ANN ARBOR — Three physician-scientists whose research shows extraordinary promise have been appointed to the Emerging Scholars Program at the University of Michigan’s A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute. The Emerging Scholars Program was created to support and encourage early-career physician-scientists whose laboratory work aims to translate basic research into new treatments for disease.
The program connects U-M Medical School faculty members at the assistant professor level with philanthropists who pledge to support the physicians’ research for three years at $50,000 per year. This support enables the scientists to establish the credentials necessary to pursue more traditional means of funding and keeps them from dropping out of the research arena for a variety of reasons.
Clinician-scientists are uniquely positioned to translate laboratory findings into therapies for patients, but the average physician-researcher does not achieve initial National Institutes of Health funding until age 44. Many talented researchers are lost in the interim to more lucrative clinical practices or other pursuits, and with them the research world loses the promise of medical breakthroughs.
“We urgently need the best and brightest doctors, who are so motivated by the patient suffering they witness each day, to continue to develop new therapies,” says Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Taubman Institute.
The new Taubman Emerging Scholars are:
- Katherine Gallagher, M.D., Assistant Professor of Surgery. Gallagher studies impaired wound healing in diabetes patients, particularly the role of inflammation and immune cell function. She has been named the Friends of Judy and Alfred Taubman Emerging Scholar.
- Alon Kahana, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Helmut F. Stern Career Development Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Kahana’s laboratory work studies the use of stem cells to regenerate eye tissue lost to injury or disease. He has been named the Mrs. William Davidson Emerging Scholar.
- Parag Patil, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Anesthesiology and Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Patil, who also trained as an engineer, studies the use of deep-brain stimulation to treat neurological and psychiatric diseases. He has been named the Young Friends of the Taubman Institute Emerging Scholar.
These grants bring the current total of Taubman Emerging Scholars to seven.
“The Emerging Scholar grant plays a critical role for young clinician-scientists early in their careers so that they can lay the foundation for future scientific endeavors in translational research,” says Gallagher. “It provides me with the resources necessary to pursue my research and to develop new and innovative treatments for patients suffering from diabetes.”Patil’s appointment marks the first time a volunteer group has collected funds to support a scholar. The Young Friends of the Taubman Institute was established to raise awareness among the next generation of biomedical research and the work of the Taubman Institute. Its 15 board members and some 200 members, in Michigan and New York chapters, share the institute’s mission with other young professionals. In May, the group held a fundraising reception in Manhattan and selected Patil as its scholar.
“The Young Friends’ support of an Emerging Scholar is a unique commitment and one that we are so pleased to accept,” says Feldman. “It is so heartening that the next generation of young leaders has taken an interest in translational medical research, and their efforts show that even people early in their philanthropic careers can make a true difference by pooling their resources in this novel way.