At its spring board meeting Thursday, OMRF presented Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., with the Edward L. and Thelma Gaylord Prize for Scientific Achievement.
The award is named for Edward L. Gaylord, who served on OMRF’s board for 30 years, and his wife, Thelma. Their daughter, Christy Everest, has served as an OMRF board member since 2008.
OMRF also honored two other researchers and presented Virginia Groendyke with its Board of Directors Distinguished Service Award. The foundation also named James Bass a life director.
Prior to the meeting, Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor led a special ceremony for the dedication of the Stephen Prescott, M.D., Laboratory. The Puterbaugh Foundation, which Taylor chairs, made a $500,000 gift to OMRF in Prescott’s honor. Prescott has served as OMRF’s president since 2006.
“Steve Prescott has worked tirelessly to take the foundation to new heights,” said Taylor, who has served on OMRF’s board of directors since 1988. “He continues to make a difference in health, in research and in advancing the state of Oklahoma. This is our way to say thank you and recognize him for all he’s done and continues to do. We know of no better place to invest foundation funds than here at OMRF.”
James received the Gaylord Prize for her groundbreaking work in predicting lupus, a disease in which the body turns the weapons of its immune system against itself. A native Oklahoman, James leads OMRF’s Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Research Program and holds the Lou C. Kerr Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research.
She has spearheaded major initiatives enabling physicians to work closely with researchers to bring treatments to patients more quickly. Through her efforts, the National Institutes of Health has designated OMRF as an Autoimmunity Center of Excellence, and a coalition of Oklahoma institutes received a grant of nearly $20 million to improve the delivery of healthcare to patients in underserved communities.
“Dr. James has spent her entire career here at OMRF, but she has made a name for herself around the world,” said Prescott. “Her work has shed new light on poorly understood conditions and is helping physicians everywhere improve the lives of their patients.”
Also at the meeting, OMRF presented Eliza Chakravarty, M.D., with the J. Donald & Patricia H. Capra Award for Scientific Achievement. Chakravarty’s research focuses on improving pregnancy outcomes in patients suffering from autoimmune diseases. The award is named in honor of former OMRF President J. Donald Capra, M.D., who passed away in February, and his wife, Patricia.
OMRF installed Alana Welm, Ph.D., as the inaugural Scott Zarrow Chair in Biomedical Research. An expert in precision medicine, Welm joined OMRF in 2014 and works with experimental models to help physicians tailor cancer treatments to each patient’s individual genetic makeup. The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation established the chair with a major gift to OMRF in memory of Tulsa attorney and philanthropist Scott Zarrow.
In recognition of more than a quarter-century of service, OMRF named Bass a life director. Bass joined OMRF’s board in 1987 and has held positions on the management, development and technology transfer committees. He also served as chair of the foundation’s executive committee from 2001-07.
Groendyke, of Enid, joined OMRF’s board in 2001. She has served on the foundation’s development, technology transfer, executive and governance committees. She and her husband, John, have hosted multiple events for OMRF’s and have annually sponsored events benefitting cancer, multiple sclerosis and brain cancer research at the foundation. They also made a leadership gift to OMRF’s $125 million Discoveries Campaign, the largest fundraising effort in the foundation’s 69-year history.
“Virginia and Jim represent everything we could hope for in a board member,” said Prescott. “Through their interest in our programs and mission, they help advance not only OMRF but our state, as well.”