Two UAB REACT Investigators Honored with 2017 Dean's Excellence Awards

Two of 11 of the 2017 Dean’s Excellence Awards were given to REACT Center investigators. The Awards are an honor recognizing exceptional contributions made by School of Medicine faculty in service, teaching, research, diversity enhancement and mentorship. [Read full article here.]

"It is my great pleasure to announce the winners of the 2017 Dean's Excellence Awards," said Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, senior vice president for Medicine and Dean of the UAB School of Medicine. "These awards recognize the truly outstanding work done by our faculty across these key areas. Each of the faculty members honored this year have much to be proud of in their careers here at UAB, and I greatly appreciate their commitment to our institution."

Ken Saag, M.D., MSc, director of REACT's Education and Training Component, received the award for excellence in mentoring. Surya Bhatt, M.D., 2016 REACT Pilot Award recipient, received the award for excellence in research. Read more about each of them below.

Mentoring: Ken Saag, M.D., MSc

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Ken Saag, M.D., MSc

Ken Saag, M.D., MSc., Jane Knight Low professor in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, is the senior faculty winner of the Dean’s Excellence Award in Mentorship.

“Saag has had a distinguished career in academic medicine, and has had a substantive positive influence on the careers of many trainees through his lectures, clinical teaching in the inpatient and outpatient setting, and mentoring in clinical and translational investigation,” said S. Louis Bridges, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., Anna Lois Water Professor and Director of the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology. “Dr. Saag’s mentorship in investigation has fostered the growth and career development of specialists in adult and pediatric rheumatology, internal medicine, epidemiology, biostatistics, nursing and nutrition sciences.”

Bridges said that of his more than 280 original articles, the vast majority of Saag’s work involves trainees as co-authors, as do most of his reviews and editorials. Saag has garnered nearly $20 million for UAB in total costs as principal investigator of extramural grants focused on research training in health services, outcomes and effectiveness, and patient-centered outcomes. This includes T32, K12, KL2, and TL1 training grants from Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and NIH and an NIH K24 Mid-Career Investigator Award, which is awarded to outstanding, well-funded, and accomplished research mentors.

Saag serves as Director of the UAB Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness and Research Education, is a past Chair of the UAB Council of Center Directors, and Director of the AHRQ-funded Center for Education & Research on Therapeutics of Musculoskeletal Disorders and the NIH P50 Center of Research Translation in Gout and Hyperuricemia, which have served as vehicles to allow Saag to mentor, direct and advise many trainees and junior faculty investigators. 

Among his more than 50 former trainees are Jeffrey Curtis, M.D., MS, MPH, and Jasvinder Singh, M.D., both of whom are endowed professors in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at UAB and recipients of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Henry Kunkel Young Investigator Award, and Ted Mikuls, M.D., professor of Rheumatology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Research: Surya Bhatt, M.D.

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Surya Bhatt, M.D.

Surya Bhatt, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, is the junior faculty winner of the Dean’s Excellence Award in Research.

Bhatt joined UAB in July 2012, and during his short tenure, has had a truly extraordinary period of productivity and contributions to our academic community, said Victor Thannickal, M.D., director of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine.

He has demonstrated an exceptional track record, publishing 82 papers, including 28 manuscripts as first-or senior author, with multiple high quality publications in high-impact journals such as JAMA, Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Thorax, The American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, and the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.  He has made several novel scientific observations including describing a congestive phenotype of COPD exacerbation, identifying arrhythmias as possible triggers for acute exacerbations of COPD, developing a novel imaging metric for emphysema, and describing a phenotype of COPD characterized by paradoxical response to bronchodilators, according to Thannickal.

Bhatt has initiated an Remote Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, a novel exercise program that uses smart technology and delivers pulmonary rehabilitation to COPD patients at their homes to prevent hospital readmission—the first successful application of smart technology to this problem. He’s also established the UAB Lung Imaging Core for translational research, leading to state-of-the-art lung image processing capabilities at UAB.

Bhatt was recognized as one of the 2017 Pittman Scholars, awarded the Early Career Achievement Award by the American Thoracic Society Assembly on Clinical Problems and appointed to the editorial boards of the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine and the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, where he was named a Top Reviewer for 2016. 

“Dr. Bhatt truly exemplifies the innovation, drive, and collaborative spirit that we value in our junior faculty,” Thannickal said.  “He is poised to make major contributions to the UAB scientific community, and to the advancement of science and medicine at large.”

The 2017 winners are:

Diversity Enhancement
Raegan Durant, M.D., MPH
Nicole Jones, M.D.

Ken Saag, M.D., MSc
Deniz Peker, M.D.

Casey Weaver, M.D.
Surya Bhatt, M.D.

Stefan Kertesz, M.D., MSc
Marianthe Grammas, M.D.
Eric Wallace, M.D.

Hussein Abdullatif, M.D.
Jennifer Gordetsky, M.D.

[Read full article here.]