Parchem earns pair of prestigious physician-scientist career grants

By Roman Petrowski, Office of Communications

Dr. Jacqueline Parchem - BWF and DDF Grants Awardee
Jacqueline Parchem, MD

Jacqueline Parchem, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, has received a pair of prestigious grants to pursue innovative research that aims to improve maternal and child health by advancing our understanding of placental biology and hypertension in pregnancy.

Parchem was honored as a Physician Scientist Advancing Insights for Improved Human Health from the Doris Duke Foundation (DDF) and also received the 2023 Career Award for Medical Scientists from the Burroughs Welcome Fund (BWF). She is the first person from UTHealth Houston to receive these awards.

“When I received the call from BWF, I was overwhelmed,” Parchem said. “It’s hard to describe how honored and excited I am to be able to pursue this research. When I learned about the DDF award a week later, I was overjoyed. Research in pregnancy and women’s health is chronically underfunded; recognition from BWF and DDF validates the importance of this work.”

The BWF Career Awards for Medical Scientists are designed to support talented early career scientists, enabling them to pursue innovative and transformative research projects that have the potential to revolutionize medicine and improve human health. Each of the awardees receives a five-year, $700,000 grant to support their research endeavors. In addition to the funding, recipients also benefit from mentorship opportunities, networking events, and career development support provided by BWF. The resources aim to equip the awardees with the tools necessary to become leaders in the field of medical science.

“The 2023 Career Awards for Medical Scientists recipients represent the future of biomedical research,” said Dr. Louis J. Muglia, president and CEO of the Burroughs Welcome Fund. “We are proud to support these talented individuals who have shown exceptional promise and dedication to advancing medical science. Their innovative research projects hold the potential to transform the field and address some of the most pressing health challenges of our time.”

The award from the Doris Duke Foundation strives to advance the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases by strengthening and supporting clinical research. This year, through fellowship and multi-year grants, Parchem is one of 21 scientists awarded a combined $7.92 million that provides mentored research funding and time protection to early-career physician scientists to advance clinically significant research.

In 2023, the DDF is celebrating 25 years of supporting physician scientists, so they have the time and resources to develop groundbreaking ideas. This year’s grantees join a network of accomplished physicians who have gone on to become leaders in academia, medicine, public health, and government.

“This year’s awardees are addressing critical issues that are impacting the health of patients across the United States and beyond,” said Sindy Escobar Alvarez, director for medical research at the Doris Duke Foundation. “We are proud to support their important contributions, and we cannot wait to see what this group of physician scientists will accomplish.”

Parchem’s research focuses on identifying molecular mechanisms of placental stress that drive preeclampsia, a common and potentially life-threatening hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. Parchem attributes her success to multiple sources of support from UTHealth Houston, including a team of distinguished mentors, Louise McCullough, MD, PhD; Laura Goetzl, MD, MPH; and Baha Sibai, MD; the Department Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, chaired by Sean Blackwell, MD; and pilot funding from the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences that enabled her to generate preliminary data.

“I am so proud of what Dr. Parchem has already accomplished as a scientist, and these awards reflect the commitment of both the Doris Duke Foundations and the Burroughs Welcome Fund to improving maternal and child health” McCullough said. “Events that occur during pregnancy, like eclampsia, have long-lasting consequences.” This is a critical area of research, both here at UTHealth Houston and nationally, and Dr. Parchem is leading many of our multi-disciplinary efforts in this area.”

“Understanding the underlying biology of preeclampsia is essential to the development of new clinical strategies, which are desperately needed,” Parchem said. “The U.S. has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world, and preeclampsia is a leading cause of preventable maternal deaths and morbidity. I am so honored by this support.”