Within the “Meet drugs management” sequence, leaders throughout the UAB Well being System share their tales and their imaginative and prescient for UAB as Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, transitions to his position as dean of the Heersink College of Medication, CEO of UAB Well being System and CEO of the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance. Up to now, now we have featured Daybreak Bulgarella, Anupam Agarwal, M.D., and Tony Jones, M.D.
This week, the communications workforce sat down with Tika Benveniste, Ph.D., to speak about her three and a half many years at UAB, how her Holocaust-survivor mother and father influenced her work ethic, and why she is happy about analysis at UAB at this second.
Since first becoming a member of college in 1986, Tika Benveniste, Ph.D., senior vice dean for Analysis within the UAB Heersink College of Medication, has appreciated the collaborative method of science at UAB.
Now, as she appears forward to the long run, she is happy in regards to the strategy of evaluating the Heersink College of Medication analysis focus areas for the following 5 years—which comes on the perfectly-timed crossroads of the Heersink naming present and Vickers’ transition to CEO/Dean.
Rising up on the west coast
The that means of arduous work and perseverance runs by way of Dr. Tika Benveniste’s blood. Born to immigrant mother and father who survived the Holocaust, she grew up in Oakland, California.
“My mother and father began with actually nothing after they arrived in Oakland after World Struggle II,” she stated. “They rebuilt their lives from the bottom up, joined a group, and have become profitable.”
As a baby, Benveniste didn’t perceive the super trauma her mother and father had been by way of within the Holocaust—her dad shedding his whole household besides one brother—however as an grownup she is aware of their tales instilled traits of resilience and resourcefulness in her identification.
“In some methods, it was arduous for me as a result of the traditional teenage angst appeared very trivial to them. On the finish of the day, it taught me put issues in perspective,” she stated.
Benveniste, an avid reader in her spare time, had entry to varsity campuses early in life, residing simply 5 miles from UC Berkeley. Rising up, she was fascinated with science. “I had an curiosity in biology and science as a youngster. My mom had a biology background which most likely influenced me,” she stated.
A profession investigating ‘the mysteries of the immune system’
Benveniste stated her undergraduate years are a major instance of how one trainer can impression somebody’s private journey.
“In my junior yr, I had a sophisticated course in immunology—which was nonetheless a rudimentary subject on the time. My trainer, Allan Wilhelm, taught immunology as ‘the mysteries of the immune system,’ and it simply completely grabbed me,” she stated.
After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Biology, she spent a yr on the Nationwide Institutes of Well being (NIH) in a world-renowned immunology lab. That lab work led to a Ph.D. program at UCLA in Immunology.
After her doctoral and postdoctoral work at UCLA, Benveniste got here to UAB in 1986 as a non-tenure incomes assistant professor, after which turned a tenure-earning assistant professor within the Cell Biology Division in 1988.. Since, she has held quite a lot of management positions.
An surprising alternative to guide
Whereas there was not a plan in her early profession to be in a management place, in 1995 she was requested by Dr. Dick Marchase to function director of the Graduate Program in Cell Biology. “I assumed, ‘why me?’ I used to be flattered however instructed him I used to be unsure I had the ability set. And, he stated, ‘I’ve watched you, and also you do,’ so I stated okay, I’ll do it.” And unexpectedly, Benveniste discovered herself main a program of over 80 graduate college students.
“I discovered it to be tremendously rewarding,” she stated about her 5 years serving in that position. “I loved being of service to college students.”
In 1999, she based the Workplace of Postdoctoral Training the place she served as affiliate dean from 1999-2001. “I began trying into the postdoc plight and located a quantity had been underpaid, and had poor advantages and insurance coverage. They wanted to have an advocate for them and their well-being.” When Benveniste acknowledged that want, she approached management, they usually agreed to help a brand new workplace.
She stated that figuring out a necessity, proposing an answer, and having it accepted by management is just not irregular at UAB. In truth, that sort of collaboration and initiative is one side that has saved her at UAB for 35 years.
Main by understanding and empathizing
Benveniste’s CV is in depth and lengthy, showcasing a breadth of expertise in management, science and discovery, educating, and analysis. She has held a number of notable management positions throughout UAB, together with serving as chair of the Division of Cell Biology from 2000-2011, then serving as founding chair when the Division merged with physiology and biophysics and have become the Division of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology in 2012. In 2015, she joined the Dean’s Workplace as senior affiliate dean.
Now, as senior vice dean, her position encompasses the whole lot associated to analysis, together with cores, house, recruitment and retention, managing inner funding mechanisms, and serving to researchers construct up their infrastructure—all whereas sustaining her personal lab devoted to researching neuroinflammation and the JAK/STAT signaling pathway. She has additionally been very energetic as a mentor all through her time at UAB, having graduated 36 college students with the Ph.D. diploma and educated over 30 postdoctoral fellows.
“The entire actions I did prior to now inform what I do now,” she said. “I believe my expertise in analysis plus the management exercise offers me credibility as senior vice dean; it’s robust to ask somebody to do one thing that you haven’t executed your self.”
“I can empathize with chairs as a result of I’ve been a chair. I can empathize with college who acquired a rejection of a manuscript or grant. I can communicate to a number of experiences as a result of I’ve lived and proceed to stay these experiences.”
Whereas her plate is full and can solely broaden because the Heersink College of Medication grows, Benveniste makes positive to make time for herself.
Often studying three to 4 books per week, Benveniste’s ardour is historic fiction and nonfiction, particularly the period of World Struggle II. “I additionally just like the occasional trash novel,” she laughed.
She stated she does no less than one type of train per day. “I like strolling. I stroll so much,” she defined. “And through the pandemic, I took up boxing. I take classes and am identified across the boxing gymnasium as ‘Tika the terminator.” she stated.
Strategizing the way forward for analysis
She brings the identical depth from the boxing ring to her every day work, explaining that her mother and father raised her to indicate up and do the best possible work attainable each single day. “The worst factor is having one thing fall by way of the cracks,” she stated.
On the horizon, there are fairly a couple of issues Benveniste is trying ahead to within the subsequent few years, beginning with the course analysis is headed.
“A strategic analysis plan was developed in 2014 and has served us nicely, however science modifications quickly. We’ve got reached out to each Heersink college member for his or her enter on re-evaluating our precedence areas and creating a brand new plan.”
Benveniste stated enter is important so this shall be a “ground-up” initiative. “I’m particularly trying ahead to listening to from junior college to know what they see as thrilling,” she stated.
One other thrilling side of the long run is the Heersink household’s historic $95 million present. “It comes at a transformative time,” she stated, including that we’re propelling in the direction of educational excellence.
A pathway to unify mission areas
With Vickers’ position change, she stated she appears ahead to “having pretty siloed entities be extra aligned.” There may be an interconnectivity between analysis and scientific environments, she defined.
And whereas quite a lot of primary science doesn’t start with the considered curing illness, it does present a basis to scientific analysis—it’s a constructing block. Analysis to scientific care is a continuum. It begins with primary science then turns into pre-clinical and translational, ultimately resulting in part 1-3 scientific trials and, lastly, ending on the bedside. The continuum is just not linear although, and Benveniste is fast to notice that “there’s quite a lot of serendipity in analysis. You might begin down one path and find yourself in a brand new course.”
As we transfer forward, Benveniste predicts that there shall be extra alternatives to develop a deeper appreciation for what everybody—researcher, educator, supplier, and scientist—does every day, and she or he envisions unified mission areas of analysis, scientific care, and medical training.