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NIDA. (1998, June 1). Presidential Early Career Award Presented to NIDA Grantee. Retrieved from

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June 01, 1998
Sharon Cargo

Behavioral neuroscientist and NIDA grantee Dr. Sharon L. Walsh of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has earned a 1997 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for her innovative clinical research on cocaine dependence. Dr. Walsh was one of 60 researchers who received PECASE Awards in a White House ceremony held last November. Of those 60, only 11 were from the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Walsh was the only award recipient from NIDA.

Presidential early career award recipient Sharon WalshNIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner and Presidential Early Career Award recipient Dr. Sharon L. Walsh.

The PECASE Awards were established in 1996 by President Clinton to promote U.S. leadership in scientific research and to recognize the contributions of promising young scholars whose work reflects a commitment to broad social goals. Ten Federal agencies nominate the awardees, who can receive up to $500,000 over a 5-year period to support their research.

Dr. Walsh's award citation recognized her "creativity and leadership in integrating clinical pharmacology and behavioral sciences in innovative studies for understanding and treating cocaine dependence." Her NIDA-supported research has included the evaluation of a class of medications called kappa-opioid agonists to determine their safety and effectiveness in treating cocaine dependence. Her approach to this study is considered unique by many researchers in that it evaluates simultaneously the effects of the medications on both cocaine use and cocaine relapse. NIDA also is funding her in work characterizing and quantifying the behavioral, physiological, and pharmacokinetic factors involved in cocaine withdrawal.

The community recognition and support the award has attracted are more significant than its financial rewards, Dr. Walsh believes. "Drug abuse research often does not receive the recognition it deserves, and this award reflects national recognition of the importance of drug abuse research and its contributions to public health," she says.

This sentiment is seconded by Dr. Frank Vocci, director of NIDA's Medications Development Division. "Dr. Walsh is widely recognized within the field of drug abuse for her innovative and highly productive clinical pharmacology studies on novel treatments for cocaine and heroin dependence," he says. "And in addition to acknowledging Dr. Walsh's accomplishments, her PECASE Award reflects a recognition of the importance of research on drug abuse."

An associate professor at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Walsh has given more than 40 scientific presentations at meetings of organizations such as the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and the Society for Neuroscience. She has authored and coauthored monograph and book chapters on drug abuse as well as numerous journal articles.

Dr. Walsh is not the first NIDA grantee to receive the PECASE Award. In 1996, the first year in which PECASE Awards were given, NIDA grantee

Dr. David W. Self of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, was recognized for his basic research on the underlying mechanisms of drug abuse and addiction (see "Cocaine Researcher Honored for Innovative Research," NIDA NOTES May/June 1997).