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University of South Alabama Doctoral Student Receives Esteemed Gilliam Fellowship

University of South Alabama Doctoral Student Receives Esteemed Gilliam Fellowship

MOBILE, Ala. – Marcy Cage, M.S., M.P.H., a doctoral student in the Basic Medical Sciences Graduate Program at the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine, is the first student from the the University of South Alabama to be named a Gilliam Fellow.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Gilliam Fellows Program supports graduate students and their advisers in recognition of outstanding research in their respective scientific fields and their commitment to building a more inclusive scientific ecosystem. As part of this year’s cohort, each student-adviser pairing receives an annual award of $53,000 for up to three years.  

“Being named the first Gilliam Fellow from the Whiddon College of Medicine is a tremendous honor for me as an African American woman. It signifies a remarkable opportunity to access invaluable resources and mentorship, propelling my research on air pollution-related pulmonary diseases and infections,” Cage said. “Moreover, it lays a strong foundation for future generations of minority students.” 

Cage is studying how air pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter affect the health of high-school-aged children living in Mobile, specifically the contribution of gamma-secretase activating protein (GSAP) to disease and infection.  

“The Gilliam Fellowship will provide me with unique opportunities for intensive training in research, mentorship, and leadership development, while also building a network of fellow scientists who share my commitment to increasing diversity in the sciences,” Cage said. 

Her mentors are Thomas Rich, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at the Whiddon College of Medicine; and Troy Stevens, Ph.D., professor and chair of physiology and cell biology, and director of the USA Center for Lung Biology. 

“Marcy is committed to developing an independent career that bridges basic biomedical research and community health. This scientific niche will allow Marcy to help improve access for underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” Rich said. “The Gilliam Fellowship will help Marcy develop skillsets to further her career and network with the next generation of scientific leaders.” 

The fellowship program recognizes that advisers play an integral role in helping their students realize their high potential. For this reason, Gilliam advisers participate in a year-long mentorship development course led by facilitator-scholars from HHMI’s Scientific Mentorship Initiative. This learning experience includes monthly online interactive webinars and two in-person workshops at HHMI headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland – all of which are designed to teach advisers how to listen and engage across cultures. 

“The Gilliam Fellowship not only supports incredibly talented graduate students who are poised to become future leaders in science,” says Joshua Hall, senior program officer for the Gilliam Fellows Program, “but it also engages thesis advisers and institutions in the work of creating training environments in which all students can thrive.” 

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute created the Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study, now called the Gilliam Fellows Program, in 2004 in honor of the late James H. Gilliam Jr., a charter trustee of HHMI and a business and civic leader who spent his life nurturing excellence and diversity in science and education.  

This year’s Gilliam Fellows hail from 37 institutions across the United States. The University of South Alabama is one of eight institutions receiving its first-ever Gilliam Fellowship award.  

Established in 1973, the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama offers two degree programs: the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and the Ph.D. in Basic Medical Sciences. The future of medical education, healthcare and biomedical research comes together at USA Health, the only academic health system along the upper Gulf Coast.

Learn more about the Gilliam Fellows Program and the 2023 cohort of Gilliam Fellows

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