OMRF researcher and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center student Christopher Hoover has received a Ruth L. Kirschstein-National Research Service Award. He is only the second Oklahoman to have received the award since its creation 30 years ago.
Named for Kirschstein, the first woman institute director at the National Institutes of Health, the award is presented to students focused on both research and clinical training and pursuing a dual-doctoral degree, or M.D./Ph.D., on their path to a career as a physician-scientist.
The four-year, $155,000 grant will allow Hoover, a Sapulpa native, to study the role of platelets in blood vessel development in the brain.
“I am honored to receive this grant. It puts me in a great position for my research and also helps to lessen the financial load on OMRF, which has supported my work with Dr. Lijun Xia,” said Hoover. “This dual degree allows for integration of work done in the clinic with work in the lab to better treat and research disease. That’s important to the future development of successful therapies.”
Xia, Hoover’s current supervisor at OMRF and also an M.D./Ph.D., said dual degrees are important to fill the gap between the worlds of research and medicine and play a critical role in the scientific enterprise. “We need more people who can use their medical expertise in combination with basic science,” said Xia, chair of OMRF’s Cardiovascular Biology Research Program.
In the lab, Hoover uses mouse models to study the pathology of a disease called germinal matrix hemorrhage, devastating bleeding that occurs in the brains of about 30 percent pre-term infants. “If we can learn how platelets are involved in vessel development, it may give us better preventative measures in the case of premature births in the future,” said Hoover, who holds a degree in biochemistry from Oklahoma State University.
Hundreds of M.D./Ph.D. candidates apply for the highly competitive Kirschstein F30 grants each year. Roughly 20 percent of applicants are chosen. Brandt Esplin, a student who worked at OMRF in 2008, is the only other Oklahoman to have received the award.
“The road to getting both an M.D. and Ph.D. degree is long and challenging, and this distinction points to the high quality of Chris’s work as a student,” said Xia. “It validates that he is doing excellent research, and it will also help OMRF and OU attract the next generation of physician-scientists.”
The grant, F30 HL134210, is funded through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a part of the NIH.