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Simone Herzberg, Rachel Brown, Margaret Axelrod receive competitive International P.E.O. Scholar Awards

Posted by on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 in Honors and Awards, Student Spotlight .

Simone Herzberg (left), Rachel Brown, PhD (middle), Maggie Axelrod, PhD (right)

Simone Herzberg, Rachel Brown, PhD, and Margaret Axelrod, PhD, have been selected as recipients of the competitive 2022-23 International P.E.O. Scholar Award. The P.E.O. Scholar Award is a one-time, competitive merit-based $20,000 award that honors academic excellence and achievement by women in doctoral-level programs. This recognition provides partial support for study and research.

As outlined by the organization, P.E.O. Scholars have demonstrated their ability to make significant contributions in their chosen field of study by assuming leadership positions in university academics, scientific research, medicine, law, performing arts, international economics, history, literature, government, and other fields.

Herzberg, Brown, and Axelrod are members of the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Herzberg is in her second year of graduate school in the Department of Epidemiology where she uses genetic analyses to investigate causal relationships of obesity and diabetes on chronic rotator cuff tears. Herzberg holds several leadership positions including Regional Chair for AAMC Organization of Student Representatives two terms in a row, the president of her medical school college, and the esteemed position of Executive Director of the Shade Tree Clinic, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s student-run free clinic.

Herzberg was awarded the Robert F. Miller Service Award, a peer-selected award recognizing dedication to serving others and giving back to the community. After completion of her graduate work, Herzberg hopes to pursue a career in orthopedic surgery, serving marginalized communities around the globe.

Brown recently defended her PhD in cancer biology. Her dissertation work focused on the transcriptional co-repressor MTG16 and its role in colon epithelial differentiation, regeneration, and tumorigenesis. During graduate school, she successfully competed for an NIH F30 Individual Predoctoral Fellowship, which provided $124,624 toward her graduate training, among other independent sources of funding. She also received two Early Career Investigator Awards from the American Gastroenterological Association. The majority of her dissertation work was recently published in JCI Insight.

Brown served as the Cancer Biology Student Association Philanthropy Chair for two years and held several leadership positions in the MSTP, including five years as the MSTP Newsletter and Blog Editor. Brown recently returned to her last year in medical school and plans to pursue a physician-scientist career in Internal Medicine.

Margaret completed her Ph.D. training in Cancer Biology under the guidance of Dr. Justin Balko. Margaret studied one of the deadliest side effects of anti-cancer therapy, immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) associated myocarditis. Her graduate work was supported by an F30 fellowship from the NCI and has been recognized with the Lai Sulin Scholarship for Cancer Research, the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center Graduate Student of the Year, and the Dean’s Award for Exceptional Achievement.

Axelrod has also served on the board of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, a state-wide non-profit with the vision of equitable health care for all Tennesseans. She co-led the planning of the 2018 Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium, which was attended by 250 undergraduate and graduate students interested in careers as physician-scientists. She was inducted into and co-led the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) which recognizes students and faculty for humanism and compassion in patient care. Axelrod has recently started her last year of medical school and plans to pursue a physician-scientist career in pathology.

Congratulations to both Herzberg, Brown, and Axelrod on their remarkable accomplishments and receipt of this prestigious honor!