Thursday, December 15, 2005
CINCINNATI – Cynthia Molloy, MD, a physician-researcher at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, has been selected to receive a two-year, $100,000 Schmidlapp Scholar Award from the Fifth Third Bank / Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Women Scholars Program. With the award, Dr. Molloy plans to expand her research into the causes of autism.
"We're developing two lines of research: how genetics contributes to susceptibility to autism and how the immune system is related to autism," says Dr. Molloy. "This award will help us build a solid foundation to sustain clinical research at Cincinnati Children's directed toward this major pediatric problem."
A parent of a child with autism, Dr. Molloy joined Cincinnati Children's faculty in 2003 to redirect her career focus to the study of autism. She has published or presented several significant papers in the last few years. In June, Dr. Molloy published a study in the journal Molecular Psychiatry linking regions of two chromosomes to susceptibility for a type of autism characterized by regression in development. Developmental regression can include the loss of previously acquired language, social skills or both.
The study was the first to identify involvement of chromosome 21 in this type of autism. This may explain the increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) among children with Down syndrome, who have an extra copy of chromosome 21 and are 10 times more likely to have an ASD than the general population.
The findings represented "the important first step in identifying genetic variants that may contribute to susceptibility to this specific type of ASD," says Dr. Molloy, who is with both the Center for Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Cincinnati Children's and the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Dr. Molloy earned a bachelor's degree at Xavier University and a doctor of medicine degree at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Among her postgraduate study, she completed her pediatric residency at Cincinnati Children's and fellowships at Cincinnati Children's, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Department of Environmental Health. Dr. Molloy currently serves on the Hamilton County Task Force on Autism.
With a $500,000 grant from the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee, Cincinnati Children's established the Fifth Third Bank / Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Women Scholars Program in 1997 to enhance the recruitment and retention of female researchers. The program, believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, includes a mentoring program and protected time for research.
The goal of the Schmidlapp Scholar Award is to identify junior female faculty members who show promise and leadership skills, to provide them with financial support and protected time for research, and to help them through the tenure and promotion process.
"There continue to be fewer women in some areas of science and clinical research and in particular, fewer women in more senior faculty positions," says Lorah Dorn, research director in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children's and chair of the Schmidlapp selection committee. "Often, many roadblocks are encountered by women that can hamper their advancement. The Schmidlapp award is one important mechanism that can assist women in achieving markers towards advancement such as research grants and scientific publications."
The Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund was created in 1907 by a gift from former Fifth Third president Jacob G. Schmidlapp in memory of his daughter, Charlotte, who died at the age of 19. Mr. Schmidlapp directed that grants be restricted to helping women establish themselves in life. The tradition and history of the fund has been to assist women by helping them gain an education and access to services.