ATLANTA — The Atlanta Business Chronicle has selected two Emory researchers as winners of its 2022 Health Care Heroes awards.
Roxana Chicas, PhD, RN, BSN, assistant professor at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing in Emory won the Health Care Hero Award in Rising Star Category; and Nadine Rouphael, MDprofessor at Emory University School of Medicine and executive director of the Clinic of Hopethe clinical research arm of the Emory Vaccine Center, won the award Healthcare Hero in the Innovator/Researcher category.
Roxana Chicas: Rising Star Winner/Honoree
Chicas came to the United States from El Salvador when she was four years old, crossing the Rio Grande on her mother’s shoulders. Without papers, she then received temporary protection status which allowed her to work in a pediatrician’s office. At the time, she aspired to become a medical assistant; however, one of the doctors challenged her to go further and become a nurse.
At age 28, Chicas changed her career focus and enrolled in what is now Perimeter College at Georgia State University. She then completed her bachelor’s degree at Emory, and two weeks after graduation became a doctoral student under Emory School of Nursing Dean Linda McCauley.
Inspired by her own story, Chicas uses nursing science to increase the inclusiveness of research through the engagement and empowerment of agricultural worker communities. His community-based participatory research with agricultural workers aims to better understand climate-related health risks and the physiological mechanisms underlying heat-related illnesses (HRIs) and acute kidney injuries (ARIs).
Chicas conducted the first field intervention study of methods to reduce the risk of HRI using real-time biomonitoring equipment in agricultural workers. She also initiated the first field study to test hydration interventions in agricultural workers to protect them from ARI. Chicas’ emerging research enterprise carefully balances biomedical research while testing simple, realistic solutions to protect agricultural workers, thereby contributing more effectively to public health policy.
His work is shaping the future of climate science and occupational health. Its methodologies are unique and effective thanks to a direct partnership with farmers and their families. The chance to give back to her community in tangible ways has driven her passion for environmental science and her excellence in nursing research.
A recognized collaborator, Chicas’ work fits well with the School of Nursing’s Center for Data Science and its faculty members such as Vicki Hertzberg, PhD, an internationally renowned expert on “big data” and its impact on Health care. Together, they develop a patch capable of recognizing early signs of kidney damage and heat-related illnesses.
It turns out that Chicas and Hertzberg also matched well physiologically, as Chicas recently donated a kidney to Hertzberg, who needed a kidney transplant this spring.
Nadine Rouphael: Laureate/Honored Innovator-Researcher
An infectious disease physician and researcher, Rouphael has spent much of her time over the past two years organizing and overseeing COVID-19 prevention and therapeutic clinical trials at Emory. Weeks into the pandemic, Rouphael led Emory’s team in the first national COVID-19 vaccine study at the Hope Clinic. She was also Emory’s Principal Investigator (PI) for the Phase III study of this vaccine (Moderna), which was later approved by the FDA and is now used worldwide.
During the first months of the pandemic, Rouphael and his team worked tirelessly to test various therapeutic agents against COVID-19; Emory has recruited the most patients in the world for a series of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) studies that led to FDA approval of two COVID-19 treatments: an antiviral drug, remdesivir and , subsequently, a repurposed anti-inflammatory drug. , baricitinib.
Rouphael was also the Emory PI for an Eli Lilly monoclonal antibody study, and his team managed one of the first three clinical sites to donate a monoclonal antibody to a COVID-19 patient.
As national chair of an observational study called IMPACC, Rouphael and her team have recruited more than 1,200 patients hospitalized with SARS-CoV-2 to track the immune responses driving disease outcomes that could shed light on new new and better treatments.
She is co-leading the global Sanofi/GSK vaccine clinical trials testing the efficacy of a protein-based approach against SARS-CoV-2 and is Emory’s PI for a study of the second-generation Gritstone vaccine. , which aims to boost immunity. beyond the viral spike protein that is the basis of current vaccines. His team also recruited the largest number of volunteers for a study assessing the antibody response in pregnant women and infants after COVID-19 vaccines.
Rouphael is currently studying what a sustainable vaccine strategy might look like in the future; she was recently named co-chair of a national NIAID-funded study that explores a question at the forefront of many minds: instead of looking for variants — and having to take episodic reminders — could we create a COVID vaccine? -19 which targets a variety of variants?
Even before the pandemic, Rouphael had an exceptional record of scholarship, mentorship, and leadership in building Emory’s nationally recognized therapeutic clinical trials and translational vaccinology program at the Hope Clinic. As Principal Investigator of Emory’s Vaccine and Therapeutic Evaluation Unit, she oversees the clinical trial process, translating basic research findings into clinical advances.
Congratulations to these two Atlanta Business Chronicle 2022 Healthcare Heroes.