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IU School of Medicine physician, IU Simon Cancer Center scientist wins prestigious National Presidential Award

INDIANAPOLIS -- (September 26, 2011) -- Jamie L. Renbarger, M.D., a pediatrician and researcher at the Indiana University School of Medicine, was named a recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President Obama on Monday.

The Presidential awards, established in 1996, are the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers and reflect the administration’s priority “on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges, and contribute to the American economy,” the White House said in its announcement. Ninety-four recipients were announced on Monday.            

Dr. Renbarger, who joined the Indiana University faculty in 2002, is the Nora Letzter Scholar in Pediatrics and assistant professor of pediatrics, of medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology. She is associate director of the Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine and a member of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

Dr. Renbarger was selected to receive the award for pharmacogenomic studies aimed at optimizing the use of vincristine in the treatment of children with cancer.

A primary research focus for Dr. Renbarger has been to use genomic tools to reduce the impact of side effects that frequently affect children with cancer who are being treated with the drug vincristine. The drug, widely used and effective, can cause nervous system side effects – neuropathies – that can range from jaw pain to foot drop to severe constipation. She and colleagues at several institutions across the country are working to better detect, predict and prevent the onset of those side effects. (Click here for details of the research.)                                                                                                       

“I am honored to have been selected for this prestigious award.  It is a privilege to enjoy a career as a physician-scientist, participating in research that I love.  It is exciting to make discoveries from research based on practical clinical questions that allow us to improve the treatment of children with cancer.  It is especially gratifying to be recognized for my efforts in that research,” Dr. Renbarger said.

“Dr. Renbarger’s work demonstrates the excellence that enables the IU School of Medicine to successfully carry out its missions of research, education and patient care,” said D. Craig Brater, M.D., dean of the IU School of Medicine and vice president for university clinical affairs. “All of us at IU congratulate her on her accomplishments.”

“In her relatively short time here Dr. Renbarger has made tremendous contributions as a physician, a researcher and a teacher,” said D. Wade Clapp, M.D., chairman of the IU Department of Pediatrics. “We are proud of her achievements, which have and will continue to help make it possible to provide the best possible care for children at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and beyond.”

After receiving her medical degree from St. Louis University School of Medicine in 1996 Dr. Renbarger served an internship and residency there. She was a fellow in pediatric hematology-oncology at Baylor College of Medicine from 1999 to 2002 before joining IU in 2002.