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Permar and Patrick honored with Gale and Ira Drukier Prize in Children's Health Research

Thursday, July 30, 2020
Sallie Permar; Stephen Patrick

Sallie Permar, MD, PhD, and Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, MS, have recently been jointly awarded the fifth annual Gale and Ira Drukier Prize in Children’s Health Research. The award honors early-career pediatricians whose research has made important contributions toward improving the health of children and adolescents.

Dr. Permar, a professor of pediatrics, immunology, molecular genetics and microbiology, associate dean of physician scientist development, and founding director of the Children’s Health and Discovery Initiative at Duke University School of Medicine, is being honored for her research in the development of vaccines to prevent mother-to-child transmission of neonatal viral pathogens.

Dr. Patrick, an associate professor of pediatrics and health policy and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, is being recognized for his research on improving outcomes for infants born to opioid-dependent pregnant women using a public health framework.

 “Drs. Permar and Patrick are skilled physician-scientists whose commitment to pediatric research and care exemplifies the spirit of the Gale and Ira Drukier Prize in Children’s Health Research,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “Dr. Permar’s innovative work investigating the prevention and treatment of neonatal viral infections has advanced this vital field of research, while Dr. Patrick’s examination of the impact of the opioid epidemic on pregnant women and infants has informed national policy in this area. Their respective research offers the promise of a healthy future for countless children, and we’re delighted to recognize them this year.”

“We are thrilled to be honoring two exceptional winners with this year’s award,” said Dr. Gale Drukier and Weill Cornell Medicine Overseer Ira Drukier, who together in 2014 established the prize. “The dedication Dr. Permar and Dr. Patrick have displayed to improving the lives of children is inspiring, as they work to ensure the health of newborns through pioneering research and compassionate care. It brings us great joy to recognize those who are affecting real change in pediatric research, like these physician-scientists, and to highlight their important work.”

“By focusing on one of the most vulnerable populations, the discoveries made by these investigators have the opportunity to improve outcomes for newborns and offer hope to untold expectant mothers,” said Dr. Virginia Pascual, the Drukier Director of the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health. “Dr. Permar’s research on developing vaccines to prevent mother-to-child viral transmission of disease and Dr. Patrick’s work to improve outcomes for infants born to opioid-dependent women have furthered our knowledge of these areas of pediatric research. The Drukier Institute is pleased to honor them for their important contributions to children’s health.”

Sallie Permar, MD, PhD

Dr. Sallie Permar is a physician scientist focused on the prevention and treatment of neonatal viral infections. She leads a research laboratory investigating immune protection against vertical transmission of neonatal viral pathogens, namely HIV and cytomegalovirus (CMV), using human cohorts and nonhuman primate models. Dr. Permar has made important contributions to the development of vaccines for prevention of vertical virus transmission, defining both innate and adaptive immune responses that are associated with protection against infant virus infections.

Dr. Permar is leading the development of HIV vaccine strategies in preclinical maternal/infant nonhuman primate models and translation of this work for clinical vaccine trials in infants. Dr. Permar has also worked to understand the determinants of congenital and perinatal CMV transmission, developing the first nonhuman primate model of congenital CMV infection and designing human cohort studies that have been used to define the immune correlates of protection necessary to guide vaccine development.

 “The Drukier awardees are a highly recognized group of pediatricians and one I’m proud to be a part of,” said Dr. Permar. “If you can solve diseases in the pediatric window, then you’re giving that person the gift of a healthy lifetime. It’s wonderful that this award recognizes and promotes this critical concept.”

Dr. Permar has a PhD in microbiology/immunology from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and an MD from Harvard Medical School. She completed her clinical training in pediatric infectious diseases at Children's Hospital in Boston. She has received several prestigious early-stage investigator awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE), and was inducted into the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI) in 2016 and Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) in 2018. She is an institutional and national leader in physician-scientist training, serving as the associate dean of physician-scientist development at Duke University Medical School and was selected by the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs (AMSPDC) as the next director of the national Pediatric Scientist Development Program in 2019.

Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, MS

Dr. Stephen Patrick’s National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded research focuses on improving outcomes for opioid-exposed infants and women with substance-use disorder and evaluating state and federal drug control policies. He previously served as senior science policy advisor to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and has testified before Congress on the rising numbers of newborns being diagnosed with opioid withdrawal after birth. He served as an expert consultant for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s development of a Guide to the Management of Opioid-Dependent Pregnant and Parenting Women and Their Children, as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Use and Prevention and as a board member on the US Office of Personnel Management’s Multi-State Plan Program Advisory Board.

“Just looking at past Drukier Prize awardees, it’s an extreme honor to be included with that esteemed group,” said Dr. Patrick. “Research is a team sport and taking care of patients is a team sport. This is an individual award but it’s reflective of great mentorship I’ve had along the way and the support I’ve had from others, including my family, to get the work done.”

Dr. Patrick is a graduate of the University of Florida, Florida State University College of Medicine and Harvard School of Public Health. He completed his training in pediatrics, neonatology and health services research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan and joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University in 2013.

Dr. Patrick’s awards include the American Medical Association Foundation Excellence in Medicine Leadership Award, the Academic Pediatric Association Fellow Research Award Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Early Career Physician of the Year and the Nemours Child Health Services Research Award. His research has been published in leading scientific journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMAPediatrics and Health Affairs.

Gale and Ira Drukier Prize in Children’s Health Research

The Gale and Ira Drukier Prize in Children’s Health Research was established in 2014 as part of a $25 million gift to Weill Cornell Medicine. The gift also created the Drukier Institute for Children’s Health, a premiere, inter-disciplinary institute dedicated to understanding the underlying causes of diseases that are devastating to children. As part of its mission, the institute awards the annual prize, which carries a $10,000 unrestricted honorarium, to recognize the innovative work done by young investigators in pediatric research.