'Relentless dedication to IBD care' — How 3 GI leaders will use their Sherman Prizes to enhance IBD, Crohn's treatment

The Bruce and Cynthia Sherman Charitable Foundation awarded Sherman Prizes to Stephan Targan, MD, Lee Denson, MD and Heidi Drescher, MMS, PA-C.

Dr. Targan is the director of the Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute at Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai, Dr. Denson is the director of the Schubert-Martin IBD Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Ms. Drescher is a physician's assistant in Missoula, Mont.

The Sherman Prize recognizes individuals who make "exceptional and pioneering" contributions to the fight against Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Drs. Targan and Denson were each awarded $100,000. Ms. Drescher was awarded $25,000.

In a release, the Sherman Foundation bestowed the awards on Drs. Targan and Denson for their "significant achievements in advancing research and innovative care models that have improved the health and wellness of millions of Americans living with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis."

Ms. Drescher was honored for her "relentless dedication to ensuring her rural, underserved patients benefit from best practices in inflammatory bowel disease care."

Becker's ASC Review interviewed Dr. Targan, Dr. Denson and Ms. Drescher about the awards and their plans for the funding.

"This is a way to continue to prime the pump," Dr. Targan says. "This prize will be used to fund and advance extremely promising research to identify patients with certain subtypes of IBD and design drugs specifically to treat them.”

When Dr. Targan first entered the healthcare field, he described IBD as one of the most difficult puzzles to solve. He realized early in his career that he couldn’t solve this problem alone, and in the years that followed, he’s led multidisciplinary groups of scientists, internationally and at Cedars-Sinai, to fight IBD.

Dr. Targan and other researchers have made considerable progress on research, but researchers still have progress to make in one key area — patient-facing trials.

"It's time to start moving [these] treatments to patients," he says. "Using an integrated science model, we’ve brought about new discoveries. We need to move these to groups of patients much more quickly."

Transitioning research to clinical trials is something which Dr. Denson is in the midst of doing as well. He said the Sherman Prize will support the research his team is doing concerning a prebiotic which encourages growth of beneficial intestinal microbes in pediatric patients.

Dr. Denson echoes Dr. Targan's comments on the fast pace of IBD research. He says once clinical trials transition to human patients and researchers can stabilize the disease in patients, "it'll get us a lot closer to an actual cure."

Dr. Denson was honored when he heard the Sherman Foundation named him one of its winners. He says, "It's a tremendous honor because there are so many talented people in the IBD field."

He also lauded the selection of Dr. Targan, saying, "I was especially pleased that Steph Targan was going to receive a prize in the IBD field as well. He has always been a tremendous leader in our field."

A physician's assistant in Missoula, Mont, Ms. Drescher says the Sherman Prize is invaluable to her community.

Ms. Drescher is the sole IBD-focused physician assistant in a 200-mile radius in Montana.

The award will help Ms. Drescher bring awareness to IBD.

"The grant will bring awareness to the disease," she says. "It will allow me to treat more patients because there are so many patients that aren't inclined to get treated because they don't even know such an illness exists."

Being mentioned with Drs. Targan and Denson was an honor to her, as well.

"Never in my wildest dreams have I thought that an advanced practice practitioner in a rural setting could be held in such esteem as these two individuals," she says. "I'm so proud to represent my profession."

To learn more about the Sherman Prize and register to receive notification of the 2018 nomination cycle next spring, click here.

 

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