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Women of Impact Awards Include Six from Health Sciences

  • August 22, 2022

Six women from the University of Arizona Health Sciences will receive Women of Impact Awards on Wednesday, Aug. 24, in the forum of the Health Sciences Innovation Building. A total of 30 women faculty and staff members are being honored by the Office of Research, Innovation and Impact (RII), which announced the inaugural award as part of Women’s History Month in March.

The Women of Impact Awards are an “effort to embrace and empower women, who through their work at our university, are laying the groundwork for a better future.” More than 400 women were nominated. RII’s website notes that the women “have contributed to our identity as a world-class research enterprise. Among other criteria, the members of this class were selected by our committee based on their commitment to our mission and values, an application of skills toward discovery and innovation, the enrichment of our community, and the empowerment of others to ensure lasting change.”

A panel of judges selected the inaugural recipients based on funding, revenue, impact, inventiveness, mentorship and potential. Members of the 2022 judging panel included representatives from RII, Tech Parks Arizona, Tech Launch Arizona, the Office of the Provost and Faculty Affairs, Government and Community Relations, and Marketing and Communications. 

Tickets for the awards event are sold out; however, it can be watched via livestream here.

The six Health Sciences awardees are:

Jennifer Barton, PhD

On the award: I am incredibly honored to be among the inaugural class of Women of Impact. Throughout my 24 years at the University of Arizona, I’ve tried to have impact in two ways: first with the research I perform on the early detection of cancer, most recently with work designing miniature endoscopes that can examine the fallopian tubes for early signs of ovarian cancer, the “silent killer;” and second, in preparing the next generation of bioscientists and bioengineers to encourage young people to stretch their limits and discover the many ways they can make a positive impact on human health.

I wouldn’t be successful without the incredible interdisciplinary support from the College of Engineering, the BIO5 Institute and UArizona Health Sciences. Having the ability to perform pilot clinical studies at Banner — University Medical Center Tucson, with the support of UArizona Health Sciences in navigating the translational process, has been critically important.

A message to women entering health sciences professions: Dare to think differently. Established procedures and thought patterns have brought us a long way in health sciences, but to go further, we need new ideas and fresh perspectives.

Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD

On the award: As an alumna of the University of Arizona, it is an honor and privilege to be selected for the inaugural class of distinguished women research leaders. For me personally, being a Woman of Impact is a testament to the bold, innovative and inclusive culture of the University of Arizona that was and remains the launch pad to push boundaries and defy stereotypes in science

Heath Sciences leadership has, and continues to be, tremendously supportive of a novel and innovative hybrid academic-biotech research ecosystem of team science. This hybrid ecosystem enables multiple levels of research that integrate mechanistic discovery systems biology, medical informatics, translational and clinical research critical to realizing the mission and vision of CIBS. The center’s innovative hybrid model enables cutting-edge discovery science in the context of development of cures for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and ALS. Within just five years, CIBS research has led to fundamental discoveries critical for therapeutic development, multiple ongoing clinical trials of CIBS therapeutics, 34 Tech Launch Arizona disclosures, seven start-ups and over $100 million in federal and philanthropic research funding. 

The magnitude of the CIBS’ success is a direct consequence of bold, innovative leadership and support at UArizona Health Sciences. Because of their support, we are well positioned to deliver on the CIBS mission of creating innovations in brain science for those who need a cure today – and realizing our vision of healthy brains that last a lifetime.

A message to women entering health sciences professions: The journey to your purpose begins with your passion. Following the path to your purpose will require hard work and commitment, but it is work that will fuel your spirit. As you progress on this journey, realize that you are already a leader – as you are leading the most important member of your team, you. Bear Down and Lead On!

Jennifer Carew, PhD

On the award: I am very honored to be included in such a highly accomplished group of women at our institution. I am humbled and grateful to be recognized along with so many exceptional women.

I am very grateful to Dean Michael M. I. Abecassis, MD, MBA, and his leadership team including Jason A. Wertheim, MD, PhDAnne Cress, PhD, and Rachna Shroff, MD, for establishing a culture within the College of Medicine – Tucson that empowers women to excel in research innovation and entrepreneurial science. I would also like to thank Mitch Graffeo, JD, from Tech Launch Arizona for his steadfast support of my team’s drug development and related commercialization efforts. These collective factors have been instrumental to our success.

A message to women entering health sciences professions: Set big goals for yourself and identify a team of mentors who are invested in helping you achieve them.

Amelia Gallitano, MD, PhD

On the award: It’s an honor to have been selected and to be among such accomplished women from across the University. I’m especially grateful to have been nominated by my colleagues, whose support means so much to me. UArizona is a wonderfully collegial environment, and this makes my daily work life rewarding and fulfilling. I’m also pleased to represent the College of Medicine – Phoenix in this award.

UArizona Health Sciences has been extremely supportive of Women in Medicine and Science, running great stories about discoveries and accomplishments that women have made. This helps the public overcome the historic image of physicians and scientist as men – mostly white men. One of the biggest advantages of changing these perceptions is that when children see someone who looks like them in a career, they can imagine themselves doing it. 

My department, Basic Medical Sciences, was the founding department at the college. I’m grateful to my colleagues and chairs who built our college and created an amazing environment for our work and for educating medical students. 

A message to women entering health sciences professions: Create a network of friends and colleagues. Health sciences professions require a lot of education and training. You are in this for the long haul. It’s more fun, and a lot easier, to accomplish your goals when you have a group that you can run things by, and support each other, to overcome the challenges and help you celebrate the successes. Also, persistence is the key to success. Don’t let little things get in the way of your dream. You got this!

Allison J. Huff, DHEd

On the award: It is a double honor to be selected for this award. The first honor is that the research my team and I are working on is being recognized, as we are seeking innovative alternatives to current treatments for addiction and pain that reduce or eliminate many of the side effects that come with current gold-standard treatment efforts. The second honor is to be recognized as a woman of impact in research at the University. With so many amazing women colleagues across the University, particularly Health Sciences and College of Medicine – Tucson, to have been nominated and selected is very humbling. It has inspired me to work even harder to ensure we keep up this pace and help as many as possible struggling with substance use disorder and chronic pain.

I never would have gotten to where I am today without the support of many individuals across several colleges and departments. My start at UArizona was in the College of Optical Sciences 14 years ago. There, I connected with some of the strongest women I have met to date. That support has been instrumental from day one. From there, it’s been a cascade of formal and informal mentors from various backgrounds, disciplines and job titles who have cheered my successes, pushed me when I stalled, picked me up when I fell and humbled me when I needed it. It has been such an amazing journey and if I start naming the people who have supported me, the list would be very long and I would invariably forget someone. Both chairs I’ve worked under in the Department of Family and Community Medicine have been very supportive of research faculty, like me, who have not followed the straight path into academia. It speaks volumes to their innovative foresight to recognize the unique talent a diverse research faculty team brings to family medicine. The team of research faculty I work alongside in Family and Community Medicine is made up of powerhouse women who are doing equally amazing things. I’m very grateful for where I’m at today.

A message to women entering health sciences professions: My advice is to be true to yourself and what drives you. Life is short, so don’t waste it doing something you don’t love or something someone else expects of you. A life well lived rarely happens in a straight line, so it’s OK to take that gap year; it’s OK to take a step back and regroup. It’s important to understand that reprioritizing goals is not a failure, it means you’re growing, and part of growing is learning to pivot. We as women shoulder a lot at home as well as at work, and it’s important for young women to give themselves grace for all that we manage and accomplish in one day. We tend to put ourselves on the back burner or judge ourselves harshly, and that can create burnout and feeling less valued. With a strong work ethic, a good mind, body, spirit balance and great mentors we can accomplish everything we want in life – rarely in the order we thought it would happen. So, enjoy the journey.

Lalitha Madhavan, MBBS, PhD

On the award: I am deeply honored to be recognized as one of the inaugural Women of Impact in Research and Innovation. Research is a human endeavor. I have met so many talented people here at the University of Arizona – whether students, faculty or staff. They are the outstanding individuals who have helped me get this award. I feel fortunate to be a valued member of the UArizona community.

It has been wonderful to be surrounded by excellent collaborators, mentors and administrators in UArizona Health Sciences who have helped along the way. This has allowed me to conduct meaningful research that impacts public health and to contribute toward student success.

A message to women entering health sciences professions: Be your best authentic self. Each individual brings a unique fresh perspective, so do not be afraid to express yourself and your values. Stick to your principles and trust your instincts. If you cannot see a path ahead that you can follow, make one for yourself. Aim high and surround yourself with people who intellectually challenge you.