Akinyemiju, Garman, and Zani Receive Faculty Awards


Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD: Michelle P. Winn Inclusive Excellence Award

Tomi Akinyemiju and Duke colleagues at a leadership training event
Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD, (right), joined colleagues at an Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) event. ELAM prepares senior women faculty at schools of medicine, dentistry, public health, pharmacy, and hospital systems for institutional leadership positions.

Tomi AkinyemijuSocial and molecular cancer epidemiologist Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD, associate director of the Duke Cancer Institute Community Outreach, Engagement, and Equity (COEE) program, is one of four recipients of a 2023 Michelle P. Winn Inclusive Excellence Award from the Duke University School of Medicine.

Akinyemiju is an associate professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences and associate research professor of Global Health, Duke Global Health Institute. She is also an instructor in the Duke Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Clinical Science Departments.

The Michelle P. Winn Inclusive Excellence Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to diversity and inclusion within the School of Medicine community. Nominees should exemplify excellence, innovation, and leadership in helping to create a more diverse and inclusive environment. 

Akinyemiju's research focus is on identifying the impact of social (such as access to healthcare) and biological factors (such as metabolic dysregulation), on cancer-related risk, tumor aggressiveness, and survival.

Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD, and Rebecca Previs, MD
Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD (left) and Rebecca Previs, MD (right) have published studies documenting that gynecologic cancer patients who are Black or Hispanic are less likely to receive care that adheres to national guidelines and therefore experience worse outcomes. “Dr. Akinyemiju has helped me think about the multi-dimensionality of these issues and how we have to work together to overcome them,” Previs said. “It’s complex, unique to each patient and her cancer journey, and certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach.” WATCH: Closing A Racial Divide in Cancer Care

She has a specific interest in understanding the causes of cancer disparities among women of African descent in the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa, given their significantly higher risk of aggressive cancer subtypes relative to other racial groups.

In addition to her "commitment to reducing disparities within cancer research," Akinyemiju garnered the Winn Award for "her commitments to improving EDI policy and resources and to mentorship."


Katherine Garman, MD, MHS: Mentoring Excellence Award in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Katherine Garman, MD, MHSDuke Cancer Institute surgical oncologist Duke Cancer Institute and Duke Molecular Physiology Institute member Katherine Garman, MD, MHS, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine and the Department of Population Health Sciences, is one of two faculty to receive the Duke University School of Medicine "Mentoring Excellence Award in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion." (Assistant Professor of Surgery Lisa McElroy, MD, MS, is also a recipient)

This award recognizes faculty members for excellence in research mentoring, which, according to the School, "can be demonstrated in many ways, such as by the accomplishments of individual mentees, by programs implemented by the mentor, or by exceptional creativity in mentoring."

Garman co-leads the DCI Cancer Risk, Detection, and Interception Research Program (a National Cancer Institute-designated research program) with DCI epidemiologist Meira Epplein, PhD, and directs the Garman Lab, which is focused on translational research into injury, repair, and cancer development in the gastrointestinal tract.

montage of Katherine Garman, MD, with student Priya Alagesan and DCI Director Michael Kastan
At the DCI Scientific Retreat Priya Alagesan (in pink), BS, presents her winning abstract alongside mentor Katharine Garman, MD, and receives both the abstract award and the Robert and Barbara Bell Award for Basic Science Cancer Research from Executive Director of Duke Cancer Institute Michael Kastan, MD, PhD.

In December 2022, Garman's mentee — fourth-year medical student Priya Alagesan, BS — was awarded top abstract of the DCI Scientific Retreat in the DCI Cancer Risk, Detection and Interception Research Program (CRDI) and named the recipient of the DCI Robert and Barbara Bell Basic Science Cancer Research Award. Alagesan's study — “Examining CXCL8 Expression in Gastric Organoid Models for Gastric Cancer Interception" — looked at the molecular drivers of gastric cancer, and potential strategies for both treating it and stopping its development before it starts. The lab has used these models to better understand the molecular pathways involved in esophageal damage and repair. This research is part of the gastric cancer disparities subproject (led by Garman and Epplein) of the NCl-funded DCI study investigating the social and molecular drivers of health disparities in stomach and lung cancer.

The Garman Lab is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and has collaborations with the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Garman herself is a member of The Cancer Genome Atlas Project (TCGA) Stomach/Esophageal working group As PI of Duke's Gastrointestinal Tissue Repository (Garman, PI), she has facilitated Duke contributions of patient tissue samples to this working group.

Sabino Zani Jr., MD : Master Clinician/Teacher Award

Sabino Zani, Jr., MDDuke Cancer Institute surgical oncologist Sabino Zani Jr., MD, an associate professor in the Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, is one of four faculty to receive the Duke University School of Medicine "Master Clinician/Teacher Award." 

This award — for accomplishment and service in the area of teaching in the School of Medicine or Medical Center — honors faculty who have made an extraordinary commitment to teaching and students.

Sabino Zani, Jr., MD in surgery
Circle Photo of Sabino Zani, MD, at work, courtesy Duke Department of Surgery

Zani, whose primary areas of clinical focus are cancers of the liver and pancreas, is program director of the Hepatopancreatobiliary (HPB)-Surgical Oncology Fellowship.

The Fellowship — dual certification — allows fellows training at Duke in Complex General Surgical Oncology (CGSO) to pursue additional specialty certification in HPB. Duke is one of just a handful of CGSO fellowships to offer this dual certification.

In addition, Zani is co-principal investigator with Leila Bridgeman, PhD, MSc, and Patrick Codd, MD, (Brian Mann, DSc is the principal investigator) of a five-year $3 million National Science Foundation grant (2021-2026) to train Masters and PhD students in the interdisciplinary fields of engineering, computer science, data science, and surgical technologies. (NRT-FW-HTF: NSF Traineeship in the Advancement of Surgical Technologies) 

The project anticipates training a total of 230 students, including 30 NRT-funded trainees from Engineering, Computer Science, Math, Science and Society, and Statistics.

The traineeship is designed to "provide a new research and training framework for engineering and computer science graduate students to access other disciplines and thereby design advanced surgical technologies that integrate medical provider, societal, end-user, and patient needs throughout development and testing."