Published September 21, 2020
Three Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences faculty members and one staff member have been selected as recipients of 2020 SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence.
The Chancellor’s Awards acknowledge and provide systemwide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement, and they encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence.
Steven L. Dubovsky, PhD, professor and chair of psychiatry, was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service, which recognizes the consistently superior service contributions of teaching faculty. This service must be sustained over multiple years and may occur in a variety of venues.
Sanjay Sethi, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine; and Andrew H. Talal, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition; were awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, which recognizes the work of those who engage actively in scholarly and creative pursuits beyond their teaching responsibilities.
Elizabeth A. O’Brocta, assistant to the chair in the Department of Biochemistry, was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service, which honors professional staff performance excellence “both within and beyond the position.”
Enacted Comprehensive Review of Psychiatry
A UB faculty member and chair of the Department of Psychiatry since 2004, Dubovsky is an accomplished scholar who has provided dedicated service to his institution and profession, as well as expert leadership and managerial skills to the Jacobs School, and to UB.
Dubovsky’s “extensive and generous” service to his school includes past roles as president of the UBMD Management Council and chair of the Promotions Criteria Revision Committee, the Practice Plan Reorganization Committee and the Great Lakes Consolidation Committee for Psychiatry, and current positions as chair of the School of Medicine Conflict of Interest Committee and member of the UBA Executive Committee and the Legal Committee for the Optimum Physicians Alliance.
In the broader psychiatric community, he implemented an annual comprehensive review of psychiatry in 2005 that continues today to attract regional, national and international practitioners.
In 2006, he was a founding member of the board of directors for ProtectNY, an academic and professional society devoted to safeguarding the state from terrorism and natural disasters. Dubovsky served as the society’s president from 2012-14, and as a member of the Incident Dynamics Group, developed a virtual reality model of an urban hospital emergency department.
An accomplished scholar, Dubovsky serves on the editorial boards of several highly ranked journals, and is principal investigator on 11 industry-sponsored clinical trials. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the pharmaceutical industry and numerous foundations.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Expert
A nationally and internationally recognized expert in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Sethi has fundamentally altered understanding of bacteria’s role in COPD and how the host responds to these infections. His lab was the first to demonstrate that bacterial infection is a major cause of exacerbations in COPD, the third-leading cause of death globally.
Subsequently, his findings that bacteria in the lower airways cause inflammation and are potentially harmful in stable COPD shifted another paradigm dramatically. Further, he demonstrated that changes in innate host responses, specifically in lung macrophages, make COPD patients more susceptible to infection.
In 2019, Sethi received the Stockton Kimball Award for outstanding scientific achievement and service.
For the past 25 years, Sethi has been highly successful in obtaining continuous funding for his research. In addition to intramural and industry-sponsored grants, he has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on extramural awards totaling more than $8 million from the NIH, the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense (DOD).
Currently, he is co-principal investigator on a $1.6 million DOD grant to develop the network biology of pathogen-host interactions during exacerbation in COPD, and co-investigator on a $2.8 million NIH grant to continue research into genome evolution during bacterial persistence in COPD.
Sethi has published 197 peer reviewed papers — many in high-impact journals — and has edited two books/series and written 14 book chapters.
A fellow of the American College of Physicians, he was named one of the top five COPD specialists in the U.S. in 2013 by the independent ranking platform Expertscape.
Recognized as Authority on Viral Hepatitis
Talal is regarded as a leader in the field of hepatology who has achieved national and international prominence as an authority on viral hepatitis.
Founder and inaugural director of the UBMD Center for Clinical Care and Research in Liver Disease, Talal conducts research on hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and co-infection with HIV. He has developed biomarkers to determine hepatichistological progression and treatment outcomes in HCV infection, and has evaluated HCV-specific immune responses and treatment outcomes in special populations with HCV and HIV/HCV co-infection.
For the past decade, he has pursued novel approaches to engage substance use patients into care for viral hepatitis, among them using telemedicine to treat HCV patients in opioid treatment programs.
Talal’s research has been supported by the NIH continuously over his career, as well as by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pharmaceutical industry and foundations.
He currently is principal investigator for an NIH-supported HIV/AIDS clinical trial unit and a $7 million award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute for his pioneering work with patient-centered HCV care via telemedicine in people in recovery from substance use.
This investigation is setting a new standard for care of this population, and has been recognized by the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine, as well as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Talal is also a member of the Governor’s Task Force on the Elimination of Hepatitis C in New York State, and chair of the New York State Hepatitis C Telemedicine Workgroup.
Nearly Two Decades of Support to Department
As assistant to the chair of biochemistry since 2001, O’Brocta:
- oversees all administrative aspects for department personnel
- assists in the recruitment and promotion of faculty and staff
- manages all student services at the undergraduate and graduate levels
- processes international employee and student visas
- organizes and coordinates all administrative, academic and professional activities for the department
Her deep institutional and professional knowledge — she has been a member of the UB community since 1995 — has been key to her role in faculty searches, and also was critical when the department moved from the South Campus to the Jacobs School’s new building on the downtown campus.
O’Brocta works closely with the directors of undergraduate and graduate education on numerous issues pertaining to program and curricular development, recruitment and student advisement.
In particular, she played an important role when the undergraduate program underwent significant revisions, including changes to both major course prerequisites and approved upper-division electives, and the development and implementation of new required courses.
She also has provided significant support in recruiting students to the program by helping create program guides and by participating in open house and freshman orientation programs.
She has effectively managed nearly all issues pertaining to student registration, student academic report audits for fulfillment of departmental and university requirements, and financial aid advisement.