M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender-Specific Medicine

Call For Nominations: M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender-Specific Medicine

The Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine and the Department of Medicine are pleased to announce the Call for Proposals for the annual M. Irené Ferrer Scholar Award in Gender-Specific Medicine. Dr. Ferrer was a cardiologist and medical educator who helped refine the cardiac catheter and electrocardiogram, which became diagnostic essentials in the treatment of heart disease. She joined the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1946, was promoted to the rank of Professor of Clinical Medicine in 1972, and became Professor Emeritus in 1981. She died in 2002 at the age of 89. Gender-specific medicine is the science of the differences between males and females, not an isolated study of females or women’s health, and its research encompasses all levels of investigation from basic bench research with cultured cells to clinical or epidemiological studies.

The research proposed for support by the M. Irené Ferrer Scholar Award must include gender as a specific variable in the protocol. Both Investigators already conducting gender-specific research or research that addresses gender-specific issues and those entering the field are encouraged to apply. Applicants must include preliminary or supporting data related to the gender-specific issues of their proposal and must describe how the funding, if awarded, would permit them to obtain preliminary data that would lead to federal funding for a research (R) grant. One award, of $60,000 is available annually, directed towards junior faculty holding a full-time Assistant Professor appointment in the Department of Medicine. Recipients of NIH career development (K) awards or other junior investigator funding are eligible.

All areas of investigation are eligible: basic, translational, clinical, epidemiological, or outcomes research. Those grant proposals in the area of clinical or epidemiological research should include appropriate numbers of both sexes. Some areas of particular interest include the impact of biological sex on gene expression; the mechanisms of the impact of experience/environment on male-female phenotype differences; and studies involving synthetic biology - i.e., applying concepts of engineering to biological systems through medicinal chemistry, genetic engineering, and other bioengineering approaches. The deadline for submission February 2018. A committee of senior faculty in the Department of Medicine will review the applications. The recipient will be announced in April 2018 and the awards ceremony will occur at the Foundation Gala in May 2018 in New York City.

The application, as described below, should be sent by e-mail as one attached file (in pdf format) to Dr. Jaime S. Rubin, Vice Chair for Investigator Development, Department of Medicine. Please include "Ferrer Scholar Award" in the Subject line of your e-mail.

  1. Cover page with applicant's (A) Name; (B) Title; (C) Division in the Dept. of Medicine; (D) Contact information [e-mail and telephone number]; and (E) Title of proposed research project.
  2. Research proposal (3-pages maximum, including figures; literature cited on following page). Proposal should follow the NIH format: (A) Specific Aims, (B) Significance, (C) Innovation, and (D) Approach and must include a discussion of the statistical approach and analyses. Preliminary Studies/Pilot Data are not a requirement
  3. NIH biosketch (“new” format, 5-pages maximum)
  4. Listing of all peer-reviewed publications

Please contact Dr. Rubinjsr9@columbia.edu, 342-3184, if there are any questions.


Contact: Dr. Jaime S. Rubin, assistant to Dr. Donald Landry (Head of the Dept. of Medicine)

Dr. Hanrui Zhang, PhD

2023 M. Irene Ferrer Awardee

Dr. Hanrui Zhang is a macrophage biologist. She completed her PhD training in 2011 at the University of Missouri. Her graduate work centered on the crosstalk between immune cells and blood vessels in diabetes-associated vascular diseases. Her postdoctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania continued to address the mechanisms of cardiometabolic diseases focusing on macrophage lipid metabolism and inflammation using gene targeting in human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) with differentiation to macrophages.

The Zhang laboratory in the Department of Medicine – Cardiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center seeks to understand the dynamic role of macrophages in cardiometabolic diseases to find novel mechanisms and new treatments. The laboratory applies technologies for high-throughput functional genomics, human iPSC and CRISPR gene editing, transgenic mouse models, human genetics, and a variety of cell and molecular techniques.


Marwah Abdalla, MD, MPH

2021 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender Specific Medicine

Marwah Abdalla, MD, MPH is a clinical cardiologist, cardiac intensivist, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. She is the Director of Education for the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and is a full-time faculty member in the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia. Her areas of expertise include critical care cardiology and hypertension. Dr. Abdalla is board certified in internal medicine, cardiology, and echocardiography. She is also an NIH funded clinical investigator with a research interest in the cardiovascular manifestations of hypertension, assessed by echocardiography, ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, and sleep.
Dr. Abdalla received her Medical Degree and Masters in Public Health from Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Public Health. She was an Intern, Resident, and Chief Resident at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She completed her training as a cardiology Fellow and Chief Fellow at Columbia University Medical Center.

Jennifer E. Amengual, MD

2019 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender Specific Medicine

Dr. Jennifer Amengual’s research goals are focused on developing targeted therapies for the treatment of lymphoma. Primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma (PMBCL) is a distinct entity which harbors both epigenetic and immune derangements driving lymphomagenesis. It is a disease that predominantly inflicts women in their third and fourth decades of life. Dr. Amengual hopes to understand how epigenetic modulation effects the expression of key determinants and drivers of PMBCL and immune function and to determine if combined epigenetic modulation and immune check point inhibition is synergistic in PMBCL.

Dr. Delivette Castor, PhD (2021 Ferrer Awardee)

2021 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award for Research of SARS- CoV-2

Delivette Castor is Assistant Professor (in Medicine), Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, the Columbia University Medical Center. She is an epidemiologist who studies how to deliver public health innovations at scale by examining the unique and joint effects of biomedical, behavioral and structural factors that affect infectious diseases in priority populations in low- and middle-income country settings (LMICS), and in marginalized populations in the US. She joined the faculty of Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) in November 2019. Prior, she led implementation research activities within the President’s Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) at two U.S government agencies; as Senior Epidemiologist and eventually, acting chief of Implementation Science branch, the office of HIV/AIDS (OHA), United States Agency for International Development (USAID); and Senior Epidemiologist in the Office of Research and Science, the office of the Global AIDS coordinator, Department of State (S/GAC). She worked within PEPFAR-supported programs to design, implement and evaluate comprehensive HIV interventions, introduce and scale-up novel prevention technologies. These often involved designing large community trials utilizing quantitative and qualitative methods, stakeholder engagement, capacity building, analysis, dissemination and utilization of study findings through coordination with policymakers and program-planners. Her HIV research involves intersecting areas of interest such as women’s and reproductive health, health disparities, mental health, nutrition, cervical cancer and other emerging infections (i.e., SARS-CoV-2).

Hilda E. Fernandez, MD

2018 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender-Specific Medicine

Dr. Hilda E. Fernandez, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology at Columbia University Medical Center, is studying the reason young people with chronic kidney disease have difficulties in brain function. She believes this may be on the basis of a defective gene that affects both the brain and the kidney.

Dr. Jon T. Giles

2011 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender Specific Medicine

Dr. Jon T. Giles, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is examining the reasons that atherosclerotic heart disease is increased in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). He is exploring gender differences in the characteristics of body fat and the blood vessels that supply it in patients with RA. He believes that compared to men, women with rheumatoid arthritis will show more inflammation in their fat tissue and less ability of their body fat to use glucose. In previous studies, he has found no difference in the quantity of fat around the intestines (visceral fat) and in the thin sheet of tissue that covers the heart (the pericardium) between the sexes, and will test the hypothesis that gender-specific differences in the metabolic characteristics of the fat determine the severity of heart disease in RA patients. Dr. Giles has completed the difficult tasks of establishing and testing of the techniques for measuring the amount and location of body fat accurately and for defining the immune characteristics of the fat cells and the blood vessels supplying them. Patient enrollment has just begun and they will supply fat tissue biopsies that Dr. Giles will characterize.

Dr. Jonathan T. Lu

2011 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender Specific Medicine

Dr. Jonathan T. Lu, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is looking at the characteristics of heart cells that come from women who have an electrical abnormality in their hearts. Disturbances in their cardiac rhythm can cause them to faint and can even be fatal. These women have a specific mutation in one of their genes that men also have, but men have no disturbance in the electrical system that produces the heartbeat and are not symptomatic. To examine this fascinating difference between the sexes, Dr. Lu has grown cardiac cells from humans with this disorder and is looking at the electrical characteristics of these cells. He has collaborated with a visiting medical student from Linkoping University in Sweden, Sofia Staf, to see whether sex hormones had an effect on the characteristics of these cells. Estrogen had no apparent impact on the genes expressed by the cultured myocytes. The next step is to see if testosterone modifies the characteristics of the cells. We are particularly pleased to meet Ms. Staf, who hopes to return to continue her work with Dr. Lu after her medical school education in Sweden.

Nathalie Moise, MD, MS

2016 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender Specific Medicine

Nathalie Moise, MD, MS received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and completed medical school at Mount Sinai School of Medicine before completing her residency and general internal medicine fellowship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital – Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She went on to receive an MS in epidemiology from Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and a Certificate in Implementation Science from UCSF. She is currently a physician scientist at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health and PI several grants, including 2 R01s (NIH/AHRQ) focused on using informatics approaches to improve the implementation of team based care at the intersection of chronic cardiovascular disease and mental illness.

Emily J. Tsai, MD, FACC, FAHA

2016 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender Specific Medicine

Doctor Tsai is researching a critical issue that is overlooked and under-studied— that heart failure differs between men and women and that a vast number of women with heart failure do not benefit from existing medications. This award will support her research in understanding the biology of gender-differences in heart dysfunction. Her hope is that by understanding the biology of gender-differences in the failing heart, we will one day be able to develop personalized, precision medicine to improve the lives and survival of ALL patients with heart failure, INCLUDING the nearly 3 million women afflicted with heart failure in the US.

Elaine Wan, MD, FACC, FAHA, FHRS

2017 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender-Specific Medicine

 Esther Aboodi Assistant Professor of Cardiology (in Medicine) Columbia University Medical Center.

Dr. Elaine Wan is studying the cardiac ion channels and how the modulation of these ion channels in mouse models allow for discovery of novel therapeutic targets for atrial fibrillation and heart failure, both of which are major health problems around the world.

Dr. Gabrielle Page-Wilson

Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender Specific Medicine

Dr. Gabrielle Page-Wilson, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is an endocrinologist studying how the endocrine glands regulate metabolism and energy balance. She is particularly interested in pituitary tumors. Most recently, she showed that the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, cortisol, is an important regulator of Agouti-related protein. This is a brain peptide that stimulates appetite and suppresses energy expenditure, fortifying the body when it is challenged with a threat by stimulating it to store food and conserve energy. Doctor Page-Wilson is studying the ways oral steroids (glucocorticoids), which are biologically similar to cortisol, prevent inflammation. However, they often produce weight gain and obesity for reasons that are unclear. Moreover, the effects of these substances are different in males and females, and Dr. Page-Wilson will examine their different impact on appetite and  caloric expenditure in the two sexes. This research is important to help prevent the unwanted side effects that are so frequent in the many patients who need this important medication.

Dr. Chen Wang

2016 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender Specific Medicine

Dr. Chen Wang, Birch-Derchin Scholar, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University of New York. Doctor Wang devised a novel method for characterizing the sex-specific development of neurons in the African clawed frog. She is studying how the nervous system of male and female organisms are wired differently at the cellular and molecular levels by working in a simple animal model, the nematode, and using a combination of classic genetic tools and modern molecular techniques.