Melina Kibbe, M.D., associate professor at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, vascular surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and co-chief of the vascular surgery service and director of the Vascular Laboratory at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center recently received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) at the White House. This is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are in the early stages of their research careers.
Her current research portfolio was primed, in part, by two Pioneer Awards the Institute for Women’s Health Research (IWHR) awarded Dr. Kibbe and her postdoctoral fellow in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Her research focuses on preventing vascular injury and scarring in blood vessels following stent surgery. It wasn’t until Dr. Kibbe ran into Dr. Teresa Woodruff, IWHR Director, a few years ago, who asked Kibbe if she was including female animals in her research, that she gave it much consideration. After that meeting, Kibbe searched publications in her field that included sex as a variable and she found there was very little. With her Pioneer Awards, she proposed to include male and female animal models to study the benefits of nitric oxide (NO)-based therapies following stent surgery and found that the effect was totally different between the sexes!
The Pioneer Awards were developed by the IWHR to encourage researchers to include sex and gender analyses in their studies, and the work done in the Kibbe lab demonstrates how a small amount of funding targeted to sex-based research can produce startling results and change a whole field of study. The immeasurable aspect of the PECASE award that Dr. Kibbe received is the invaluable publicity it will give her research. This may help focus on the importance of including sex variables in future vascular research and open doors to new collaborations and larger funding.