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IU School of Medicine names four outstanding scientists as the 2024 Showalter Scholars: Thomas Everett, PhD; Troy Markel, MD; Roman Natoli, MD, PhD; and Yong Zang, PhD.

IU School of Medicine names 2024 Showalter Scholars

Close-up of gloved hand holding pipet and small tube

The Indiana University School of Medicine has named four outstanding scientists as recipients of the 2024 Showalter Scholars Award.

These research awards, funded by the Ralph W. and Grace M. Showalter Trust and IU School of Medicine, support research that is “most likely to benefit mankind.” The program awards up to $75,000 in funding per scholar over the course of three years and is particularly useful to emergent scientists in advancing their work.

The 2024 Showalter Scholars are:

Over the last five years, these IU School of Medicine researchers have authored a combined 124 scholarly publications and have brought in about $9.5 million in funding as the principal investigators on their respective research projects — advancing scientific knowledge in cardiac medicine, neonatal surgery, bone healing and clinical trial design.

“We are grateful for the support of the Ralph W. and Grace M. Showalter Trust that allows us to recognize these outstanding midcareer researchers who are making impactful research discoveries,” said Tatiana Foroud, PhD, executive associate dean for research affairs at IU School of Medicine.


Thomas Everett: Wearable tech to monitor nerve activity in cardiac patients

Thomas Everett in his white coatEverett is an expert in heart rate variability analysis and the sympathetic nervous system and is a member of the IU School of Medicine’s Krannert Cardiovascular Research Center. He is recognized for his innovative work in non-invasive, wearable devices to monitor nerve activity in cardiac patients.

Everett’s lab developed SKNA technology, which can non-invasively measure sympathetic nerve activity over long periods of time using signals recorded from ECG electrodes placed on the skin. The technology received an Indiana TechPoint Mira Award for Innovation of the Year in 2017 and has continued to advance through several NIH grants.

“Dr. Everett has fostered extensive collaborations with faculty within the IU School of Medicine, in the Purdue University Department of Biomedical Engineering and at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center,” noted David Aronoff, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine, and Richard Kovacs, MD, interim chair of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, in a joint nomination for Everett.

“His scientific expertise and productivity within the field of cardiac electrophysiology and the autonomic nervous system have resulted in significant contributions to the IU School of Medicine and the research community,” Aronoff and Kovacs wrote.

Among Everett’s many collaborative research projects is an NIH-funded research program involving multiple research centers worldwide evaluating the effect of the nervous system on peripheral organs.

“He is becoming one of the major leaders in the field of cardiac arrhythmia research,” wrote Peng-Sheng Chen, MD, a collaborator from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in a letter supporting Everett’s nomination. Chen and Everett have published over 40 peer-reviewed manuscripts together advancing scientific knowledge in the field.


Troy Markel: Helping infants survive intestinal death

headshot-Markel, TroyMarkel is the James A. Madura Professor of Surgery and vice chair of research for the Department of Surgery. He has been on the surgical teaching faculty for the last 11 years after completing his general surgery residency and pediatric surgery fellowship at IU. Markel’s basic and translational research laboratory focuses on developing novel therapies for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a disease affecting preterm infants that has a 50% mortality rate. NEC often requires surgery to remove the diseased bowel.

Markel recently discovered a beneficial compound in breast milk that is absent in commercial baby formulas, which may help reverse the devastating effects of NEC in preterm infants. He is currently working with formula companies to create a new formulation including this compound for therapeutic use in the NICU.

“It has been very rewarding to follow Troy’s progress in this arena,” wrote Department of Surgery Chair Karl Bilimoria, MD, in his nomination of Markel.

Markel has been extensively published in scientific journals and sits on the Scientific Advisory Board for the NEC Society, a nonprofit started by two mothers who lost their infants to NEC and for which Markel has planned several annual symposiums.

Markel has mentored 12 medical students and 18 post-doctoral fellows and has trained 13 pediatric surgery fellows during his time at IU. He also serves on multiple local and national committees and collaborates with NEC researchers from institutions throughout the nation.

“I have had the pleasure of following Troy’s work over the last two decades,” said David Hackam, MD, PhD, a research collaborator from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who wrote a letter supporting Markel’s nomination. “Troy is a wonderful example of how a great person can be a great surgeon and a great scientist.”


Roman Natoli: Fracture healing and infection prevention after traumatic injury

headshot-Natoli, RomanNatoli is one of just two members of the IU School of Medicine’s Indiana Center for Musculoskeletal Health who holds a joint MD/PhD degree, giving him unique insights for translational research.

“We are very lucky to have Roman Natoli as he is truly a ‘star among the night sky of orthopaedic surgeons,’” wrote Lynda Bonewald, PhD, the musculoskeletal center’s founding director, in a letter supporting Natoli’s nomination.

After being recruited to IU in 2016 as an orthopaedic trauma surgeon, Natoli “quickly emerged as one of the most productive academic junior surgical faculty in the history of our department,” said Orthopaedic Surgery Chair L. Daniel Wurtz, MD, in his nomination letter. “Dr. Natoli has proven to be a highly productive orthopaedic traumatologist with a growing national reputation.”

Natoli’s research focuses on post-traumatic arthritis, fracture-related infection, fracture healing and chronic pain after fracture. He is the principal investigator on numerous studies, including international, multi-institutional clinical trials, and he has published over 80 peer-reviewed papers in top scientific journals. 

orthopedic surgeons reviewing a case together

Several colleagues from outside of IU testified to Natoli’s impact on the field. Jaimo Ahn, MD, PhD, a research collaborator from the University of Michigan, called Natoli “a rare surgeon-scholar-educator with notable, overwhelming strengths.”

“He has demonstrated he can affect the world of our patients and learners through his research, and with IU’s ongoing support, he will continue to contribute at the highest of levels,” Ahn wrote. “I have no doubt he will make fracture care, orthopaedics and medicine better for the future.”


Yong Zang: Developing statistical methods for better clinical trials

Zang is an associate professor and a member of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at the IU School of Medicine, as well as co-director of the Biostatistics and Data Management Core with the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

headshot-Zang, Yong

“As an expert in clinical trial design, Yong’s expertise is highly sought after,” said Kun Huang, PhD, chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Health Data Science, in his nomination of Zang. “He has extensively collaborated with clinicians and biostatisticians both within and outside IU.” 

Zang is an accomplished researcher, teacher and mentor who has helped produce 74 scholarly works published in scientific journals including Biometrics, Statistical Methods in Medical Research, and Statistics in Medicine. As an internationally recognized leader in the field of biostatistics, Zang has developed strong collaborations with researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Tulane University, The Ohio State University and other institutions.

Zang’s research focuses on development of theory, algorithms and software for adaptive clinical trial design, “a cornerstone in advancing medical research and patient care,” said Yunlong Liu, PhD, director of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.

“I have had the privilege to witness firsthand his remarkable contributions to the field of biostatistics, particularly in the design of innovative clinical trial methodologies,” Liu wrote in a letter supporting Zang’s nomination. “His work is not only innovative but also critical to the continuous improvement of clinical trial efficiency and effectiveness.”


2023 Showalter Scholars advancing research

Emily Sims holds her Showalter Award certificate standing with six IU School of medicine leaders in a conference room

The following IU School of Medicine faculty were named Showalter Scholars in 2023 and are continuing their grant-funded research with supporting departmental awards in 2024:

  • Ashay Bhatwadekar, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology; new treatments for diabetic retinopathy 
  • Takashi Hato, MD, associate professor of medicine; targeted therapies for sepsis-induced organ failure 
  • Emily Sims, MD, associate professor of pediatrics; slowing the progression of diabetes 
  • Jun Wan, PhD, associate professor of medical and molecular genetics; bioinformatics and computational systems biology

Additionally, Martin Plawecki, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry, was named an IU School of Medicine Scholar in 2023 with equivalent grant funding from the Office of the Executive Associate Dean for Research Affairs. Plawecki is a researcher with the school’s Indiana Alcohol Research Center.