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Recent Daniel Drake Medalists

2024 Drake Medal Recipients

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Gail E. Besner, MD

Gail E. Besner, MD, is a member of the UC College of Medicine Class of 1982 and is currently the H. William Clatworthy Jr. Professor of Surgery and chief of the Department of Pediatric Surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. She also is chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

An outstanding pediatric surgeon and scientist, Dr. Besner is an expert in necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a deadly inflammatory and infectious disease of the intestine of neonates, with a mortality rate of up to 50%. During the last 30 years, she has deciphered the pathophysiology of NEC, potential ways to protect neonates from the disease and therapeutic interventions to treat and prevent NEC without surgical intervention. She and colleagues have developed a novel delivery system in which the probiotic Limosilactobacillus reuteri (Lr) is administered in its biofilm state, which has been shown to protect the intestines and brain from NEC. An FDA-approved phase 1 clinical trial of the probiotic in adults with autism spectrum disorder has been completed, demonstrating its safety and showing significant improvements in the participants’ autism scores. She is a scientific co-founder of Scioto Biosciences, Inc, which is bringing this treatment to patients.

Dr. Besner has been instrumental in graduate medical education, serving as the director of the Pediatric Surgery Training Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital from 2009 to 2014, and as associate director from 2014 to the present. Additionally, Dr. Besner annually trains aspiring pediatric surgeons from all over the country and abroad, as well as medical students, college students and even high school students, in her laboratory.

She has served as chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Surgery and the Surgical Research Committee of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), and has served on the Board of Governors of the American Pediatric Surgical Association. In 2021, Dr. Besner received the Sheen Award from the ACS, awarded to those on the frontier of medical science doing work with great promise. She was recently chosen as the 2024 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Allen Distinguished Scholar in Pediatric Research, awarded for scientific innovation and achievement in the prevention of childhood disease.

After graduating from the College of Medicine, Dr. Besner completed her general surgery residency at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and then spent two years as a research fellow in the Boston Children’s Hospital laboratory of Judah Folkman, MD, the founder of the field of angiogenesis. It was during that time that she discovered a new growth factor known as heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor.

Dr. Besner completed her pediatric surgery fellowship at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo before joining Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the faculty at Ohio State in 1991

Image of James P. Herman
James P. Herman, PhD

James P. Herman, PhD, is the Flor van Maanen Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and, since 2018, the chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Systems Physiology at the UC College of Medicine.

An internationally recognized expert in stress neurobiology, Dr. Herman is one of the most influential researchers in the field. His research has been responsible for uncovering the molecular basis of how the brain responds to stress and how a person’s response to stress can contribute to a variety of neurological diseases. He is most well-known for discovering the neuro-anatomical pathways that process stressful information and lead to adaptive or maladaptive physiological and behavioral responses.

Dr. Herman’s work has provided pivotal insight into how brain regions, such as the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex and hypothalamus, work together to guide stress physiology. This landmark research established an understanding of the brain’s neurocircuit mechanisms and has been instrumental in the design of contemporary human neuroimaging approaches.

Additionally, studies in his laboratory showed the important involvement of the glucocorticoid receptor in chronic and acute stress as well as aging. This work proved the importance of the forebrain glucocorticoid receptor for stress inhibition and that it is required for anticipatory, but not reactive, responses. More recently, they demonstrated that the glucocorticoid receptor in the infralimbic cortex is required for inhibition of responses to anticipatory stimuli, and is critical for constraint of stress reactivity following chronic stress in a sex-specific manner. Collectively, this underscores the importance of glucocorticoid receptor signaling to stress reactivity in a neurocircuit context.

His work in the area of stress has led to Dr. Herman being asked by organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences, American Physiological Society, Society for Biological Psychiatry and Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research, to provide expert opinions on the care and use of animals in research, culminating in the generation of the National Research Council’s guide on the recognition and alleviation of stress in lab animals.

Dr. Herman is the co-editor of the influential 2007 book “Sex Differences in the Brain” and has served as editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Stress since 2012. He is a founding organizer of the international conference Stress Neurobiology Workshop.

His more than three decades of innovative research led to him receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020 from the International Society for Psychoneuroendocrinology. In 2016, Dr. Herman was named a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Cincinnati.

Dr. Herman received his doctorate in neurobiology and anatomy from the University of Rochester and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan Mental Health

Research Institute. He joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky School of Medicine in 1991 and, since 2000, has been a faculty member at the UC College of Medicine.

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Brett M. Kissela, MD, MS

Brett M. Kissela, MD, MS, is executive vice dean and senior associate dean for clinical research at the UC College of Medicine and chief of research services at UC Health. He also is the Albert Barnes Voorheis Professor of Neurology and chair of the college’s Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine.

Dr. Kissela is a national leader in stroke epidemiology, stroke recovery and the impact of diabetes on stroke. For nearly 20 years, he has been the principal investigator of a population-based study in Greater Cincinnati that has established much of the epidemiology of stroke in the U.S., including the estimated number of strokes in the country, the risk factors for stroke, the recent change in incidence by age, gender and race, and the evolution of how stroke is treated and managed. He also has provided key leadership in a decade-long study that has provided critical data regarding the geographic and racial differences in stroke and stroke risk factors in the United States.

Within the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, Dr. Kissela has served as assistant director of medical education, director of the residency program and co-director of the Vascular Neurology Fellowship Program. He served as vice chair of education and clinical services prior to being appointed department chair in 2014. As chair of the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, he built a robust stroke recovery program at UC, establishing the Stroke Recovery Center at the Drake Center, where specialized therapies and an interdisciplinary team approach to recovery resulted in dramatic improvements for patients, even years after their stroke.

Through his role as senior associate dean for clinical research, the College of Medicine’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) and industry-sponsored research, including funding for clinical trials, has grown significantly.

From 2005 until 2023, Dr. Kissela was one of the co-principal investigators of the University of Cincinnati Clinical and Translational Science Award from the NIH.

Dr. Kissela currently serves as the secretary/treasurer of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Institute and as a member of the AAN Board of Directors. He has chaired several important AAN committees and task forces, including the AAN Consortium of Neurology Program Directors. Additionally, he has served as president of the local American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Board of Directors.

In 2005, Dr. Kissela received the Michael S. Pessin Stroke Leadership Prize from the American Academy of Neurology for his work in post-stroke outcomes. He also has received the American Heart Association 2018-2019 Gold Standard Board Award.

Dr. Kissela received his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He completed his neurology residency at the University of Michigan, where he also served as chief resident, and a fellowship in cerebrovascular disease at UC. He also has earned a master’s degree in epidemiology from UC.

Past Recipients

2023 Drake Medal Recipients

Linda S. Book, MD
Henry A. Nasrallah, MD
Marc E. Rothenberg, MD, PhD
Daniel Woo, MD

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2022 Drake Medal Recipients

Melanie T. Cushion, PhD
Michael K. Farrell, MD
Bruce F. Giffin, PhD

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2021 Drake Medal Recipients

William Barrett, MD
W. Brian Gibler, MD
Peter Stern, MD

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2020 Drake Medal Recipients

Alan Jobe, MD, PhD
Laura Wexler, MD

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