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Biology professor, Chagas disease expert receives Loyola's top faculty honor

January 18, 2013

Biological Sciences professor and resident Chagas disease expert Patricia Dorn, Ph.D., was awarded the university’s top faculty honor, the 2012 Dux Academicus Award, Friday, Jan. 11, at the Spring 2013 Faculty and Staff Convocation. The award is the highest honor a professor can receive for excellence in research, teaching and scholarship.

“Dr. Patricia Dorn is arguably one of the most outstanding science researchers at Loyola,” said Craig S. Hood, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences, in nominating her for the award.

Her work focuses on Chagas disease, a deadly and emerging disease of Latin America, spread by insects known as kissing bugs. Dorn and her lab of student researchers at Loyola discovered the first locally acquired human case of the disease in Louisiana. Dorn and her students continue to research the Chagas-infected kissing bugs in rural Latin America. The team has traveled to Guatemala to hunt for the kissing bugs in homes, caves and other locations in order to conduct the groundbreaking research.

“Dr. Dorn’s research on Chagas, one of the major health problems affecting the poor in Central and South America, responds to Loyola’s Jesuit mission and identity,” said Maria Calzada, Ph.D., interim dean for Loyola’s College of Humanities and Natural Sciences. “In her teaching and research, Dr. Dorn is an example of cura personalis.”

Since starting at Loyola 18 years ago, Dorn has published more than 20 articles in high quality peer-reviewed journals and five book chapters and monographs, with additional publications in press or in review. Dorn has secured top national grants to fund her research, including from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Louisiana Board of Regents and American Heart Association. Recently, she received a more than $500,000 National Science Foundation grant.

She spearheaded an effort to host worldwide scientists on campus in October for a conference showcasing the latest research on the world’s most devastating diseases—the 11th annual Molecular Epidemiology and Evolutionary Genetics of Infectious Disease Conference. The conference was previously held in locations such as Amsterdam and the Sorbonne University in Paris.

“Dr. Dorn’s commitments to engaged learning extends well beyond formal courses, to her mentoring of undergraduate students in collaborative research,” Hood said. “(She) has truly been a person for others. She has helped shape the lives of her students in deep ways that have led them into a life of learning.”

Dorn has mentored 36 students in projects in her research lab and sponsored another 16 to conduct research with other faculty. She’s encouraged many of her students to travel with her to professional conferences to present papers based on their research. Many of her students have pursued master’s degrees, M.D., Ph.D., or joint M.D./Ph.D. degrees.

In accepting the award, she highlighted many of her students’ accomplishments and extended to them a heartfelt thank you.

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