As a Johns Hopkins University medical student, Eliza Chakravarty, M.D., heard the name Mary Betty Stevens on a near-daily basis. Although she never met Stevens, Chakravarty’s professors often spoke of their late colleague with great respect and admiration.
Decades later, Stevens’ name is again shaping the OMRF physician-scientist’s career.
On Monday, Chakravarty received the Mary Betty Stevens Young Investigator Prize, awarded annually by the Lupus Foundation of America to a researcher in the early stages of his or her career who has produced extraordinary achievements in lupus research. Chakravarty accepted the award at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston, Mass.
“I remember all of my professors and attendings instructing me with, ‘As Mary Betty used to teach us’ or ‘As Mary Betty would have said,’ and, because of that, I always felt like I knew her,” said Chakravarty, an associate member in OMRF’s arthritis and clinical immunology research program. “She definitely influenced the early part of my career in rheumatology, and to receive this honor in her name is just surreal. It really came full circle for me.”
Chakravarty was selected for the recognition largely for her work on the immunological response to pregnancy outcomes among women with lupus. Her research focuses on better understanding why autoimmune diseases can behave so differently during pregnancy.
She and her colleagues attempt to identify biomarkers that may better predict pregnancy complications like preeclampsia, prematurity and fetal growth restriction so that physicians can tailor treatments for the risks involved in each individual pregnancy.
“It is important that we recognize the valuable contributions these investigators are making to advances in lupus,” said Sandra C. Raymond, president and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America. “Their achievements highlight the benefits that come from investment in medical research.”
A Baltimore, Md., native, Chakravarty joined OMRF in 2011 after spending 11 years as a rheumatology fellow and faculty member at the Stanford University School of Medicine. OMRF offered a unique opportunity to work directly with patients in the clinic so she could research issues on a case-by-case basis.
Chakravarty was one of three honorees at the annual meeting. Other awardees were Dr. George C. Tsokos of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Dr. Jane E. Salmon of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
“We are very excited by the selection of Eliza Chakravarty as the recipient of this year’s Mary Betty Stevens Young Investigator Prize,” said Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., member and chair of OMRF’s arthritis and clinical immunology research program. “Dr. Chakravarty has made pivotal contributions to understanding the challenges lupus patients face in having healthy children and is actively exploring ways to improve lupus pregnancy outcomes. She has made major discoveries in the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations in patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other related autoimmune diseases. She is clearly a rising star in lupus research and is a wonderful addition to our productive, comprehensive OMRF lupus investigative team.”