2021 DREAM Innovation Grant Recipients Revealed

2021 DREAM Innovation Grant Recipients

Congratulations to three Duke Anesthesiology faculty, Drs. Michael Devinney, Heath Gasier and Marie-Louise Meng, on being selected as the 2021 DREAM Innovation Grant (DIG) recipients. The much-anticipated announcement was made on October 28, 2020 at Dr. Joseph Mathew’s virtual Chair’s Rounds.

Congratulations to the 2021 DIG winners:

Michael Devinney, MD, PhD

“Proteomic Determination of Neuroinflammation in Postoperative Delirium”

Heath Gasier, PhD

“Heme Oxygenase-1 Regulation of Skeletal Muscle Inflammation and Mitochondrial Fitness in Sarcopenic Obesity”

Marie-Louise Meng, MD

“Myocardial Dysfunction and Cardiac Metabolism in Preeclampsia”

DIGs support innovative high-risk and potentially high-reward investigations to accelerate anesthesia and pain management research. Each year, an annual competition is held among junior to mid-career faculty members within Duke Anesthesiology, who do not have established NIH funding. They compete for a DIG by submitting their most innovative research ideas to the DIG Application Review Committee, which was led by the late Dr. William Maixner, who was dedicated to transforming the future of patient care through innovative research.

Each DIG recipient can receive up to $30,000 in seed money, which supports their innovative pilot study for one year and ultimately helps them apply for and obtain extramural funding. One of the grants is reserved to support a beginning scientist (within five years of completion of residency or fellowship). The other award(s) are used as a seed grant to help investigators obtain preliminary data to support a new application to the National Institutes of Health. These grants are funded through a combination of private donors, private companies, alumni, and faculty. To date, $922,374 in DREAM Innovation Grants have led to nearly $15 million in extramural funding. Click here to view the previous DIG recipients and learn more about their projects.

DIGs are part of the department’s Duke DREAM Campaign, which launched in 2007 to support Duke Anesthesiology’s research programs and initiatives. These grants create an avenue for healthy competition among faculty, inspire ingenuity, promote the careers of young physician investigators, enhance donor communication, and further the department’s academic mission. DIGs help to bridge the gap between training and progression to independent investigator status.

Stacey Hilton2021 DREAM Innovation Grant Recipients Revealed
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In Remembrance of Dr. William Maixner

William Maixner, DDS, PhDIt is with profound sadness that we inform you about the passing of a beloved member of our Duke Anesthesiology family, William “Bill” Maixner, DDS, PhD. He passed away on November 2 at the age of 68 after battling an illness. Duke flags were lowered on November 4 in honor of his life and legacy.

Dr. Maixner, the Joannes H. Karis, MD, Professor of Anesthesiology, was a world-renowned pioneer in pain research and one of our department’s most distinguished faculty. He will be remembered as an extraordinary leader, innovator, scientist and mentor who dedicated his life-long career to unraveling the mysteries of chronic pain and was committed to translating basic discoveries into novel diagnostics and treatments to positively impact research, education and patient care.

On January 1, 2016, Dr. Maixner joined our department from the School of Dentistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), where he was the Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham Distinguished University Professor, to further expand our clinical and research program in pain medicine. During his short time with us here at Duke, he achieved incredible milestones. Dr. Maixner developed and led the Center for Translational Pain Medicine, which recently received the rare and prestigious designation as a National Center of Excellence through an $8.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) program project grant (PPG), the first PPG in 40 years awarded to our department. He was a visionary who brought to fruition a center that united leading basic scientists, clinicians and clinical researchers under one umbrella, with the core mission of developing novel pain therapies to improve patient care. Through his leadership, this center has rapidly become internationally-recognized as a best-in-class translational pain medicine program, ultimately transforming the way we diagnose and treat painful conditions. He was also instrumental in developing Duke Innovative Pain Therapies, a first-of-its-kind multispecialty pain practice focused on non-opioid therapies, which opened its doors to patients in September 2016. In 2017, Dr. Maixner received one of the highest honors in academia with his appointment as the Joannes H. Karis, MD, Professor of Anesthesiology, designated by the Duke University School of Medicine, becoming only the fifth faculty member in our department to be named a distinguished professor. This endowed professorship recognized his remarkable achievements in advancing medical science, significantly shaping the field of pain research and education, profoundly impacting patient care and exemplifying superior mentorship. That same year, he was named our department’s vice chair for research.

Dr. Maixner was originally from Ottumwa, Iowa. After completing his BA, PhD, and DDS at the University of Iowa, he became a research fellow at the National Institute of Dental Research. He went on to become faculty at UNC-CH, where over the span of 30 years, he served as a professor in the Departments of Endodontics and Pharmacology, co-director of the Oral and Maxillofacial Pain Program, associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Dentistry, and director of the Center for Pain Research and Innovation.

Dr. Maixner played a key role as a knowledge leader in the field of pain; he served as president of the American Pain Society and on our nation’s Health and Human Services Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and the NIH’s Pain Consortium, in which he helped shape the direction of our nation’s national strategies in pain research, education and patient care. He considered chronic pain to be a “hidden epidemic” and proudly campaigned for more research support amongst colleagues, sponsors, health organizations, and congressional committees.

Dr. Maixner earned several accolades throughout his career, including the New York College of Dentistry Distinguished Scientist Award and the Wilbert E. Fordyce Clinical Investigator Award from the American Pain Society. His primary research focus was on biological, environmental and genetic factors involved in pain transmission and modulation. Notably, Dr. Maixner was the principal investigator on the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research’s (NIDCR) $19 million, seven-year OPPERA study to examine pain produced by temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders. In 2012, the NIDCR awarded him and his team an additional $16 million in funding to support the study (called OPPERA II) for an additional five-year period. He published more than 200 manuscripts and book chapters and was continuously funded by the NIH since 1986.

Additionally, Dr. Maixner was appointed as a member of the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research Academy of Research Mentors in Anesthesiology. His mentorship skills were evidenced by the success of the numerous students, trainees and mid-career scientists whom he mentored throughout his career.

Dr. Maixner’s legacy of innovation within all three pillars of research, education and patient care will forever be remembered here at Duke as we continue to honor his accomplishments and grow his goals. Most importantly, his legacy will live through his family. He was a dedicated and loving husband to his wife, Viravan, father to his two children, William and Dylan, and grandfather to two granddaughters born earlier this year.

Please join us in extending our sincerest condolences to Dr. Maixner’s family, friends and colleagues. At the request of the family, in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to our DREAM Campaign in support of research through the DREAM Innovation Grants.

Stacey HiltonIn Remembrance of Dr. William Maixner
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Duke University Hospital Program Earns Distinguished Three-Star Ratings

By Tracey Koepke, Duke Heart Center

We are pleased to share with you that our Adult Cardiac Surgery program at Duke University Hospital has, for the first time, earned three simultaneous distinguished three-star ratings from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for its patient care and outcomes in the following areas: isolated coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) procedures; isolated aortic valve replacement (AVR) surgery, and isolated mitral valve replacement and repair (MVRR) surgery. The three-star rating, which denotes the highest category of quality, places our program among the elite for CABG, AVR and MVRR in the U.S.

“This is a significant validation of the quality and performance that we are able to deliver in cardiac surgery — the three-star rating means that our outcomes are in the top 10 percent of all centers in the United States,” said Peter K. Smith, MD, chief of the division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and co-director of Duke Heart Center. “That we have achieved this within each of the three most important domains of cardiac surgery — bypass surgery, aortic valve replacement, and mitral valve repair or replacement – is a tribute not just to the surgeons but our entire team of dedicated health care professionals in our Operating Room, Intensive Care Unit, and Step-down Units.”

The STS star rating system is one of the most sophisticated and highly regarded overall measures of quality in health care, rating the benchmarked outcomes of cardiothoracic surgery programs in the U.S. The star rating is calculated using a combination of quality measures for specific procedures performed by an STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database (ACSD) participant. We achieved a two-star rating in each of the remaining two areas of reporting: AVR+CABG and MVRR+CABG.

“Any scoring system has its limitations, but this is one of the most scientifically validated systems for heart surgery. It involves a huge amount of data from almost all centers in the U.S. and a very complicated and well thought out risk-adjustment model,” according to Carmelo Milano, MD, Chief of the Section of Adult Cardiac Surgery in the division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. “Not only are they looking at raw outcomes like survival, but they take into consideration the pre-operative conditions that may make certain cases much higher risk. This is a very well respected grading system for heart surgery.”

The latest analysis of data for CABG covers a 1-year period, from January 2019 to December 2019; the analysis of data for isolated AVR, isolated MVRR, AVR+CABG and MVRR+CABG surgeries covers a 3-year period, from January 2017 to December 2019.

Mihai V. Podgoreanu, MD

Mihai V. Podgoreanu, MD

“Achieving the elite STS three-star rating, one of the most sophisticated and highly regarded overall measures of quality in health care, is a testament to our program’s commitment to quality improvement and safety across the cardiac surgical patient journey – from careful preoperative planning and optimization, to relentless attention to detail and coordination of intraoperative and postoperative decision making among multi-disciplinary heart team members,” added Mihai Podgoreanu, MD, chief of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology and Critical Care. “In these unprecedented times, we are united in our dedication, resilience, compassion, and innovative spirit to continue pursuing our highest purpose – excellence and quality care for patients in need of cardiac surgery and their families.”

“As an organization and a group – the STS three star rating is evidence of the dedication of our entire Heart Center around how we care for our patients with multi-disciplinary teams that start with the evaluation and identification of patients needing coronary revascularization or valve surgery all the way through recovery, rehab, and return to life,” said Manesh Patel, MD, chief of the division of Cardiology and co-director of Duke Heart Center. “I am excited that during these challenging times our teams have continued the dedication and work to stay focused on patient outcomes.”

The STS National Database was established in 1989 as an initiative for quality improvement and patient safety among cardiothoracic surgeons. The STS ACSD houses approximately 6.9 million surgical records and gathers information from more than 3,800 participating physicians, including surgeons and anesthesiologists from more than 90 percent of groups that perform heart surgery in the US. The Database includes three other components: the Congenital Heart Surgery Database (CHSD), the General Thoracic Surgery Database (GTSD), and the mechanical circulatory support database (Intermacs). Duke has participated in the STS National Database since its inception.

Stacey HiltonDuke University Hospital Program Earns Distinguished Three-Star Ratings
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Transition in Leadership Roles Announced

Drs. Dongiguez, Jones, and Olufolabi

Please join us in extending our congratulations to Drs. Jennifer Dominguez and Adeyemi Olufolabi on their new diversity and inclusion leadership roles within Duke Anesthesiology, effective October 1.

Dominguez now serves as chair of our Anesthesiology Inclusivity Committee (AIC). Olufolabi serves as the committee’s senior advisor. They transitioned into these leadership roles previously held by Dr. Mandisa-Maia Jones, who has been with our department for six years and has accepted an opportunity at Cornell. We would like to express our gratitude for her dedication and commitment to launching and leading this departmental program.

Diversity and inclusion are essential components of academic medicine, both to promote equity and fairness among us, and to fulfill our School of Medicine’s mission for excellence in education, research, and clinical care. Our Diversity and Inclusion Program within Duke Anesthesiology is a group of faculty and trainees that works on various initiatives to promote the recruitment, retention, and career development of faculty and trainees who identify as women, LGBTQ or with racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in medicine. The AIC accomplishes these goals through recruitment, education, outreach, advocacy, and by promoting an inclusive culture within the department that positively impacts how we teach, learn and serve. We are committed to building an environment where we all feel we belong, and are engaged and productive.

Dominguez joined our department in 2013 as an assistant professor of anesthesiology. She graduated from the Yale School of Medicine, where she also completed residency training, followed by a fellowship here at Duke. She currently serves as the director of our Obstetric Anesthesiology Fellowship Program.

“I have enjoyed being a member of the AIC for several years, and am also grateful to Dr. Jones for her leadership. I look forward to working with Dr. Olufolabi and this committed and vibrant group of faculty, residents and fellows to move these vital initiatives forward,” says Dominguez. “Recent events from the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color, to heinous acts of police brutality have prompted an openness to acknowledge and dialogue about systemic race, ethnic and gender based discrimination that I have not seen previously in my lifetime. I hope that this momentum will continue so that we can make impactful and lasting changes that will benefit our profession, our patients, and our communities.”

Olufolabi joined our department in 1997 as a visiting associate. He received his MBBS at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and went on to complete his specialist registrar training at the University of Southampton. He has served as an affiliate for the Duke Global Health Institute for the past decade, and leads our department’s Global Health Program.

“I believe the country is birthing a new fair and equitable society for all Americans. And like natural birth, it is fraught with pain and a prolonged period of uncertainty. But history tells us that we will evolve and will get there,” says Olufolabi. “We just need to keep banging on the door and believing in the creed that we all are created equal.”

On behalf of our department, we wish Drs. Dominguez, Jones and Olufolabi the best in their new roles and future endeavors.

Stacey HiltonTransition in Leadership Roles Announced
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