Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Lifespan has recognized Jennifer Friedman, MD, PhD, a researcher at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, with the 2012 Bruce M. Selya Award for Excellence in Research. The award is presented annually by Judge Bruce M. Selya from the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
The Honorable Bruce M. Selya presents Jennifer Friedman, MD, PhD, with the 2012 Award for Excellence in Research.
Friedman, a pediatrician, is also director of clinical studies for the Center for International Health Research at Rhode Island Hospital, where investigators use both laboratory and field studies to solve urgent global health issues. Since co-founding the center in 2005, Friedman has led population-based studies in Brazil, western Kenya and the Philippines. Some of those include designing and implementing a study of how worm infections increase the risk for anemia, malnutrition, and cognitive impairment among children.
Friedman’s research is run collaboratively with the work of Jonathan Kurtis, MD, PhD, director of the center, and the 2011 recipient of the Selya Award. Peggy McGill, director of research administration for Lifespan, noted, “Dr. Friedman and last year’s awardee, Dr. Kurtis, are a very successful research team. Dr. Kurtis, a pathologist, studies diseases to understand how a vaccine may be made to eradicate the illness, while Dr. Friedman studies the effect of the disease on the maternal health of worldwide populations. Somehow, Dr. Friedman finds time to carry out this global research, mentor residents and students, and give of her time as a pediatrician. She is quite remarkable.”
As a postdoctoral Fulbright fellow in western Kenya, Friedman led a study of the impact of insecticide-treated bed nets on malnutrition and body composition in school-age children. She also helped design and implement a study that evaluated the impact of bed nets on malaria among pregnant women and children younger than five years old.
Friedman’s most recent project is an innovative global health and development research project that will investigate the role of fetal inflammation in response to parasitic diseases as a cause of low birth weight. This work will form a basis for further studies to identify bio-markers for fetal inflammation in expectant mothers, which will help identify pregnancies at risk. Doctors may then be able to either correct issues in at-risk babies while they are still in-utero, or be better prepared to treat them after birth.
Robert Klein, MD, pediatrician-in-chief of Hasbro Children’s Hospital, spoke highly of Friedman in his letter nominating her for the award. “Dr. Friedman is a highly productive and successful clinician and researcher whose innovative work is focused on understanding the prevalence and effects of malaria and parasitic infections during pregnancy and childhood,” said Klein. “She is currently leading one of the largest clinical trials at Lifespan, which can have tremendous public health impact as, if proven effective, 40 million pregnant women worldwide with parasitic infections will be targeted for life-saving treatments.”
The Lifespan Board of Directors instituted this award in 1999 as a means to honor its first Lifespan Board chairman, the Honorable Bruce M. Selya. Judge Selya served as chairman of the board from 1994 through 1999, and remains a member of the board today. This award is meant to recognize Judge Selya’s “steadfast commitment to academic medicine and his keen insight concerning the importance of academic programs to quality health care at Lifespan.” It provides recognition of research excellence at the level of the independent investigator and serves to enhance the visibility and role of research within the Lifespan community. The award recipient is noted as a “rising star” in the research community.
Each year’s award winner is designated as a keynote speaker for the following year’s research celebration and Friedman will join her predecessors to become a member of the Selya Research Award Committee for a 3-year term.
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