ACOM faculty member receives two-year research grant from American Heart Association

First institutional research grant for the college

DOTHAN, Ala. –June 14, 2017 – The American Heart Association (AHA) recently awarded an AHA InstitutionalAudrey_Vasauskas_PhD Research Enhancement Award (AIREA) to Audrey Vasauskas, PhD, Assistant Professor of Physiology, at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine. Through her project entitled, “The Role of FKBP51 in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension,” Dr. Vasauskas will continue her research into this disease and its long-term effects. This is the first extramural (external) research grant for ACOM, which will foster greater opportunity for future research funding at the institution. This two-year AIREA grant funding will begin July 1, 2017 and conclude June 30, 2019.

“I am thrilled to have received the AIREA award,” Vasauskas said. “This award, along with the incredible laboratory resources in place at ACOM, will allow me to continue my work in understanding the molecular mechanisms leading to pulmonary arterial hypertension, a disease marked with insufficient long-term treatment and grim prognosis.”

In November 2016, ACOM opened a 3,823-square-foot research center on campus, featuring state-of-the-art equipment and ample space to conduct intensive research. The center includes multiple stations and rooms for microscopy, tissue culture and bench research. ACOM biomedical science faculty are beginning to work daily in the center on their research endeavors. James Foster, PhD, Associate Dean of Anatomy, Molecular Medicine, Research and Graduate Studies, says that the AIREA grant opens the door for future institutional research funding.

“The funding that Dr. Vasauskas obtained through the AHA is a milestone for both Dr. Vasauskas and the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine’s biomedical sciences research program,” Foster explained. “A milestone for Dr. Vasauskas because of her being able to obtain extramural funding from a competitive granting agency. A milestone for ACOM, not only because this is our first extramural grant for a PI [principal investigator], but this sets the momentum for future extramural grants from other basic science faculty members.”

ACOM also recently secured funding from the Daniel Foundation of Alabama to develop a Medical Student Summer Research Fellowship. This fellowship will enable ACOM to provide training to those students who are interested in biomedical science research, and paves the way for them to include research in their careers as physicians. The program will provide classroom training and hands-on laboratory experiences with a faculty’s ongoing research project. Within the fellowship, students will collaborate with ACOM faculty, like Dr. Vasauskas, to pursue indepth biomedical science research projects.

“This AIREA grant will allow me to mentor students, which is a passion of mine,” explained Vasauskas. “By including students in research projects such as this, students gain a deeper understanding of evidence-based medicine, which I believe truly solidifies their training as future physicians. In short, it’s all very exciting and I couldn’t be happier!”

About the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM)
ACOM is a four-year, comprehensive osteopathic medical school located in Dothan, Alabama. As the academic division of the Houston County Health Care Authority, the private, non-profit college was founded in 2010 to help address the primary care physician shortage in Alabama. ACOM is the third medical school in Alabama and the first osteopathic medical in the state. For more information about the college, visit www.acomedu.org or stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

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