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Leading physician-scientists honored by VA

At a National VA Research Week forum in Washington, DC, on April 26, VA's Office of Research and Development recognized four distinguished physician-scientists with its top annual awards for investigators.

Fred D. Finkelman, MD Fred D. Finkelman, MD, received the William S. Middleton Award for his pioneering work in immunology. Finkelman's studies have helped explain how the human body defends against parasites and other pathogens. His work has also led to a deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved in allergies. The research has contributed to vaccine development and allergy treatments. Finkelman is the director of rheumatology at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and holds clinical and academic positions at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati. Formerly, Finkelman taught at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and directed the school's division of immunology. The Middleton Award is the highest honor of VA's Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development Service. It was established in 1960 to honor its namesake, an educator and physician-scientist who was VA's chief medical director from 1955 to 1963.

Barry M. Massie, MD Barry M. Massie, MD, and Murray A. Raskind, MD, shared the John B. Barnwell Award. Massie was recognized for his contributions to the treatment of chronic heart failure. Massie's research covers the basic mechanisms of exercise intolerance, practice patterns and patient outcomes, and assessments of new drug and devices. He has helped lead several major VA clinical trials on topics related to heart health, the results of which have helped shape medical care in the U.S. and beyond. Massie is chief of cardiology and director of the Heart Failure Program at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and helped found the Heart Failure Society of America. A widely published researcher, he is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

Murray A. Raskind, MD Raskind, a clinician-scientist with VA for the past 27 years, was honored for his work on the biochemical pathways involved in posttraumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer's disease, and alcoholism. In particular, he was cited for spearheading the use of an inexpensive generic drug called prazosin to treat PTSD nightmares. A psychiatrist, Raskind has focused his research on treatment-resistant behavioral disorders that cause distress for large numbers of VA patients. Most notably, his work on prazosin and PTSD has translated to a widely adopted treatment for Veterans and Service members with this condition. Raskind directs VA's Northwest Network Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center, based at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System. He is also a founding member of VA's Seattle-based Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center.

Established in 2007, the John Blair Barnwell Award is the highest award of VA's Clinical Science Research and Development Service. Barnwell was a leading tuberculosis expert in the 1940s who went on to spearhead landmark VA clinical trials in this area.

Joseph M. Czerniecki, MD Joseph M. Czerniecki, MD, received the Paul B. Magnuson Award for his research on behalf of Veterans with limb loss. Most recently, Czerniecki's group at the Puget Sound VA has explored one of the most important medical decisions affecting the long-term health and mobility of Veterans and others who undergo lower-limb amputations as a result of diabetes. To help clinicians decide at which level to amputate a leg, the team is developing a prediction model showing how various factors affect outcomes. In other research, Czerniecki has conducted biomechanical analyses to understand the adaptive strategies that amputees use to walk and run. He has also studied the biomechanical and prosthetic factors that influence how much energy is expended by prosthetics users. Czerniecki is associate director of the VA Research Center of Excellence for Limb Loss Prevention and Prosthetic Engineering. He also is a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. The Magnuson Award carries the name of the surgeon who was one of the principal architects of the VA health care system. It is given each year to a VA Rehabilitation Research and Development investigator who exemplifies the entrepreneurship, humanitarianism, and dedication to Veterans for which Magnuson was known.

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