Local doctor honored with VA award

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2022

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Gastroenterologist Uma Sundaram, M.D., was honored Monday by the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center for his research on malnutrition and inflammatory bowel disease.

Sundaram is the recipient of the VA Merit Review Senior Clinician Scientist Investigator Award, the most prestigious grant given by the U.S. Veterans Administration grants program.
Sundaram, vice dean for research and graduate education at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, first received a VA Merit Award in 2017 for research related to the causes of malnutrition and diarrhea in IBD, one of the most common causes of disability among U.S. Veterans serving overseas.

IBD includes conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which affects about three million patients nationwide. Among U.S. Veterans, the prevalence of these conditions increased two-to three-fold between 1998 and 2009, including a high rate of IBD among Gulf War Veterans. This research is done jointly at the VA, School of Medicine and Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Email newsletter signup

Sundaram successfully renewed his VA Merit Award in 2021. Based on the outstanding score of his renewal application, Sundaram was also nominated for and received the VA Senior Clinician Scientist Investigator Award. The SCSI Award includes a Merit Award extension for four years, amounting to a total eight-year award. Sundaram is one of only 41 researchers across the country to hold SCSI status.

“This is an amazing accomplishment for Dr. Sundaram and his research team,” Brian Nimmo, VA medical center director, said. “We’ve had a longstanding connection to Marshall University and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and their research works to enhance the lives of our Veteran community.”

Sundaram’s continued research will work to determine how the body’s immune system affects intestinal absorption and secretion in IBD so that more specific and effective treatments can be developed.

“IBD is very common in in the Tri-State area in Veterans and in the general population,” Sundaram said. “Our research is to find out what causes the all-too-common malabsorption of nutrients and electrolytes which results in malnutrition and diarrhea in IBD patients. Our studies will help us come up with better treatments for this currently incurable condition.”

The Merit Review Award Program is an intramural funding mechanism to support investigator-initiated research conducted by eligible VA investigators at VA medical centers or VA-approved sites.

All military Veterans are encouraged to enroll in the VA Health Care System. To begin the process, please complete an Application for Health Care Benefits.

To find more information on how to register for benefits, please visit: https://www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/