The University of Arizona Health Sciences Career Development Awards program recently selected Lauren Benton, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, as one of its five 2023 recipients.
“I feel so lucky and blessed to receive this honor,” Dr. Benton said. “The protected time this award provides will allow me to develop my research career. The funding it provides for the lab will allow me to get the preliminary data that is required to apply for future grants. The entry into research for a physician can feel insurmountable. This honor is an important step in my journey to becoming an independent researcher in asthma. As a severe asthmatic myself, I understand how this disease can impacts one’s life.”
CDA scholars must complete an independent research project, which is expected to generate sufficient pilot findings to enable the submission of an NIH K-series or R01 grant (or equivalent) by the second year of the program. Each scholar also must choose a lead mentor, or mentors if the project is multidisciplinary.
Dr. Benton’s research will investigate how and why asthma develops in children and will shed light on how to prevent and treat the disease. “It has been observed that children who had fevers with lower respiratory tract infections, or fLRI, in the first year of life in combination with positive testing for allergies have an increased risk of developing asthma. Why these two seemingly unrelated things increase one’s risk of asthma is unknown,” she said.
Dr. Benton’s mentors include Fernando Martinez, MD, Regents Professor and the director of the UArizona Health Sciences’ Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, and Fayez K. Ghishan, MD, department head of pediatrics in the College of Medicine – Tucson and physician-in-chief at Diamond Children’s Medical Center. “Dr. Benton has worked tirelessly during her fellowship and now as an assistant professor and physician in trying to anchor her work in the patients that she sees every day in clinic,” Dr. Martinez said. “She has dedicated a lot of time and effort to her research, and she put together a fantastic application based on her own experience with these children. She will absolutely contribute new knowledge to the understanding of these very complex and very burdensome diseases.”
“Dr. Martinez and Dr. Ghishan have been amazing mentors. I have appreciated their scientific guidance. They have been terrific exemplars of what physicians and researchers can be and how they can further the research field. I have known them both for years, and they have fostered my love for research and taught me so much,” Dr. Benton said.
The CDA program was established by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences in 2014 to provide research training and funding for early-career faculty members and foster academic careers in clinical and translational research. Each year, the recipients of the two-year award receive 75% protected time for research, plus salary support and funding for research-related activities and travel.
Other recipients of the 2023 CDA are:
- Kellen Chen, PhD, assistant research professor of surgery at the College of Medicine – Tucson
- Hongxu Ding, PhD, assistant professor of translational pharmacogenomics at the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy
- Tobias Jakobi, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the College of Medicine – Phoenix
- Bridget Murphy, DBH, MEd, assistant research professor of health promotion sciences at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health