Research Affairs

The successful JAX-ASCENT opening represents the great energy on campus regarding research.


UF Health leaders celebrate during a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to mark the opening of the Jacksonville Aging Studies Center, or JAX-ASCENT.

The last several months have been exciting in terms of research-related activity at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Jacksonville Aging Studies Center, or JAX-ASCENT, was held May 11. It was well-attended, with University of Florida and UF Health senior leadership, community stakeholders, faculty and staff on hand. This state-of-the-art facility — located on the second floor of the Professional Office Building — is open to all investigators, staffed with research coordinators to conduct research targeting the aging and health disparities. The center will participate in several funded clinical research studies over the coming months.

Dr. Guzick at JAX-ASCENT

David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., then-senior vice president for health affairs at the University of Florida and president of UF Health, addresses the gathering at the JAX-ASCENT ribbon-cutting.

Additionally, JAX-ASCENT will collaborate with OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium on a high-profile project called All of US. It’s a five-year program funded by the National Institutes of Health aimed at gathering data from more than 1 million individuals across the United States, all in an attempt to accelerate research and improve health. JAX-ASCENT will function as a hub to recruit and collect data from Jacksonville participants.

JAX-ASCENT continues to expand its community outreach programs and register adults 60 and older, who will receive information about — and possibly participate in — the center’s undertakings and research studies.

Celebration of Research 

Research Day posters

Celebration of Research featured nearly 150 platform and poster presentations.

Celebration of Research was May 24. The annual event, hosted by UF COMJ and the Health Science Center Jacksonville, consisted of platform presentations, poster displays, guest and keynote speakers, and an awards ceremony. Sixth- through eighth-grade students from the Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts presented again this year.

Keynote speaker David Drobes, Ph.D., a health outcomes and behavior researcher from the Moffitt Cancer Center at the University of South Florida, presented on emerging nicotine science and its relevance to tobacco control. He provided important insight into the changing landscape of tobacco use worldwide. He is funded by the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health and the Florida Department of Health.

Leighton James, M.D., the 2017 Robert C. Nuss Researcher/Scholar of the Year recipient, presented on the impact of connective tissue growth on blood pressure. Eileen Handberg, Ph.D., director of the Clinical Trials Program at the UF College of Medicine in Gainesville, provided an overview of current research projects under the OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium, including the All of US program. Additionally, there were table displays for UF Innovate/Tech Licensing and JAX-ASCENT.

Shah wins award

Nipa Shah, M.D., won the 2018 Robert C. Nuss Researcher/Scholar Award. She is joined by Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, dean of UF COMJ.

Nipa Shah, M.D., a professor and chair of community health and family medicine at UF COMJ, was named the 2018 Robert C. Nuss Researcher/Scholar of the Year. She will present her research at next year’s Celebration of Research event. We thank the presenters and judges for their participation this time around.

New IRB-03 chair

The Jacksonville Institutional Review Board, or IRB-03, has named a new chair, Gurjit Kaeley, M.D., a professor of medicine at UF COMJ. His appointment is effective July 1. Alan Halperin, M.D., had served as chair since 2006. We commend his long-term commitment to the protection of the human research program on the Jacksonville campus.

During Halperin’s tenure, IRB-03 has flourished, increasing productivity and efficiency and transforming from a paper system to a completely electronic one. The Office of Research Affairs honored Halperin with a plaque for his dedication at the last board meeting he presided at. IRB-03 would like to increase the number of physician faculty on the board. If interested, contact the Office of Research Affairs.

Gurjit Kaeley, M.D.

Gurjit Kaeley, M.D.

Alan Halperin, M.D.

Alan Halperin, M.D.

The call for applications for the 2018 cycle of the Dean’s Fund Research Awards for Faculty was in early May. These awards provide support for pilot or preliminary studies leading to external funding for a new project or a change in direction of a study that can bring prominent recognition to the faculty member and the university. Faculty members who are presently a principal investigator on an NIH grant or are receiving other federal funding are not eligible. The deadline for submission of applications is July 13.

Recognition of investigators

3 docs graphicV2

We would like to recognize a few of our research investigators who have been featured in the news for being published recently, establishing a new program or securing new funding. A manuscript by Dominick Angiolillo, M.D., Ph.D., was accepted in “Circulation” as a state-of the-art/expert-consensus document. Press releases from major cardiovascular websites should be forthcoming.

The Epilepsy Wellness Center, led by Ramon Bautista, M.D., M.B.A., opened recently and provides advanced care for epilepsy patients, housing a multidisciplinary team using sophisticated technologies, therapeutic and rehabilitative services. The team also conducts related research. The center received funding from the Riverside Hospital Foundation, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, the Florida Blue Foundation and internal sources.

Faheem Guirgis, M.D., received funding from the University of Florida 2018 Research Opportunity Seed Funds Award, a prestigious award for new projects that are collaborative partnerships emphasizing novel research. Congratulations to all UF COMJ investigators contributing to advances in research and better health outcomes in our communities.

Fiscal year figures

Financial numbers for the Division of Sponsored Research were released in late June. We will report the final fiscal year 2018 figures and other information pertaining to our campus in the next issue of this newsletter. It appears the numbers look promising for the college and the university to have a very good year for sponsored programs awards.