Renowned for his expertise in pediatric infectious disease, Charles D. Mitchell, M.D., professor of clinical pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Immunology and Infectious Diseases, was recently awarded the prestigious 2017 Micah Batchelor Award for Excellence in Children’s Health Research.
The award was presented November 2nd during a ceremony at the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute before family, colleagues, members of the Batchelor family, trustees of The Batchelor Foundation, and University of Miami and Miller School of Medicine leadership.
“I would like to start by thanking The Batchelor Foundation for this honor, faculty colleagues for allowing me to do this work, and my collaborators, Tony Hu, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, and Eddy Perez-Then, M.D., Ph.D., medical director at the O&M School of Medicine, Santo Domingo, for making this possible,” said Mitchell.
The ceremony marked the 13th presentation of the Micah Batchelor Award for Excellence in Children’s Health Research, which recognizes a researcher with exceptional academic qualifications who presents an innovative research project on children’s health issues.
It was also the second presentation of the Micah Batchelor Scholar Award for Excellence in Children’s Health Research, which honors early career faculty who are exploring innovative research ideas.
The recipients of the Scholar award this year are Samita Andreansky, Ph.D., research assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, and Fernando F. Corrales-Medina, M.D., assistant professor of clinical pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, director of the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellowship Program, and principal physician-scientist at the Pediatric Comprehensive Hemophilia Treatment Center.
“It is remarkable to have an endowment that year after year allows a department to recognize both established and young investigators, reward their work, and financially support their continuing investigation in critical areas of importance,” said UM President Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D. “It is endowments like these, which last in perpetuity, that will help us to thrive as we prepare to celebrate our centennial in 2025, and beyond.”
Judy Schaechter, M.D., MBA, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Miller School, said the awards help researchers develop new knowledge that dramatically improves care for children.
“We couldn’t be more grateful to The Batchelor Foundation and the spirit of George Batchelor, which, through the Micah Batchelor Awards, inspires child health research,” said Schaechter, who is also the George E. Batchelor Endowed Chair in Child Health, and Chief of Service at Holtz Children’s Hospital, Jackson Health System. “Dr. Mitchell aims to more rapidly and accurately diagnose children with a disease that has plagued us throughout history — tuberculosis. Dr. Andreansky seeks to better define a virus that has more recently affected our children — Zika. Dr. Corrales-Medina brings together a team to assure the heart beats and blood flows as they should in children with hemophilia. This is the kind of work we need to transform the future and improve the lives of children.”
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 Foundation committed an additional $5 million in 2014 to expand the number of research awards and to encourage and showcase young and talented investigators in their careers.
Batchelor Foundation trustees Sandy Batchelor, Daniel Ferraresi, Jack Falk, and Jon Batchelor, who is also a UM trustee, and his wife Nancy Batchelor attended the ceremony.
They were joined by Micah’s brothers, George Steven and Daniel, Daniel’s wife Michelle and children Danielle, Matthew, and Andrew.
Many past recipients of the Micah Batchelor award were also in attendance.
But the evening belonged primarily to Mitchell, a renowned specialist in pediatric infectious diseases who joined the faculty of the Miller School in 1986.
Mitchell has been actively involved in research related to the global pandemic of HIV-1 among mothers and their infants. For the past three decades, he has been the principal investigator for three Fogarty International Center training initiatives and has trained more than 30 clinical investigators from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean in research related to pediatric AIDS.
Mitchell began by thanking Janet, his wife of 37 years, and his daughters Becky and Katie. He then spoke about his passion for research into HIV and tuberculosis, and his attempt to weave them together when possible.
Mitchell noted that while the medical response to HIV has only been active for the last three decades, researchers have made significant progress in that relatively short time, based on basic research and clinical trials.
Once thought of as a short-term lethal disease, HIV is now a chronic disease with patient survival measured in decades.
But Mitchell added that science has not done as well with TB, even though we have been dealing with it much longer.
“It can be treated and it can be cured, but the obstacles to global control are daunting,” Mitchell said. “One-third of the world’s
population is believed to be infected with TB.”
Of particular concern is properly diagnosing the disease, especially in young children, especially infants and those under five years old.
“What we intend to do through this initiative will help determine the diagnostic utility of a blood-based, nanotechnology assay (the NanoDisk Assay) for detecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) virulence proteins in plasma from children with childhood TB in the Dominican Republic,” said Mitchell. “We will also determine whether this same assay can be used to monitor the therapeutic response to anti-TB therapy as the signal from the NanoDisk Assay can be quantitated and hopefully be used as reliable plasma biomarker. If it works, it may possibly be used in the future to assess medication compliance and MTB drug resistance.”
Andreansky came to UM in 2008 with multidisciplinary training in molecular virology and viral immunology. She has a particular interest in understanding the mechanisms of virus-host pathogen interaction, mainly how disease pathogenesis modifies host immunity. Andreansky uses virus infection models such as influenza, herpes, and Zika to identify pathways that affect the quality of immune response and help in pathogen clearance.
Her expertise in viral immunology led to funding of two Dynamic Team Science Zika Virus Research Initiatives this year, which study the effect of the virus’ exposure in pregnant women and its consequences to newborns.
“I am truly honored to receive the Micah Batchelor Scholar Award and extend my gratitude to The Batchelor Foundation for their unceasing support for children’s health at the Miller School of Medicine,” said Andreansky. “Funding from the award will allow me to develop new models of Zika virus infection, which will be used to test vaccines and therapeutics urgently needed in pregnant mothers. The legacy and generosity of Mr. George Batchelor is truly an inspiration to me and my research endeavors.”
Corrales-Medina joined UM in 2014. His primary clinical interests are hemostasis and thrombosis disorders with an emphasis on novel therapies and imaging diagnostic tools.
He is currently the on-site and national principal investigator in several pediatric clinical trials, including a five-year, longitudinal study that aims to minimize the life-long joint impairment caused by hemophilia, a condition known as debilitating chronic hemophilic arthropathy. The study is one of many under way at the UM Hemophilia Treatment Center, the only federally funded pediatric hemophilia center in South Florida.
“Though the support of The Batchelor Foundation, we believe our study will not only help us evaluate the presence of subclinical atherosclerosis in children with and without hemophilia, it will also help us to develop future trials to investigate the association between hemophilia treatment and the risk of heart disease,” said Corrales-Medina.