2011 Issues   /   December 2011

Progress Notes December

By US Medicine

XIN JIN, PHD, RECEIVED THE PETER AND PATRICIA GRUBER INTERNATIONAL
RESEARCHA WARD from the Society of Neuroscience. Jin, PhD, a postdoctoral
fellow at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), was
given the award during the society’s annual meeting in Washington last month.
The $25,000 prize is awarded annually to two young scientists whose research
includes significant international collaboration and shows exceptional potential
for advancing the field. Jin’s honor stems from his collaboration with Rui M. Costa,
PhD, principal investigator of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Program at the
Gulbenkian Institute in Portugal on a study that advanced knowledge of how the
brain controls movement. The findings have promising implications for disorders
where these signals break down, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.
The study, published in July 2010 in Nature, monitored activity in the basal ganglia
of mice. These brain structures help start and control movement. Previous studies
investigated and reported changes in the basal ganglia during movement. Jin’s study
was the first to discover that certain neurons in the basal ganglia show a change
in activity specifically before mice begin the first step in a sequence of actions and
again right before they perform the last step.

TWO TEENS WHO HAVE BEEN THROUGH DRUG TREATMENT WERE AWARDED the
top distinction in the MusiCares and Grammy Foundation’s Teen Substance Abuse
Awareness through Music Contest. The annual contest was created to celebrate
National Drug Facts Week and is coordinated by the National Institute on Drug
Abuse (NIDA). The contest was open to teens ages 14 to 18. Entrants were asked to
compose or create an original song and/or music video that explores, encourages
and celebrates a healthy lifestyle or accurately depicts a story about drug abuse.
Composers of all three winning entries will have the opportunity to attend the
54th Annual Grammy Awards Backstage Experience, a special backstage tour while
artists rehearse for the live Grammy Awards show early in 2012. NIDA partnered
with MusiCares and the Grammy Foundation, the two nonprofit organizations
of The Recording Academy, to raise awareness about drug abuse. The first place
winners, Harvie and Amanda, are two teens currently in treatment at the Phoenix
House Academy in Los Angeles. Their entry, an original song titled “Like a Phoenix
in the Air,” chronicles their feelings about being teens in drug treatment and their
desire to rise above their addictions, “even with a broken wing.” The song ends with
the lyrics “Cuz I may fall 100 times before I sleep, but I promise you I’ll get back up
tomorrow.”

CRAIG LUIGART, CHIEF OFFICER OF VA’S OFFICE OF HEALTH INFORMATION
has received the Janice K. Mendenhall Spirit of Leadership Award for outstanding
leadership and dedication to enhancing VA performance through advances in
technology. The award is given to government or industry executives who have
demonstrated exceptional leadership and made a continuing contribution over a
sustained period of time to the government IT community. It is the highest award

the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council can give to a
member of the IT community. Craig Luigart is a disabled veteran and began working
at VA in 2005. He is a former career Navy officer and distinguished naval aviator.
Luigart graduated cum laude with a Master of Science degree in Management
Information Systems from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. He
received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

VA RECEIVED A TOP WHITE HOUSE AWARD FOR ITS PROGRAMS TO PROTECT the
environment and conserve energy. Called the “Lean, Clean, and Green Award” by the
White House, it recognizes VA’s outstanding achievement in its transportation fleet,
energy-efficiency and renewable-energy development. The award was presented
at the White House last month as part of the GreenGov Presidential Awards. Four
VA employees attended the ceremony to represent the department’s successful
sustainability efforts: Michael Johnson, capital assets manager, VA Southwest Health
Care Network; Robert Rossbacher, energy manager, Salem, VA, and Beckley, WV,
VA medical centers; Dennis Gerdovich, landscape architect, National Cemetery
Administration; and John Park, energy-team lead, VA Green Management Program.
VA’s award was one of six category winners selected from among 230 submissions
from a variety of federal government agencies.

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