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July 10, 2019

Four VA scientists named Presidential Early Career Award recipients

The White House has announced that four VA researchers were honored with The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

The award, given for exceptional leadership in science and technology, is the U.S. government’s highest honor for early-career investigators. President Donald J. Trump awarded the  PECASE award to more than 300 scientists and engineers across the country.

The VA awardees are: Eric Y. Chang, M.D., VA San Diego Healthcare System; David J. Clark, Sc.D., Malcom Randall VA Medical Center, Gainesville, Florida; Walid Gellad, M.D., VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System; and Jason A. Wertheim, M.D., Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Chicago.

Eric Y. Chang, M.D.

Eric Y. Chang, M.D.,
VA San Diego Healthcare System

David J. Clark, Sc.D

David J. Clark, Sc.D.,
Malcom Randall VA Medical Center

Walid Gellad, M.D.

Walid Gellad, M.D.,
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

Jason A. Wertheim, M.D.

Jason A. Wertheim, M.D., Jesse Brown VA Medical Center

"These four VA scientists have established themselves, early on, as leaders within VA and the larger scientific community," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.  "They are already making important contributions to our understanding of Veterans' health issues and to scientific knowledge in their chosen fields of study."

Chang was recognized for his use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to better understand musculoskeletal diseases and injury, like rotator cuff injury. Many Veterans have experienced damage to muscles, tendons, cartilage, and bony structures during active duty. Chang and his team are looking for better ways to assess joint damage and degenerative disease.


Clark was honored for his work to improve neural control of walking in older people who experience impairment from aging, disease, or nervous system injury. His research uses non-invasive measurements of central nervous system signals to assess decreases in mobility. The goal is to develop therapies that can help older Veterans preserve their mobility and maintain their well-being as they age.


Gellad is a nationally recognized expert in the area of medication management and policy. The award acknowledges his work to facilitate safer opioid prescribing. Much of his research has focused on high-risk Veterans who receive opioid drugs both through VA and Medicare. Gellad is also leading an assessment of the rollout of an opioid risk management tool throughout VA.


Wertheim's research is focused on creating replacement tissues for diseased human organs, like the kidney and liver, through regenerative medicine techniques. His work has contributed to a better understanding of how human tissues heal, regenerate, and repair after injury. Wertheim is also part of the ReBuilding a Kidney consortium, an endeavor led by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Established in 1996, the PECASE award acknowledges contributions to the advancement of science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) education, and to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, and community outreach.



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