Lily Dara is one of seven active K award recipients in the Department of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. (Photo/Chris Shinn)

Finding ways to support early career physician-scientists has been an ongoing priority for the Keck School of Medicine of USC. One of the strongest avenues to encourage research among the faculty is through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Career Development Awards.

Known as K awards, these awards promote outstanding junior faculty and allow recipients to conduct their research independently to become competitive for major grant support. Multiple faculty members from the Keck School’s Department of Medicine currently hold these awards.

“Identification of junior faculty physician-scientists is crucial to growing the research portfolio of the Department of Medicine,” said Edward Crandall, PhD, MD, chair and professor of medicine; Kenneth T. Norris, Jr., Chair of Medicine; Hastings Professor of Medicine; and director, Will Rogers Institute Pulmonary Research Center. “For several years, the department has had a policy of aggressively recruiting ‘K-quality’ junior physicians and acquiring K awards, which provide support for early career development. We look to these young investigators to contribute to a sustainable future for the department’s research footprint.”

As part of the awards, senior faculty members mentor each junior faculty investigator. Additionally, each awardee is advised on issues related to their career goals by a Career Planning Committee appointed by Laurie DeLeve, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and the department’s senior associate chair for scientific affairs.

Department of Medicine K award recipients include:

  • Hossein Bahrami, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, “Inflammation and Risk of Myocardial and Coronary Diseases in HIV Infected Patients,” under mentor Ray Matthews, MD, professor of clinical medicine and cardiovascular medicine division chief.
  • Lily Dara, MD, assistant professor of medicine, “Role of RIPK1 and RIPK3 in Liver Injury,” under mentor Neil Kaplowitz, MD, professor of medicine, chief of the division of gastroenterology and liver diseases, and USC Associates/Thomas H. Brem Chair in Medicine.
  • Akil Merchant, MD, assistant professor of medicine, “The Role of Hedgehog/Gli in Normal Hematopoiesis and Leukemia,” under mentor Parkash Gill, MD, professor of medicine and Renette and Marshall Ezralow Family Chair in Cancer Therapeutics.
  • Sonali Saluja, MD, MPH, assistant professor of clinical medicine, “Understanding Insurance After the Affordable Care Act – Los Angeles Safety-Net Patients’ Experiences with Applying for Insurance and Using Healthcare,” under mentor Michael Hochman, MD, MPH, associate professor of clinical medicine.
  • Anisa Shaker, MD, assistant professor of medicine, “Epimorphin Deletion Alters Stem Cell Niche Myofibroblast,” under mentor Neil Kaplowitz, MD, professor of medicine, chief of the division of gastroenterology and liver diseases, and USC Associates/Thomas H. Brem Chair in Medicine.
  • Ling Shao, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, “The Ubiquitin Editing Enzyme A20 Preserves Intestinal Epithelial Cell Homeostasis,” under mentor D. Brent Polk, MD, professor of pediatrics.
  • Hussein Yassine, MD, assistant professor of medicine, “Effect of Saturated Fat Ingestion on the HDL Proteome,” under mentor Thomas Buchanan, MD, professor of medicine, vice dean for research, director of the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute, co-director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute, and endocrine division chief.

— Eric Weintraub