Unprecedented Heights: Celebrating a Centennial Academic Evening

A wealth of scholarly activity and scientific prowess were showcased at Duke Anesthesiology’s distinguished 32nd Annual Academic Evening — formally recognized as a Duke Centennial event. The pinnacle of the department’s research endeavors, nearly 180 junior-level investigators and faculty gathered at this year’s celebration to share the results of their research pursuits, spanning diverse areas of study including basic science, clinical and translational research, population health, and quality improvement. 

This year marked a milestone with an unprecedented number of 104 abstracts presented at the event, which took place on May 7 at the JB Duke Hotel and was chaired by Drs. Miriam Treggiari and Anne Cherry. 

Anne Cherry, MD
Dr. Anne Cherry

In her opening remarks, Cherry reflected on her first interaction with the department 18 years ago while attending Academic Evening as a medical student. “Like many of you, I presented a project that was the result of years of collective effort by numerous individuals before me. While I felt a strong sense of ownership in my work, I also recognized that I was representing the culmination of all the prior work. It's important to acknowledge that the work being presented tonight follows the same pattern; our presenters have invested a great deal in this work which also represents the contributions of mentors, faculty, statisticians, data scientists, research staff, students, and even patients who go the extra mile because they believe in its significance. I extend my gratitude to everyone involved in nurturing and advancing these projects."

Dr. Miriam Treggiari
Dr. Miriam Treggiari

Treggiari initiated the reception by reverently ringing the bell belonging to the late Dr. David S. Warner, symbolizing the commencement of presentations and paying tribute to Warner's enduring legacy. This gesture acknowledged Warner's key role in the event, profound influence as a mentor to countless investigators, and his pivotal contribution to the advancement of both basic science and clinical research within the department. The David S. Warner Award for post doc basic science research, established in 2022, is one of three awards which bear the names of esteemed departmental members, perpetuating their remarkable legacy in Duke Anesthesiology. The Dick Smith Award for fellow clinical research honors Smith, who was a highly regarded statistician who made significant contributions to the department’s ability and reputation in conducting high-level science with unrivaled ethical and moral standards. 

Another anticipated highlight of the annual event is the presentation of the Bill White Award for resident research. White was involved in the design, data control and examination, and statistical analysis of biomedical studies in both observational and clinical trials within Duke Anesthesiology for more than two decades. Dr. George Cortina received first place in this category for his project titled, “Machine Learning-Assisted Novel Local Anesthetic Nanoparticles Demonstrate Extended Analgesia in a Mouse Model of Postoperative Pain.”

“The evening provided an amazing showcase of the breadth of innovative anesthesia research at Duke. I am excited and honored to receive an award,” says Cortina. “Our project arose out of a partnership between the Reker lab in Duke Biomedical Engineering and the Ji lab in Duke Anesthesiology, highlighting the strong support for novel ideas and interdisciplinary teamwork within the department. This would not have been possible without the dedication and expertise of every team member involved."

Dr. Seun Johnson-Akeju
Dr. Seun Johnson-Akeju

Dr. Seun Johnson-Akeju, chairman of the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at Harvard Medical School, was selected to serve as this year’s guest judge. In this role, he received the honor of reviewing the work and presiding over the selection of the award winners in each of the five categories.

“Being part of the Academic Evening was a privilege. The department's research, mentorship and staff engagement showcased unparalleled breadth, depth and quality. The Duke Department of Anesthesiology stands among the institutions that set the benchmark for academic excellence in our field, both present and future. Experiencing this commitment firsthand only deepened my admiration,” says Johnson-Akeju, a clinical neuroscientist whose research focuses on advancing our understanding of the neurophysiological characteristics of anesthetic states, specifically the cellular mechanisms underlying postoperative delirium.

“Three decades later, the mission of Academic Evening remains constant; to propel forward the field of anesthesia, critical care and pain management, ultimately enhancing the care of our patients,” asserts Treggiari, vice chair for research. "We take immense pride in witnessing the remarkable achievements made within the department in this relatively short span of a year. It stands as a testament to our department's robust culture of driving breakthroughs and making a tangible difference in the world, fueled by an unwavering dedication to our academic mission."

We extend our gratitude to the diligent *moderators and the **Abstract Review Committee who played an invaluable role in ensuring the quality and rigor of the research presented at our Academic Evening. 

*Drs. Seun Johnson-Akeju, Anne Cherry, Lisa Einhorn, Jaime Privratsky, Brandi Bottiger, Karthik Raghunathan, Muhammad Farooq Anwar, Ian Welsby, Vijay Krishnamoorthy, Huaxin Sheng, Angela Pollak, Shad Smith, Michael Devinney, Michael Kent, Sundar Krishnan, Katherine Martucci, Satya Achanta, Richard Moon, Heath Gasier, and Alina Nicoara.

**Drs. Leah Acker, Miles Berger, Kamrouz Ghadimi, Edward Jooste, Michael Kent, Alina Nicoara, Tetsu Ohnuma, Srinivas Pyati, Rebecca Schroeder, Huaxin Sheng, Marie-Louise Meng, Richard Moon, Jaime Privratsky, Wei Yang, Mary Yurashevich, and Kevin Vorenkamp.

2024 Academic Evening 1st place winners!
2024 Academic Evening First Place Winners (top to bottom, left to right): Jing Xu, Katherine Sun, George Cortina, Jacqueline Emerson, Jennifer Ricano


2024 Academic Evening Award Winners:

Post Doc Basic Science Research (David S. Warner Award)

1st Place: Jing Xu, “GPR37L1 Regulates Astrocyte Signaling in Neuropathic Pain” | Mentor: Ru-Rong Ji

2nd Place: Ayman Youssef, “Sciatic Stimulation Stabilizes Glycemia in Sepsis via Hepatic Cholinergic M3R Receptors” | Mentor: Luis Ulloa

3rd Place: Yanting Chen, “Kidney Macrophage IL-1 Receptor Limits Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Nephrotoxic Serum Nephritis” | Mentor: Jamie Privratsky

Fellow Clinical Research (Dick Smith Award)

1st Place: Katherine Sun, “Right Ventricle-Pulmonary Artery Coupling as Predictor of Major Organ Morbidity and Mortality after Cardiac Surgery” | Mentor: Alina Nicoara

2nd Place: Benjamin Andrew, “National Practice Patterns for the Use of Regional Anesthesia for Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and Impact on Postoperative Outcomes: An Analysis of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Congenital Cardiac Anesthesia Society (STS-CCAS) Database” | Mentor: Lisa Einhorn

3rd Place: Mara Serbanescu, “Conserved Alterations in Gut Microbiota-Mediated Metabolic Pathways Underlie Aging-Related Neurodegeneration in Humans and Mice” | Mentors: Paul Wischmeyer & Niccolo Terrando

Resident Research (Bill White Award)

1st Place: George Cortina, “Machine Learning-Assisted Novel Local Anesthetic Nanoparticles Demonstrate Extended Analgesia in a Mouse Model of Postoperative Pain” | Mentors: Ru-Rong Ji & Daniel Reker

Medical Student Research

1st Place: Jacqueline Emerson, “Changes in Human Central Nervous System Monocyte Counts (within the Cerebrospinal Fluid) and Cognition Following Major Non-Cardiac/Non-Neurologic Surgery in Older Adults” | Mentor: Miles Berger

Grad/Undergrad Research/CRNA/DNP

1st Place: Jennifer Ricano, “Activation of Beta-3 Adrenergic Receptors with the Selective Agonist Mirabegron Elicits Multi-Site Mechanical Hypersensitivity, Grimace, and Increased IL-6 Levels in Mice” | Mentor: Andrea Nackley

2nd Place: Vinith Upadhya, “Increased Grey Matter Microstructural Abnormalities in Patients with Post-Operative Delirium” | Mentor: Miles Berger