HMH school of medicine launches program to help deliver breakthroughs in major disease treatment

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University announced on Wednesday it has launched a program to support network physicians and researchers working to develop novel treatments for major diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, depression and epilepsy.

The newly launched Research Pilot Project Funding Program is supported by the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies, Hackensack Meridian Health’s Office of Research, and the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation.

The program will provide six scientists seed money to help their projects generate preliminary investigative results to prepare for competitive federal and foundation awards. Four of the six projects will receive $20,000, with one getting $19,500 and another $9,000.

“This is a program intended to jump-start promising research,” Ihor Sawczuk, president of Hackensack Meridian Health’s Northern Market, and the chief research officer of the network, said. “With investment into new ideas, we expect to see big returns farther downstream.”

The recipients this year include:

  • Saba Afzal, Department of Psychiatry, to investigate saffron versus SSRI as an augmentation therapy for adults with mild to moderate depression;
  • Michael Carson, Department of Medicine, for finding ways to improve detection of postpartum dysglycemia in women with gestational diabetes;
  • Steven Ghanny, Department of Pediatrics, to employ a novel assay and genetic factors to study patients with steroid refractory acute graft-versus-host disease;
  • Chinwe Ogedegbe, the section chief of emergency and trauma center research at HMH, to investigate a pilot program for smoking cessation in the Emergency Department;
  • Linda Siracusa, Department of Medical Sciences, to study a new investigative model of adult-onset epilepsy; and
  • Michelle Titunick, Department of Medical Sciences, to investigate what effects vitamin D supplements have on fracture repair in Type 1 diabetes disease models.

“We are happy to be supporting the beginnings of these scientific projects which may soon make a difference in the lives of patients,” Helen A. Cunning, president and chief development officer of the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation, said.

“We are telling these researchers that we support their projects and vision,” Stanley R. Terlecky, associate dean of research and graduate students, and chair of medical sciences at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, said. “Now we want them to collect their data, grow their research programs – and use the results as a springboard for even greater support. We hope to do this every year.”

“These are terrific projects, and we are glad to give them a boost,” Bonita Stanton, the founding dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, said. “We always look to foster the abundant talent we have right here at the school and across the health network.”