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The Doris Duke Foundation honored Christina Cruz, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry, as a physician scientist award recipient, dedicated to advancing insights for improved human health.

The Doris Duke Foundation (DDF) strives to advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases by strengthening and supporting clinical research. This year, through fellowships and multi-year grants, DDF has awarded 21 scientists with a combined $7.92 million that will provide mentored research funding and time protection to early-career physician scientists to advance clinically significant research.

In 2023, DDF is celebrating 25 years of supporting physician scientists, so they have the time and resources to develop groundbreaking ideas. This year’s grantees join a network of accomplished physicians who have gone on to become leaders in academia, medicine, public health and government.

“This year’s awardees are addressing critical issues that are impacting the health of patients across the United States and beyond,” said Sindy Escobar Alvarez, director for medical research at the Doris Duke Foundation. “We are proud to support their important contributions, and we cannot wait to see what this group of physician scientists will accomplish.”

Christina Cruz, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine, was selected through a rigorous peer review process. Applications were evaluated on significance, as well as research approach and environment. A full list of the awardees’ projects can be found here. Cruz’s 3-year, $450,000 project, is titled, “Teachers Delivering Task-Shifted Mental Health Care to Adolescents in India.” Read more about her related work here.

“I’m extremely honored to be named one of 21 physician scientists DDF chose for this Clinical Scientist Development Award, to pursue our goals to improve health around the world, “ Cruz said. “In Darjeeling, India, my group and I have been building evidence to show that teachers delivering a novel therapy we invented can improve the children’s mental health symptoms from clinical levels, that is needing medication or therapy, to neurotypical levels, no longer needing medication or therapy. DDF is supporting the next step of this work, studying whether teachers delivering this therapy can improve the symptoms of adolescents. If findings are positive, teachers in Darjeeling, and potentially around the world, may be able to provide quality mental healthcare to youth of any age who attend school.”

Since 1998, DDF has awarded more than $184.5 million in funding to 427 early-career physician scientists whose work is essential to the healthcare ecosystem given their unique position to align research questions with clinical relevance in order to fulfill unmet medical needs. These grants have helped awardees pursue clinical research projects with high potential to improve human health, attain additional research funding and become leaders in their field.

About the Doris Duke Foundation

The Doris Duke Foundation (DDF) supports the well-being of people and the planet for a more creative, equitable and sustainable future. We operate five national programs—in the performing arts, the environment, medical research, child and family well-being, and mutual understanding between communities—as well as Duke Farms and Shangri La, two centers that directly serve the public. Through the Medical Research Program, DDF strives to advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease by strengthening and supporting clinical research. Visit to learn more.

UNC School of Medicine contact: Mark Derewicz, Director, Research and National News