Dr. Birk and Dr. Borlongan named Distinguished USF Health Professors

Two Morsani College of Medicine faculty members whose work bridges the basic and clinical sciences — David Birk, PhD, and Cesario Borlongan, PhD  — were recently designated as Distinguished USF Health Professors for 2014-15.

The promotion recognizes outstanding faculty who have clearly distinguished themselves in their fields and are known nationally and internationally for their research and scholarly activity.

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David Birk, PhD

An international expert in the field of extracellular matrix (ECM) biology and pioneer in electron microscopy, Dr. Birk is a professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology.  His decades of research and ongoing work with collagens and a family of proteins known as small leucine rich proteoglycans have led to a groundbreaking understanding of the extracellular matrix or framework involved in the development of connective tissue. Dr. Birk’s work on the regulation of ECM assembly has major implications for current and future treatments of connective tissue disorders including poor wound healing and scarring, progressive fibrotic diseases, corneal blindness, and congenital diseases such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Dr. Birk’s major accomplishments, including success in obtaining National Institutes of Health grants, have made him sought after as a collaborator with well-recognized laboratories.  He is consistently invited to serve on national scientific committees including NIH study sections and the research committees and advisory boards of Shriners Hospitals for Children.

A world leader in stem cell therapy research for stroke and traumatic brain injury, Dr. Borlongan is a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair and director of the Center for Excellence in Aging and Brain Repair. His translational bench to clinic research has led to five FDA-approved clinical trials of cell transplantation in stroke, including the first cell therapy in stroke patients.  Recently a team led by Dr. Borlongan offered a new concept for how transplanted stem cells help prod the brain’s own repair mechanism following traumatic brain injury. Based in part on this preclinical study, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a limited clinical trial to transplant an adult stem cell therapy in patients with traumatic brain injury.

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Cesario Borlongan, PhD

Dr. Borlongan has received continuous federal funding totaling more than $15 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the NIH since 2002. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Borlongan is president-elect of the American Society for Neural Therapy and Repair for 2015.

The Distinguished USF Health Professor award recognizes senior faculty across all USF Health colleges and programs for their substantial achievements in the areas of research, teaching and service. Faculty members are nominated by their deans, recommended by their peers and selected through a rigorous process of internal and external review of each nominee’s credentials.

In addition to receiving a $5,000 base salary adjustment, Dr. Birk and Dr. Borlongan are invited to give a USF Health address during the academic year, and are granted the State University System title of Distinguished USF Health Professor.  A commemorative medallion will be awarded to each at the Annual Research Day Lectureship in February.

Since the inaugural awards were bestowed in 2007, 19 faculty members have been named Distinguished USF Health Professors. Other MCOM faculty with the designation include Shyam Mohapatra, PhD; Benjamin Djulbegovic, MD, ScD; and David Morgan, PhD; David Sheehan, MD; Michael Barber, DPhil; Jeffrey Krischer, PhD; Bruce Lindsey, PhD; and Richard Lockey, MD.