Joyce Lee-Iannotti, MD, an associate clinical professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine and the Department of Neurology, was named Arizona Researcher of the Year by the Arizona Chapter of the American College of Physicians (ACP).
“I am truly humbled to receive this honor,” said Dr. Lee-Iannotti, who is also the program director for the Sleep Medicine Fellowship at the College of Medicine – Phoenix and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. “I pivoted my career from clinical and administrative leadership to venture into clinical research mid-career. This award validates my plans to delve further into research with goals of designing my own clinical trials and even exploring options into translational research.”
Dr. Lee-Iannotti joined the faculty of the College of Medicine – Phoenix in 2015. After a decade devoting her time to patient care and building clinical programs, she spent the last few years as an active participant in numerous studies related to stroke and sleep neurology.
“I've always loved research, purely for the fact that research is the thing that brings therapeutics and innovative therapies to our patients forward,” she said. “I am fueled by the endless possibilities of providing more treatment options and diagnostic tools to help my patients. With innovation comes better care.”
Dr. Lee-Iannotti is involved with several projects designed to improve treatments for patients with long-term illness. One example is the Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by Janko Nikolich, MD, PhD, in Arizona. RECOVER aims to understand how people progress after a COVID-19 infection and why some people develop post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2, also known as PASC or Long COVID.
Emily Mallin, MD, FACP, associate chair for education at the College of Medicine – Phoenix, was one of Dr. Lee-Iannotti’s nominators.
“What distinguishes Dr. Lee-Iannotti as outstanding are her many contributions to clinical research over the span of years,” Dr. Mallin said. “Notably, while a number of clinical investigators have had to scale back research pursuits during the last three years, Dr. Lee-Iannotti has successfully accelerated hers, as shown by her involvement in such trials as the NIH RECOVER trial investigating sequelae of COVID-19 infection, a trial on sleep apnea in stroke through NINDS and Stroke Net, and many more.”
Dr. Lee-Iannotti’s research is moving toward clinical trials to study the neurological complications of COVID-19 and the overlap of sleep and other neurological diseases. Her goal is to identify therapeutics for patients suffering the effects of neurological conditions, including stroke, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
“I am so grateful for the mentorship the University of Arizona Health Sciences has provided me in my eight years as a faculty member,” Dr. Lee-Iannotti said. “The College of Medicine – Phoenix has embraced my passion for research and provided me with the tools, mentors and opportunities. I hope that other clinicians get the research bug and realize that it will bring medicine closer to eliminating disease and suffering for our patients.”
She said she hopes that her work will serve as an inspiration for other clinicians who are interested in pursuing research. “I still find it intimidating and challenging at times, but I am invigorated by the opportunities and windows it opens for our patients,” she said.
Dr. Lee-Iannotti graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and completed a residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. She completed two fellowships: one in sleep medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and another in vascular neurology and stroke at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.
A version of this story originally appeared on the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix website.