Awards & Recognitions: September 2021

Honors received by HMS faculty, staff and students

Judy Garber, HMS professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber, was named to receive the 2021 Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She will receive the award and deliver a keynote lecture at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December.

Garber is being recognized for her trailblazing work and significant contributions in clinical cancer genetics that have shaped the care of people with breast cancer, their families, and those at risk of breast cancer. Her research is advancing our understanding of the role of BRCA1/2 gene mutations in breast cancer and the treatment and prevention of triple-negative breast cancer and other BRCA-associated cancers.

W. Stephen Black-Schaffer was named the 2021 Pathologist of the Year by the College of American Pathologists in recognition of his long and distinguished career in pathology. He is associate professor of pathology, associate chief of pathology, and the Pathology Residency Training Program director at Mass General.

Throughout his career, Black-Schaffer has been a leader in the field while actively engaging in education and advocacy. He served as a member of the initial Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education pathology milestone project teams, providing a critical roadmap for pathology training, and chaired the American Society of Cytopathology Taskforce on Cytopathology Qualifications for Pathology Residency Programs. As a leader in advocacy, he has been the Massachusetts representative to his regional Medicare Contractor Advisory Committee since 1992. As EAC chair, he has effectively explained the importance of fair pathology reimbursement to federal regulatory authorities, congressional staff, and private payer medical directors.

Four Harvard Medical School faculty members were named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators on Sept. 23. They are among 33 individuals recognized as outstanding scientists working to solve some of the most challenging problems in biomedical research. The new HHMI Investigators from HMS are:

Chenghua Gu, professor of neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS

Sun Hur, professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at HMS and the Oscar M. Schloss, MD Professor of Pediatrics at HMS and Boston Children’s Hospital

Cigall Kadoch, HMS associate professor of pediatrics at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Shingo Kajimura, HMS associate professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Read more about their research here.

Daiane Borges Machado, research fellow in global health and social medicine at HMS, received the International Association for Suicide Prevention’s Andrej Marušič Award, which recognizes young researchers studying suicidal behavior and prevention.

Anna Greka, HMS associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s, was one of 10 individuals named by the National Academy of Medicine to the class of 2021 Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Scholars, which recognizes early- to mid-career professionals.

With a focus on laying the foundation for molecularly targeted therapies, Greka’s scientific work is centered on understanding membrane proteins and fundamental mechanisms of disrupted cellular homeostasis. Recently, Greka and her team made a key discovery of a general mechanism that monitors the quality of membrane protein cargoes destined for the cell surface by studying a proteinopathy in the kidney, caused by a mutation in MUC1. Specifically, they identified a mechanism for membrane protein quality control that is operative in diverse cell types and tissues, such as kidney epithelial cells and retina photoreceptors. The study of cargo quality control and its implications for several toxic proteinopathies is now a major focus of the laboratory. Anna is also interested in dissecting the fundamental mechanisms of disrupted cellular homeostasis at the intersection of proteotoxicity and lipotoxicity across the lifespan, with implications for many metabolic and degenerative human diseases.

Three HMS researchers are among 13 leading endocrinologists chosen by the Endocrine Society as winners of its 2022 Laureate Awards, which will be presented at the organization's annual meeting. The Endocrine Society’s 2022 Laureate Award winners from HMS are:

Henry Kronenberg, HMS professor of medicine at Mass General, was named to receive the Fred Conrad Koch Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions to the field of endocrinology. Kronenberg has been chief of the Endocrine Unit at Mass General for more than 32 years. His research group studies the actions of parathyroid hormone and parathyroid hormone-related protein, with a particular emphasis on bone development, bone biology, calcium homeostasis, and the roles of osteoblast-lineage cells in hematopoiesis. His biggest accomplishment is bringing molecular biology to the bone and mineral field with the cloning of the parathyroid hormone. Kronenberg's laboratory in recent years has used several genetically altered strains of mice to establish the role of signaling by the PTH/PTHrP receptor in bone.

Kathryn Martin, HMS assistant professor of medicine, part-time, at Mass General, was named to receive the Outstanding Educator Award, which recognizes exceptional achievement as an educator in the discipline of endocrinology and metabolism. Martin has been a practicing clinician in the Reproductive Endocrine Unit at Mass General since 1989. In addition to her clinical practice, she has an active teaching role and is involved in the training and supervision of junior faculty members and endocrine fellows. Martin is an outstanding clinician and teacher with a remarkable skill at synthesizing even the most complex clinical and basic literature. She is an internationally recognized authority in women’s health who has contributed significantly to the field’s current status as a data-driven medical science.

Shingo Kajimura, HMS associate professor in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess, was named to receive the Richard E. Weitzman Outstanding Early Career Investigator Award, which recognizes an exceptionally promising young clinical or basic investigator. Kajimura has made pioneering contributions to the field of endocrinology and metabolism by identifying the key determinants of adipose tissue development and function. Kajimura's work transformed our fundamental understandings of how brown/beige fat controls energy homeostasis in physiology and disease and further provides a blueprint for rewiring adaptive pathways to improve metabolic health. His studies led to the new but now well-appreciated notion that the role of brown/beige fat is far beyond thermogenesis. His discoveries have the potential to influence new therapies for diseases including obesity, NASH, and type 2 diabetes. 

John Mekalanos, the Adele Lehman Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at HMS, won the American Society for Microbiology Lifetime Achievement Award. The awards was one part of the organization’s 2022 Awards and Prize Program, which recognizes leading scientists and researchers in the field of microbial science for their contributions to research, education, diversity, and professional accomplishments.

Mekalanos’ research spans multiple facets of bacterial pathogenesis with an emphasis on using genetic and functional genomic approaches to explore virulence gene regulation and host-pathogen interactions. His laboratory has provided many genetic tools that have been successfully used in the field for decades, establishing fundamentally new approaches to understanding bacterial virulence from the gene to the genomic levels. Mekalanos has mentored and trained numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The Mekalanos group has provided classic insights, such as the identification of the regulatory factors that control production of both cholera toxin and the intestinal colonization factor TCP, identification of the filamentous bacteriophage that carries the genes for cholera toxin, development of reporters for virulence gene expression in vivo, and identification of small molecules that inhibit virulence. More recently, the Mekalanos laboratory reported the discovery of the Type VI secretion system and has made dramatic progress in defining how this novel organelle dynamically functions. His group has contributed to the development of prototype vaccines effective against cholera, typhoid, anthrax, and other encapsulated microorganisms, as well as to finding evidence that bacteriophages control cholera epidemics in natural endemic settings.

Second-year MD student Victor Lopez-Carmen (Waokiya Mani in Dakota Language) was one of five medical students to receive 2021 Herbert W. Nickens Medical Student Scholarships from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Lopez Carmen is from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and the Yaqui Nation.

Nickens scholarships are given to outstanding students entering their third year of medical school who have shown leadership in efforts to eliminate inequities in medical education and health care. They also should have demonstrated leadership initiative in addressing educational, societal, and health care needs of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. Each recipient receives a $5,000 scholarship.

Three HMS faculty members have received awards from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for making significant contributions to biochemistry and molecular biology and the training of emerging scientists. The recipients will give talks about their work at the society’s 2022 annual meeting, which will be held in April.

Robert Farese Jr., professor of cell biology at HMS and chair of the Department of Molecular Metabolism at the Harvard Chan School, and Tobias Walther, professor of cell biology at HMS and director of the Center on Causes and Prevention for Cardiovascular Disease at the Harvard Chan School, won the 2022 ASBMB–Merck Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to research in biochemistry and molecular biology. The pair’s joint lab studies lipid homeostasis and storage and neurodegeneration.

Alex Toker, HMS professor of pathology and associate director for the Cancer Research Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess, won the 2022 Avanti Award in Lipids, which recognizes outstanding research contributions in the area of lipids. Toker is an expert in the signaling mechanisms that govern cancer progression. His lab specifically focuses on the PI3K signaling pathway in breast and other cancers and the mechanisms by which the protein kinase AKT promotes tumor cell survival and growth and the metabolic reprogramming of cancer cells.

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