As Stewart Goldman, MD, sees it, there’s no place that gives more impactful and empathetic care than Phoenix Children’s. So what happens when you combine best-in-class care with a robust research enterprise? “We can forever change and improve the future of the children we’re so honored to serve,” Dr. Goldman says.

Dr. Goldman, who joined the health system in 2021 as Senior Vice President of Research, is tasked with building a critical mass of research scientists at Phoenix Children’s. “Clinical care is where we’ve really concentrated,” he explains. “Now it’s time to become an academic powerhouse.”

Enter the Young Investigators Awards. Dr. Goldman’s brainchild, this seed grant program funds emerging top talent by giving young researchers a steppingstone to obtaining independent federal and foundation funding—a crucial necessity for research that can lead to medical breakthroughs.

A Phoenix Children's employee looks into a microscope.
The Young Investigators Awards give young researchers a steppingstone to obtaining independent funding—a crucial necessity for research that can lead to medical breakthroughs.

Senior Director of Philanthropy Dana Jirauch knew this program would resonate with WINGS (When In Need Grandmas Serve), a philanthropy group that has raised over $1 million for Phoenix Children’s since the group’s inception in 2015.

When Jirauch presented WINGS members with the opportunity to provide a $250,000 grant to fund the Young Investigators Awards, they jumped on it. “To align with one of the hospital’s key priorities right now—fostering research—WINGS feels like they can play a pivotal role in helping Phoenix Children’s be at the forefront of scientific discovery,” Jirauch says.

The grant from WINGS supports up-and-coming researchers, providing them with space in a mentored lab, supplies, research mentors, statisticians, patient recruitment and more.

Dr. Goldman identifies the candidates, seeking those with the highest potential for success, and recruits and supports them throughout a one-to-two-year period during which they’re launching their research careers. The recipient of the first award is Erin Thornley, DO, a pediatric critical care physician who is set to arrive at Phoenix Children’s this summer to begin conducting research on sepsis.

“A young investigator has to start somewhere, but the only way is to have seed funding,” Jirauch says. “Then you can demonstrate results, go to other funding entities, move on to clinical and translational studies. By supporting the Young Investigators Awards, we could be funding the next cure to cancer.”

Adds Dr. Goldman, “Each advancement, each small thing in science makes for a better outcome for sick kids.”

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