The American Medical Association has named September Women in Medicine Month to showcase the accomplishments of women in medicine and highlight the challenges they often face in balancing career demands with starting a family.
In recognition of these challenges, Massachusetts General Hospital established the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Awards in 1997. The awards provide women faculty with two years of financial support ($50,000 each year) and are intended to sustain the research careers of women during their child-rearing years and to increase opportunities for women to advance to senior positions in academic medicine.
The awards were named in honor of Jane D. Claflin, an Honorary Trustee and the inaugural chair of the hospital’s Women in Academic Medicine Committee, and are co-administered by the Center for Faculty Development and the Executive Committee on Research.
Meet the 2019 Claflin Award Winners
This year six scientists were named as Claflin Distinguished Scholars, and in honor of their achievements and Women in Medicine Month, we celebrate them.
Kelly Irwin, MD
Kelly Irwin, MD, is a psychiatrist at Mass General and an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
She is currently conducting a randomized trial of a collaborative care intervention that integrates mental health care into cancer care delivery for people with mental illness and cancer.
The trial is designed to improve health outcomes for people with serious mental illness who are more than twice as likely to die from cancer, in part due to inequities in care. The Claflin award will provide support for another study clinician to conduct the trial and share the results.
“As a researcher and mother of three daughters, I am very grateful for the opportunity to continue to do research that can improve access to care and research for people who are affected by mental illness and cancer.”Kelly Irwin, MD
Christiane Wrann, DVM, PhD
Her lab focuses on the molecular mechanisms of the beneficial effects of exercise on metabolism and the brain. She is investigating the cellular environment in which new neurons are generated by exercise using a highly innovative molecular analysis.
The ultimate goal of her research is to identify novel therapeutic targets to combat cognitive impairment in aging or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
“It is a great honor to join the group of excellent women faculty who have received the Claflin Award previously. This award will allow me to pursue high-risk cutting-edge science which otherwise would not have been possible. I am very grateful to Jane D. Claflin for her generous contributions and her dedication to the promotion of women in academic medicine.”Christiane Wrann, DVM, PhD
Jacqueline Lane, PhD
An extreme form of circadian rhythm disruption happens in rare individuals with circadian rhythm disorders. To learn more about the genetics of circadian rhythm disorders, Lane is launching a new home-based study of circadian rhythm disorders.
The Claflin Award will help to launch the study by developing a patient portal and circadian rhythm information kits for home use, as well as funding study staff positions.
Lane hopes her findings will identify new drugs to treat rare circadian rhythms disorders, increase our understanding of the basic mechanisms of circadian biology in humans, and ultimately shed light on how circadian rhythm dysregulation in the general population predisposes individuals to chronic diseases.
“It is an honor to be a part of the visionary legacy of Jane Claflin and to be a part of this Claflin community of stellar women in academic medical research. I hope to pay this forward by supporting other women in science and being open about my journey as a mother in a research career, normalizing it and knocking down barriers for future generations.”Jacqueline Lane, PhD
Andrea Edlow, MD, MSc
Andrea Edlow, MD, MSc, is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Mass General, an investigator at the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology and an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School.
The Edlow Lab focuses on the impact of maternal obesity and maternal metabolic disorders on fetal brain development and offspring behavior.
Her research uses powerful molecular tools, including single cell RNA sequencing and a Cre-lox model system, to determine the impact of maternal obesity on the programming of fetal brain microglia and placental macrophages.
Edlow and her team are investigating the role of placental and fetal brain macrophage “priming” in causing learning deficits in the offspring of obese mothers.
The Claflin Award will provide critical support for the lab’s research program by providing funding for personnel and single cell RNA-sequencing costs. The personnel funding, in particular, will allow for much-needed time for critical thinking, experimental design, analysis, and grant and manuscript writing, Edlow says.
“The support comes at an important time, as my career development award draws to a close and I transition to independence. Jane Claflin was truly a visionary in recognizing the need to support women junior faculty with young children, given the many roles we play and the competing demands on our time. I am extremely grateful for the support and honored to join the group of other Claflin Scholars.”Andrea Edlow, MD, MSc
Randi Schuster, PhD
Randi Schuster, PhD, is a Mass General clinical psychologist, the Director of Neuropsychology in the Center for Addiction Medicine and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School studying the effects of cannabis use in adolescents.
Cannabis is the most widely used addictive substance by U.S. adolescents, and rates of use are likely to increase further as more states including Massachusetts establish fully legalized commercial markets.
Therefore, it has become a public health priority to define the consequences of adolescent cannabis exposure. Shuster’s current study aims to address this gap by examining whether the deficits associated with adolescent cannabis use (e.g., cognitive functioning) diminish with extended periods of abstinence.
As this study involves recruitment across multiple public school districts across Massachusetts, the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Award will enable Shuster to hire additional personnel to make this ambitious community-based study possible.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity afforded by the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Award. This award, in short, will allow me to pursue both motherhood and work with intention, presence, and passion. I am deeply committed to my life both at work and home, and now I am less concerned that one is being ‘shortchanged.’”Randi Schuster, PhD
Deborah Mitchell, MD
Deborah Mitchell, MD, is the Associate Director of the Pediatric Endocrine Training Program at Mass General Hospital for Children, the Co-Director of the Pediatric Bone and Mineral Metabolism Clinic and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School studying the connections between diabetes and bone health.
One of the major complications of type 1 diabetes (T1DM) is osteoporosis. Adults with T1DM have a 6-fold increased risk of hip fracture – a devastating and life-threatening injury. Mitchell’s team is investigating the biomechanical and hormonal underpinnings of diabetic skeletal fragility, particularly how the normally rapid bone accrual during childhood growth is altered among youth with T1DM.
The Claflin Award will support a natural history study of children with T1DM ,which will use high-resolution skeletal imaging along with detailed phenotyping of body composition, physical activity and the hormonal milieu to better understand contributors to increased fracture risk in this population.
“The Claflin Award comes at a critical time as I am transitioning to independence as a clinical investigator. With this generous support, I will be well-equipped to successfully navigate this transition and continue doing this work I love.”Deborah Mitchell, MD
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