Five named Health Care Heroes by Triangle Business Journal

The Triangle Business Journal recently announced its annual Health Care Heroes. UNC Medical Center had five honorees including Lifetime Achievement Award winner Aziz Sancar, PhD. All winners will be honored at a banquet on March 17.

Five named Health Care Heroes by Triangle Business Journal click to enlarge Top row: Deborah Meyer, Aziz Sancar. Bottom row: Stephanie Sjoblad, Steven Gray, Mary Dunn

Aziz Sancar, UNC School of Medicine
Aziz Sancar, MD, PhD, the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, has been a professor at UNC since 1982. He dedicated his work to mapping the cellular mechanisms that underlie DNA repair, which occurs in cells every minute of the day in response to damage caused by outside forces, such as ultraviolet radiation and other environmental factors. In particular, Sancar mapped nucleotide excision repair, which is vital to DNA subjected to UV damage. When this repair system is defective, people exposed to sunlight develop skin cancer. Also, Sancar showed that other substances can damage the nucleotide excision repair system. His work provides the crucial basic knowledge necessary to develop better treatments that protect against DNA damage, which can result in cancer. This research earned him the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Sancar, who was born and raised in Turkey, is also known for his work uncovering the inner workings of the circadian clock – a group of enzymes that keep us in proper rhythm with the 24-hour day and the four seasons. When we fly four or 14 times zones away, we feel awful not because we might have slept poorly on the plane, but because our cells are thrown out of whack and need time to adjust. Sancar was one of the scientists who uncovered why. His work was first featured in The New York Times in 1998 and the most recent work on the circadian clock was published in 2014.

Steven Gray, UNC School of Medicine
Steven J. Gray, PhD, led a team of researchers at the UNC School of Medicine that developed an innovative, experimental gene transfer-based treatment for children with giant axonal neuropathy (GAN). A clinical trial of this treatment is now underway at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. This is the first gene delivery approach directly into the spinal fluid in order to treat an inherited neurological disorder, and is expected to pave the way to developing treatments for many other related diseases.  

Mary Dunn, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
Mary Dunn, RN, MSN, is an Adult Nurse Practitioner in UNC’s Department of Urology. Dunn serves in a multidisciplinary NP position providing care to urology and oncology patients with genitourinary malignancies. In addition to her role on the urology team at UNC Hospitals, she has served as adjunct faculty for the UNC School of Nursing since 2011, is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and coordinates both the Testicular Cancer Survivorship Clinic (which she co-founded) and the Von-Hippel Lindau Clinical Care Center at UNC Hospitals. With both clinical and research interests, her work has been placed in multiple trade publications and journals, including the study “Bladder Cancer: A Focus on Sexuality,” published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing in 2015.

Known for making a difference on and off the clinic floor, Dunn maintains leadership positions within the Triangle Nursing Society, the Society of Urology Nurses and Associates, and the North Carolina chapter of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network. Her service work, however, isn't limited to urologic oncology – or even cancer. She has committed herself to various causes that aim to improve the lives of patients – from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's "Light the Night" walk to food drives to the "Kaps for Kids" project – Dunn's own brainchild, for which she spends the holidays collecting thousands of warm hats for pediatric patients at both UNC and Duke.

Deborah Mayer, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
The UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center is working to help shape the effort to care for and assist the growing population of cancer survivors through the leadership of Deborah K. Mayer,  director of cancer survivorship at UNC Lineberger.

Mayer, PhD, RN, is a researcher with UNC Lineberger and a professor in the UNC School of Nursing Adult and Geriatric Health Division. In 2014, she was named director of cancer survivorship for the center.

Mayer’s research focuses on the issues facing cancer survivors and improving cancer care, and she has a clinical practice working with breast cancer survivors. In her role as director of cancer survivorship, Mayer leads the effort to enhance clinical and research initiatives at UNC Lineberger focused on cancer survivors.

In particular, she is an advocate for ensuring that cancer patients have survivorship plans, which are tools that can help facilitate communication between a survivor’s oncology team and primary care provider after active cancer treatment, and she has published extensively on the topic.

Her role is important as advances in prevention, early detection, and the treatment of cancer have contributed to the growing number of cancer survivors living in the United States.

Stephanie Sjoblad, UNC Hearing and Communication Center
Stephanie Sjoblad, AuD, combines her passion for audiology and her business acumen as clinical director of UNC Health Care’s UNC Hearing and Communication Center, where she oversees a staff of audiologists who provide impeccable patient care.

Sjoblad is one of three siblings with congenital hearing loss in her family and received a cochlear implant in 2009. Her firsthand experience with hearing loss developed into a passion to serve those who also experience hearing loss. Sjoblad is also a clinical associate professor of audiology in the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences, where she teaches four graduate courses in audiology including a class in audiology practice management. Sjoblad’s audiology students have received nationwide recognition for their work in developing business plans.

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