Dr. Nasia Safdar receives Presidential Early Career Award From Obama administration

Nasia Safdar, MD, PhD

On January 9, 2017, then-President Obama named Nasia Safdar, MD, PhD, associate professor, Infectious Disease, vice chair for research, Department of Medicine, and associate chief of staff for research, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, as one of 102 individuals in the nation to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is considered to be the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early phases of their independent research careers.

Recipients of PECASE are selected for their “pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and for their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach,” according to the award criteria.

“VA investigators represent a small but highly-regarded subgroup of the Presidential Awardees. This year Dr. Nasia Safdar is one of three VA investigators [in the nation]. This places her in the top echelon of investigators within the VA,” said Alan Bridges, MD, professor (CHS), Rheumatology and chief of staff, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital.

Dr. Safdar’s research program has been supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the National Institutes of Health, among others. She has published over 187 articles in peer-reviewed journals and mentored many students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty members, including medical trainees and researchers affiliated with the VA.

A primary focus of Dr. Safdar’s research program is reduction of hospital-acquired infections. “We conduct patient-oriented research to reduce the threat of infections, particularly those by antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” she said. Investigations that Dr. Safdar has led involving military Veteran patient populations include efforts to prevent Clostridium difficile infection among hospitalized Veterans, to investigate the impact of probiotics on Staphylococcus aureus carriage, and to implement daily chlorhexidine bathing to prevent nosocomial infections.

In addition to her accomplishments in this area of infectious disease research, Dr. Safdar holds administrative roles at both the VA and at UW-Madison. “Dr. Safdar has brought a new vision with expansion into Health Services and Clinical Research, bringing tremendous energy to the Madison VA Research office. I feel very secure that we will achieve our potential with her leadership,” said Dr. Bridges.

Richard Page, MD, George R. and Elaine Love Professor and chair, Department of Medicine, said, “Dr. Safdar has provided major contributions to the betterment of health locally and nationally. Her funded research on healthcare-associated infections translates to better care and lower rates of infection, and she is a Department of Medicine leader in her role as Vice Chair for Research, with impact across the breadth of our research portfolio.”

Dr. Safdar’s dual Veterans Affairs and academic responsibilities also reflect an organizational partnership that benefits Veterans, the next generation of healthcare providers who train at VA facilities and/or care for Veterans, and the advancement of patient safety and infection control measures throughout healthcare systems. Dr. Bridges noted the importance of this collaboration, stating that “[This UW-Madison and VA partnership] is essential, as the VA does not have the environment or resources to bring in qualified candidates without a faculty position or package. We are beholden to our partners at UW to keep the VA environment in their toolbox as they recruit future investigators.”

"The inspirational leadership from our VA, the Department of Medicine, and the School of Medicine and Public Health has been fundamental to the success of my research. Each entity has a clear mission to promote research which greatly increases motivation to conduct research and enjoyment of the process," said Dr. Safdar.