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D'Souza and Lacy receive HSC presidential awards

D'Souza, Lacy recognized with presidential awards

HSC-Baylor College of Dentistry faculty members received two of six Presidential Awards for Excellence presented by Dr. Nancy Dickey, Texas A&M Health Science Center president, at the HSC's Jan. 20 academic convocation in College Station, Texas.

Dr. Rena D'Souza, professor and chair of biomedical sciences, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Research, which honors significant contributions that enhance, facilitate or accelerate the HSC research enterprise.

Dr. Ernestine Lacy, director of student development and associate professor of restorative sciences, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Education and Mentorship, which honors exceptional contributions and achievements as an educator or mentor and is reflective of the breadth of these activities across the HSC.


D'Souza honored for research accomplishments

A dentist and scientist, D'Souza has made significant contributions to the fields of tooth development and genetics, received millions of dollars in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and accepted the highest accolades for scientific achievement and mentorship from her peers.

Dr. David Carlson, Dr. Rena D'Souza and Dr. Nancy Dickey"Dr. D'Souza is a recognized leader in her discipline of biomedical research throughout the United States and internationally," said Dr. James S. Cole, HSC-BCD dean. "In the brief time she has been at BCD, she has made great strides toward the integration of clinical, educational and scientific collaborations throughout the college. She works tirelessly to better her personal research projects, as well as those of the department, the college and the college's research partners."

Since joining the dental college faculty in 2006 as professor and chair, D'Souza has received more than $6 million as the principal investigator for 12 grant awards. She is the principal investigator of two major research grants from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and director of a National Research Service Award Institutional Research Training Grant from the NIDCR. Recently, D'Souza received four NIH American Recovery and Reinvestment Act awards, including one that will help recruit two outstanding faculty members with expertise in tissue engineering. As a result of her hands-on mentoring of faculty, her department has seen an almost threefold increase in extramural funding during the past five years.

D'Souza's impact on future professionals through her mentoring work is extensive. She has provided guidance to researchers at all stages of education and development, from high school students and science teachers to junior and mid-career faculty. Faculty in her department have noted her interest in sharing her knowledge and expertise, her positive attitude and service as a role model for active and aspiring researchers, and her constructive feedback and willingness to help others reach their potential.

D'Souza, who is a recipient of the Distinguished Scientist Award from the International Association for Dental Research, was elected vice president of the American Association for Dental Research and serves as a member of the National Advisory Council for Dental and Craniofacial Research as well as a director on the Friends of the NIDCR board. She was selected as a fellow of the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program for Women at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.


Lacy influences enrollment diversity

Due to Lacy's work, each year thousands of young people from underserved communities in Texas are introduced to dental medicine as a potential career path. In fact, she's created a pipeline of future dentists that has positively impacted the diversity of HSC-BCD's enrollment.

In this way, Lacy has played an important role in the success of her alma mater. Today, the college is one of the most ethnically diverse dental schools in the nation.

Dr. Ernie Lacy and Dr. Nancy Dickey"Dr. Lacy has worked tirelessly not only to develop and fund pipeline mentoring programs to encourage minority enrollment and academic success at BCD, but she has taught and personally mentored many of the participating students," Cole said. "While the statistics are certainly a critical indicator of the effectiveness of these programs, they do not tell the more important story, which is that hundreds of bright minority students will now be rewarded for their hard work and diligence with a lifelong career in dentistry. Dr. Lacy's programs are indeed far reaching."

The programs she has created through the Office of Student Development target students from kindergarten through postdoctoral education. The services provided include career awareness, recruitment and assisted-entry activities; retention services such as tutoring and test-taking strategies; and postdoctoral faculty training. The primary objective of the programs is to assist qualified students in gaining admission into and successfully graduating from dental school.

To fund these programs, Lacy has received nearly $7 million in grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Health Resources and Services Administration for the Health Careers Opportunity Program, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Baylor Oral Health Foundation, TG Public Benefit Program and others.

Nationally recognized as leader in minority-student education and mentorship, she has been invited 15 times to give presentations at national meetings to share her experiences and successes and has served on numerous occasions as a special emphasis panelist and an ad hoc reviewer for the HRSA.