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November 22, 2023

Two VA senior researchers receive 2023 Middleton Award

Dr. Paula Bickford of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Florida, and Dr. Alvin Powers of the VA Tennessee Valley Health Care System in Nashville, Tennessee, have jointly been named the 2023 Middleton Award recipients in recognition of their groundbreaking contributions in biomedical research.

Dr. Paula Bickford

Dr. Paula Bickford

Dr. Bickford is being recognized for her seminal contributions to the fields of aging and neurodegenerative diseases. She was one of the first researchers to identify the roles of oxidative stress and neuroinflammation in normal aging and neurodegenerative disease and authored some of the earliest papers on the effects of antioxidant enriched foods, such as blueberries, in 1999.

In recent years, Bickford has expanded her research into the roles of exosomes secreted by stem cells as part of a cell-free therapy for traumatic brain injury. In addition to her pioneering research, she has also devoted countless hours of service to the local and national VA.

Bickford has served in many scientific leadership roles, including the scientific advisory board for the American Federation of Aging Research. She has received numerous prestigious awards, such as the Walter Nicolai Prize and being named a fellow of the National Academy of Science.

“Dr. Bickford’s research has stayed on the cutting-edge of science, and her discoveries continue to spark numerous investigations by others in the field,” wrote Dr. Rachel Ramoni, VA Chief Research and Development Officer, in a nomination letter. “She stands as a shining example of a visionary scientist who has enabled a better understanding of aging and neurodegenerative disease.”

Dr. Alvin Powers

Dr. Alvin Powers

Dr. Powers is a renowned diabetes researcher whose work has dramatically expanded knowledge of diabetes and continues to influence diabetes research at the national and international levels. He was the first researcher to demonstrate similarities and difference in islets – small islands of cells in the pancreas that produce hormones to regulate blood glucose levels – prompting a greater focus on studying the human pancreas in relation to diabetes.

Experimental approaches developed by Powers’ team have been adopted by other groups, including the NIH Human Islet Research Network, which has sparked numerous new avenues of research into the pancreas. More recently, his group developed experimental approaches to imaging and studying the pancreas and pancreatic islets.

Powers has served as a division chief at the Nashville VA and led an NIH-funded Diabetes Research Center that has trained over 1,200 medical students in the last 20 years. He has served in many leadership roles, including on the scientific advisory committee for NIH on diabetes.

“Dr. Powers has been an extraordinary asset to the health science community for over 20 years,” said Ramoni. “His groundbreaking work in diabetes has transformed our knowledge of the disease and influenced research internationally. Dr. Powers’ work offers hope to over 500 million diabetic adults worldwide, and we are privileged to have him on the VA research team.”

The William S. Middleton Award was established in 1960, to honor William S. Middleton, M.D., distinguished educator, physician-scientist, and VA Chief Medical Director from 1955 to 1963. It recognizes outstanding scientific contributions and achievements in the areas of biomedical and bio-behavioral research relevant to the health care of Veterans.

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