Dr. Emmalee S. Bandstra Honored with 2016 Micah Batchelor Award

Renowned for her expertise in perinatal substance abuse, Emmalee S. Bandstra, M.D., recently received the prestigious 2016 Micah Batchelor Award for Excellence in Children’s Health Research.

The award was presented November 8 during a ceremony at the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute before Batchelor family members and trustees of the Batchelor Family Foundation, University of Miami and Miller School of Medicine leadership, family members, and colleagues.

Bandstra, a clinician, teacher, and investigator, thanked the Foundation and her co-workers for their unwavering support.

“This extraordinary gift allows us to start doing new things in our research that we could only dream about over the years, because it has not always been easy to obtain new funding in the current economic environment,” said Bandstra, professor of pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, attending neonatologist at Holtz Children’s Hospital at UM/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, and Director of the University of Miami Perinatal Chemical Addiction Research and Education Program.

The ceremony marked the 12th time the award was presented, and the first-ever presentation of two newly created awards, the Micah Batchelor Scholar Awards, which honor early career faculty who are exploring innovative research ideas.

“We are truly celebrating a unique experience tonight,” said Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., MACP, interim Dean of the Miller School. “It is remarkable to have an endowment year after year that allows a department to recognize established, and now young, investigators, and to reward their work and financially support their continuing investigation in critical areas of importance.”

The Batchelor Foundation is one of the University’s largest overall donors. Thanks to their generosity, the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute was dedicated in 2001.

It was at that dedication that the late George E. Batchelor, a renowned aviation pioneer and philanthropist, made a surprise announcement of an additional $5 million gift to establish the annual Micah Batchelor Award for Excellence in Children’s Health Research in memory of his grandson, Micah. The competitive award recognizes a recipient with exceptional academic qualifications who presents an innovative research project on children’s health issues.

The Foundation committed an additional $5 million in 2014 to expand the number of awards, and to encourage and showcase young and talented investigators in their careers.

Batchelor Family Foundation co-CEOs Sandy Batchelor and Daniel Ferraresi, and trustee Jon Batchelor, who is also a UM trustee, and his wife Nancy Batchelor, attended the ceremony, as did past recipients of the Micah Batchelor award.

UM President Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., thanked the Batchelor Family Foundation trustees for keeping George Batchelor’s vision alive by encouraging, supporting and rewarding the work of the Department’s researchers.

“It is endowments like these, which last in perpetuity, that will help us to thrive and lead as we prepare to celebrate our centennial in 2025, and beyond that,” said Frenk. “Endowments require benefactors who believe in the institution and believe in the important work being done to help solve society’s problems. It is my hope that thanks to the endowment’s impact, it will encourage other benefactors to support our drive for excellence.”

Bandstra, the Micah Batchelor award recipient, received her medical degree and postgraduate training from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her first academic appointment was at the University of Florida Shands Teaching Hospital. She came to UM in 1982 as an assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor in 1984, and professor in 1995.

As a member of the Division of Neonatology faculty in the Department of Pediatrics, she has trained more than 100 neonatology fellows and hundreds of residents, emphasizing the art, as well as the science, of caring for high-risk infants and their families.

Board-certified in pediatrics and neonatal-perinatal medicine, Bandstra founded UM’s Perinatal Chemical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Program in 1988. The program conducts research on prenatal drugs of abuse and provides enhanced, community-based, prevention-intervention services for infants and their families affected by substance abuse and mental health issues.

The centerpiece of Bandstra’s research has been the Miami Prenatal Cocaine Study (MPCS), a large, single-site, longitudinal investigation of prenatally cocaine-exposed and non-exposed African American infants during the height of the nation’s cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s. Comprehensive, serial assessments of this urban, low socioeconomic status cohort from birth through late adolescence have been funded through National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“The Micah Batchelor award is an incredibly generous gift that will support innovative research by adding epigenetics to our research on neurodevelopment and high-risk behaviors in children and adolescents exposed prenatally to cocaine and other drugs,” Bandstra said. “This study will forge a strong collaboration between the Department of Pediatrics, the John T. Macdonald Department of Human Genetics and the Hussman Institute for Human Genomics which should provide new insights leading to improved prevention and intervention in this vulnerable population.”

The inaugural Micah Batchelor Scholar awards were presented to two physician-scientists who joined the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine in 2014.

Eliana C. Martinez, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant professor of cardiology in the Department of Pediatrics, also collaborates with the Miller School’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the Cardiac Signal Transduction and Cellular Biology Laboratory.

Martinez’s research expertise covers areas such as cardiac physiology, microsurgery, preclinical models of cardiovascular disease, regenerative medicine, gene therapy and cellular and molecular biology. She has introduced methods for autologous vascularization of tissue-engineered cardiac grafts and has pioneered a technique for the in situ assembly of cardiac patches containing 3-D human stem cell spheroids by minimally-invasive thoracoscopic surgery to treat myocardial infarction-induced heart failure.

At UM, Martinez’s research has been focused on the mechanisms of cardioprotection in ischemic heart disease and pediatric non-ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy with the ultimate goal to identify novel therapeutic targets for the prevention and treatment of heart failure.

“I am very grateful and honored for this recognition as one of the inaugural recipients of the Batchelor Scholar Award,” said Martinez. “This award will propel my research toward discovering new basic science insights that will inspire therapeutic strategies for pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy, a leading cause of death and cardiac transplantation in children. On a personal note, such an important award is a valuable milestone in my academic career.”

Deepak Jain, M.D., assistant professor of clinical pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, came to Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami for a fellowship in neonatology and was asked to join the UM faculty three years later.

Since the beginning of his career, Jain has been interested in the respiratory physiology and ventilation support of premature infants, particularly in preventing injury to premature lungs and other organs. His current research is focused on advancing the ways to provide respiratory support, soon after birth, in order to minimize lung injury and improve outcomes in this vulnerable group of patients.

“This award is crucial both for my project, as well as for my career as a research scientist,” said Jain. “The goal of our study endeavor is to improve ways to provide breathing support to premature infants at birth, thereby enhancing their long term health. Your support at this stage of our research will not only help me complete the current project, but also will act as a stepping stone for future investigation in the field.”

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