Faculty Scholar Award recipient Yael Dvir balancing research with full-time demands of clinical practice, family life

By Dennis Nealon

Ask her about her work, and Yael Dvir is both idealistic and pragmatic.

The child and adolescent psychiatrist at Community Healthlink Inc., a member of UMass Memorial Health Care, is convinced that one day science will unlock the mysteries of mental illness and change the world for individuals and families coping with bipolar disorder, autism, depression and addiction, schizophrenia, and other afflictions.

But Dvir, Department of Psychiatry assistant professor, is also grounded in the research and clinical work that has to get done in pursuit of the larger goal.

Dvir was recently chosen for UMass Medical School’s Faculty Scholar Award. The honor is enabling her to construct and complete a clinical study involving 8-to-12 year olds with a history of personal trauma, such as abuse and neglect, bipolar disorder and those who exhibit signs of mood symptoms but aren’t clinically categorized as having bipolar illness.

“My bottom line or ultimate goal is to be able to understand what is ailing these kids; to discover biologically what is going on in the brain and develop bio markers for diagnosis and treatment,” says Dvir, who conducts research through the Child and Adolescent Neurodevelopment Initiative (CANDI). Her clinical and research interests include the association between childhood trauma and mood disorders, childhood psychosis, the links between childhood psychosis and autistic spectrum disorders, and medical education.

The Faculty Scholar Award is intended to enable rising researchers to continue their work without having to choose between family and career – to provide resources to support their scholarly work while allowing them to address personal life matters that also demand and compete for their attention.

Intended to foster diversity among faculty and increase representation of women at the highest faculty ranks, this enlightened award provides funding of up to $30,000 annually to support personnel, services, supplies or “buy out” of clinical time.

Luanne Thorndyke, UMass Medical School’s vice provost for faculty affairs, notes that the scholar award program will help junior faculty advance to senior levels and overcome obstacles to academic productivity.

Created by the UMMS Women’s Faculty Committee and the Women’s Leadership Work Group, the Award is funded jointly by UMMS, UMass Memorial Health Care and the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science. It is open to UMMS faculty, both women and men, at the assistant or associate professor level, and funded for one year. More information is available at http://www.umassmed.edu/ofa/equity/fsaward.aspx.

Other winners of the 2012 Faculty Scholar Award are Dr. Rashelle Hayes, Assistant Professor, Preventive and Behavioral Medicine; and Dr. Linda Long-Bellil, Assistant Professor, Center for Health Policy and Research.