Alumnus Aims to Foster Excellence through New Award

Left to right: Dr Sarvajna Dwivedi; 2015 Recipients: Natalie McCormick and José Carlos De La Vega; Dr Alan G. Mitchell. Photo: Ivan Yastrebov

“Perseverance, inventiveness and initiative are essential traits for a researcher,” says Dr. Sarvajna Dwivedi, UBC Pharm Sci alumnus (MSc 1988, PhD 1992).

As co-founder and chief scientific officer of Pearl Therapeutics Inc., Dr. Dwivedi and his wife, Dr. Seema Dwivedi, have recently established and endowed an award that will support outstanding graduate students in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“Seema and I wish to support those students who take a deeply scientific approach in understanding and solving the world’s medical problems, and those who set high goals for themselves,” says Dr. Dwivedi, who focuses on respiratory illnesses and their treatment in his own research.

Despite being a successful scientist and entrepreneur, Dr. Dwivedi takes little credit for his achievements. The Mitchell-Dwivedi Graduate Award in Pharmaceutical Sciences was created in part to jointly honour two distinguished scholars— his graduate supervisor at UBC, Dr. Alan G. Mitchell, professor emeritus of pharmaceutics and his father, Dr. Rewa Prasad Dwivedi, professor emeritus of Sanskrit, Banaras Hindu University.

The endowment will provide one award of $10,000 or two awards of $5,000 annually. It will be offered to graduate students who demonstrate research excellence and impact. Awards will be made on the recommendation of the Faculty.

In 2016, Wenjia Chen, PhD candidate, received the award, and in 2015 the recipients were PhD candidates José Carlos De La Vega and Natalie McCormick, all of whom are diligently advancing research with the potential for life saving applications.

Wenjia’s research focuses on how chronic respiratory diseases develop over time, and how the progression of these diseases affect patients’ overall health, their quality of life and health care costs. Specifically she examines how risk factors can be prevented at the onset of disease to ultimately help improve health outcomes. Wenjia had an article published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine July 2015 issue, an exceptional achievement for a graduate student.

José’s research aims to investigate the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of rhenium. He has shown that a rhenium-based formulation can be used to enhance the contrast of internal body structures in X-ray imaging procedures. He has also demonstrated that radioactive rhenium could potentially be used in the treatment of liver cancer.

Natalie’s work touches on the leading global cause of death—heart failure, a condition that affects 26 million people worldwide, 50% of whom die within the first five years of diagnosis.

“My findings revealed that there are many people whose diagnosis doesn’t appear in medical databases, because they suffer from other chronic diseases that get entered into the database instead of their heart failure diagnosis,” she explains. By evaluating the accuracy of heart failure diagnoses, Natalie aims to improve healthcare delivery for patients with multiple diagnoses.

For Dr. Dwivedi, it was important to recognize and support the students working hard to improve patient care by deepening our understanding and management of disease and medicines.

“We wish to use this award to encourage a culture of excellence in graduate research at the Faculty,” he says, adding that it was a pleasure to find a fitting way to honour his role models. “Theirs are the two really inspiring lives, and I am just a by-product of their excellence.”

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