Batchelor Awards Honor Spirit of Inquiry in Pediatrics
Four Miller School pediatrics researchers were honored for their relentless pursuit of solutions that will improve the health of children.
Four physician-scientists conducting leading-edge research on children’s diseases in the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics have been honored with Micah Batchelor Awards for Excellence in Children’s Health Research.
2023 award winners include:
- Pankaj Agrawal, M.D., M.M.Sc., who received the Micah Batchelor Award for Excellence in Children’s Health Research.
- Augusto Schmidt, M.D., Ph.D., who received the Micah Batchelor Fellow Award.
- Ivan A. González, M.D., and April Wen Jun Tan, M.D., both recipients of the Micah Batchelor Scholar Award, which recognizes early-career faculty who are exploring innovative strategies to improve health outcomes for children.
The awards were established through the generosity of George E. Batchelor in memory of his late grandson and inspire innovative ideas and solutions that will improve the health and well-being of children.
“The Micah Batchelor Awards applaud the accomplishments of our faculty members and also offer great promise for the discovery of treatments and cures that will help children battling pediatric illnesses,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “The Batchelor Foundation’s unwavering and generous support of our Department of Pediatrics and our research programs is unparalleled. I am incredibly grateful to be part of such a powerful collaboration.”
The presentation of the 2023 Awards was held on November 9 at the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute, which was dedicated in 2001 through a $10 million gift from the Batchelor Foundation. The ceremony was followed by a cocktail reception for Batchelor Foundation trustees, awardees and their family members, medical school leadership and selected donors.
Relentless Pursuit of Excellence in Children’s Health
Glenn Flores, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics, senior associate dean of child health, and the George E. Batchelor Endowed Chair in Child Health, opened the award ceremony by reading a quote from the American astronomer, Dr. Carl Sagan, who said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
“Today’s Batchelor Award recipients personify a spirit of inquiry that the renowned scientist, Dr. Carl Sagan, beautifully captured in that quote,” Dr. Flores continued. “They embody the Department of Pediatrics core value of relentlessly pursuing excellence, and the department’s mission of accomplishing extraordinary things every day for children of all ages.”
“These brilliant physician-scientists are confronting some of the most complex challenges facing young patients,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, executive dean of research at the Miller School, and Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in cancer research. “The Batchelor Foundation’s partnership has funded countless research projects that have helped increase our understanding of pediatric medicine and develop innovative treatments and therapies that are making a difference in the lives of some of our youngest patients.”
Precision Therapies for Children
The Award for Excellence will allow Dr. Agrawal, chief of the Division of Neonatology and Project Newborn Distinguished Chair in Neonatology at UHealth—University of Miami Health System and Jackson Health System, to focus on the application of genomics to neonatal care, and the genetic and molecular basis of orphan diseases, with a special focus on congenital myopathies.
He has pioneered the identification of many novel genes, developed unique genomic approaches in newborn care, and helped several of his mentees obtain NIH funding and establish independent laboratories.
“We are using the most modern technologies, approaches and benchwork to diagnose these genetic disorders and develop precision therapies based on their mutation,” said Dr. Agrawal.
He reiterated the impact the Batchelor Foundation have had on work done by researchers.
“The support you are providing to our faculty researchers is changing the lives of so many babies and children,” he said. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Young Faculty Explore Innovative Strategies
Dr. Schmidt, associate professor of clinical pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology, is studying the effects of chorioamnionitis on lung and brain development and injury. He is especially interested in the role of neutrophil extracellular traps in placental inflammation and injury in the setting of chorioamnionitis, and new pathways to prevent fetal injury secondary to inflammation.
Dr. Gonzalez, interim chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology and associate professor of clinical pediatrics, conducts research on tropical medicine, congenital infections, and sequelae of viral infections in transplant recipients.
Dr. Tan, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology, is studying prenatal inflammation and its effects on preterm birth and respiratory outcomes in preterm infants. Her goal is to understand the pathophysiology of prenatal inflammation and develop therapies and strategies that may prevent preterm birth and improve neonatal outcomes.