Diana Sobieraj, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, has been named the recipient of the 2017 New Investigator Award by the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP). This prestigious honor is presented to a single ACCP member each year. The individual selected must be a member of the organization, have completed terminal training or a degree less than six years previously, and have established a research program with a substantial publication record. Sobieraj more than meets the criteria.
Her research focuses on comparative effectiveness and health outcomes. She has published in excess of 40 papers in peer-reviewed literature, including in journals such as Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, and the International Journal of Cardiology.
In fact, according to UConn School of Pharmacy’s Professor of Pharmacy Practice Craig Coleman in his letter of recommendation, “Diana Sobieraj’s accomplishments as a scholar have been nothing short of remarkable.”
He cites the over $2 million in grants she has received to support her research program. This includes a recent award of $355,000 from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute — through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Evidence-Based Practice Center program — to perform evidence synthesis reports related to the pharmacologic management of asthma. Sobieraj is Principal Investigator on this project, and the reports generated from her research will be used to support the forthcoming update of the Expert Panel Report Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Though her efforts are noteworthy, Soberiaj didn’t initially see herself in a research role. A 2006 graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a Pharm.D., she accepted a PGY-1 residency that was jointly sponsored by UConn’s School of Pharmacy and Hartford Hospital. She followed that with a two year fellowship in cardiovascular pharmacology and outcomes at the Evidence Based Practice Center under the auspices of the two institutions.
“I had always envisioned myself primarily as a teacher,” she says, “and my post-graduate experience allowed me to teach in the classroom and in practice labs, and it confirmed my desire to go into academia. I applied for a position in ambulatory care, which had been the focus of my residency, and I thought I’d really fulfilled my dream when I was hired by the UConn School of Pharmacy in 2007.
“There, I was teaching new students and involved with the daily clinical care of patients. I really thought I was where I was meant to be,” she adds with a smile.
But, Department Chair and Professor of Pharmacy Practice C. Michael White had other ideas. White and Professor Craig Coleman had received a contract from the AHRQ — part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — to conduct comparative effectiveness research. They invited Sobieraj to be a part of their team and she accepted. In a big way.
“I actually welcomed the chance to do research,” she says, “because I felt that I really needed to round out my experience so that I could be the best teacher possible. But, I didn’t realize at the beginning how much I would love what I was doing as a research associate with Mike and Craig. That experience really changed my career path.”
At the end of the contract’s five-year timeline, in 2012, the School of Pharmacy had an opening in Pharmacy Practice for a tenure-track faculty member with a research focus. Sobieraj applied and was hired for the position.
White says that what distinguishes Sobieraj is her tenacity and passion. He says that she works exceedingly hard and wants to use her talents to make a lasting contribution to her students, post doctoral trainees, and, ultimately, to patient care.
He then adds, “She uses her first-hand experience as a clinician to ask and answer questions that best impact patients, especially in the areas of blood clotting and asthma. And, she fosters a longstanding family-like atmosphere in our Health Outcomes, Policy, and Evidence-Synthesis (HOPES) research group where our faculty at the School of Pharmacy and clinicians at Hartford Hospital use their talents, strengths, and time to support each other.”
With an expanding track record of successful publications and research, Sobieraj still welcomes her interactions with students on their clinical rotations in adult internal medicine. Part of what she enjoys goes beyond the strictly academic.
Sobieraj says she didn’t start out to become anyone’s role model. But, because she’s a woman with a career and a family, she sometimes gets asked by female students how she manages to ‘do everything.’
“The truth is, it isn’t always easy,” she says, “but, I have two young daughters and I want them to understand that there’s nothing that is out of reach for them. That goes for our students, as well. So if I can be a positive influence on young women, doing what I love both at home and at work, then that makes me happy.”
Sobieraj will deliver the annual New Investigator Award lecture during the October 8 awards ceremony at the ACCP annual meeting in Phoenix.