck and Charles Thornton to successfully reverse muscle dysfunction in myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) in mice. In Lueck’s words, "She is a rockstar graduate student and surely a future leader in research."
- Raven Osborn, a 2023 graduate of the Translational Biomedical Sciences program, recently accepted a position at Eli Lilly and Company as a research advisor in Translational Pathology Bioinformatics. As Raven wrote on LinkedIn, this "role comes with so much professional and personal alignment.... I am overjoyed that all the advice about ‘good things being on the way’ has come to fruition." As one of her co-mentors, along with Juilee Thakar, I’m totally thrilled for her.
Steve Dewhurst, PhD
Vice Dean for Research, SMD
Vice President for Research, UR
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Download: Highlights of SMD’s Research Activities in 2023