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UTHealth's Louise McCullough earns 2019 Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship

Photo of UTHealth’s Louise McCullough, MD, PhD, who as recognized by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Photo credit: Country Park Portraits)
UTHealth’s Louise McCullough, MD, PhD, is recognized by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Photo credit: Country Park Portraits)

Louise McCullough, MD, PhD, professor and chair of neurology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), has received the 2019 Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

“I’m incredibly grateful to receive the Landis Award,” said McCullough, Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Distinguished Chair at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “It recognizes mentorship, and advancing the careers of trainees is one of the things I’m most passionate about. It really is a lifetime award for mentorship and scholarship.”

Presented by NINDS, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the award emphasizes the high value the institute places on mentorship. The committee hopes to encourage faculty to make mentorship a strong component of their career, as well as encouraging institutional leaders to promote and reward excellent mentorship and include it as a criterion for evaluating academic success.

The Landis Award provides $100,000 in direct costs towards an existing NINDS grant to support continuing efforts towards fostering the career advancement of trainees. McCullough will use the award in conjunction with her current mentorship program to support two applicants: an MD/PhD student and, in an effort to bring more nursing researchers into science, a nursing student.

“We are thrilled to announce this year’s winners of the Landis Award. Good mentors play a key role in inspiring and encouraging current and future scientists, but they don’t always receive the recognition they deserve,” said Walter Koroshetz, MD, director of NINDS. “This award lets the community know how important mentorship is for sustaining scientific research enterprise.”

McCullough’s program, “Camp McCullough,” employs around 10 undergraduates per summer, selected from a growing list of applicants. Students spend the summer months in the lab developing projects and contributing to papers in an effort to be competitive for graduate or medical school. The McCullough Lab focuses on stroke research, including sex differences in the brain’s response to damage and how aging and inflammation affect stroke recovery.

According to an NIH news release, students noted that McCullough never let them give up when faced with obstacles or rejections, providing them with confidence to persevere and reach their professional goals. Many spoke fondly of their time in Camp McCullough, which provided younger students with experience working in a lab, while allowing senior students to practice their mentoring and training skills. Trainees admired her ability to be a devoted mentor while at the same time being a successful researcher, caring clinician, and mother of four children.

McCullough graduated with a medical degree from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and continued her training at Johns Hopkins for a neurology residency followed by a fellowship in cerebrovascular disease. She later joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins Hospital and began her translational research career before relocating to Connecticut and serving as a professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center and John Dempsey Hospital, as well as director of stroke research and education at Hartford Hospital. McCullough has been with McGovern Medical School since 2015. She is a faculty member with the programs in immunology and neuroscience at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Story Landis, PhD, was the director of NINDS from 2003 to 2014 and established programs to help promote the development of neuroscientists. Landis was known for her dedication to mentorship, providing guidance to researchers at all stages of their careers.

NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

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