Healthy Living

Sherman Award Recipients for Crohn's and Colitis Research Contributions

Sherman Award Recipients for Crohn's and Colitis Research Contributions

Photo credit: Diligent Rocket LLC

Beginning last year, the Sherman Prize celebrates men and women who have made a big difference for those living with inflammatory bowel disease. Funded by the Bruce and Cynthia Sherman Charitable Foundation, the award is given to exceptional researchers, doctors, educators, and public health advocates for helping people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Bruce and Cynthia Sherman’s inspiration hails from their personal experience with IBD. Both their daughters and Bruce’s father were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The Sherman family is immensely grateful to the incredible doctors and researchers who had supported them on their journey to recovery and healing. With exceptional treatment and care, both the Sherman’s daughters are able to live wonderful lives and raise families of their own.

Bruce and Cynthia Sherman’s vision for this family-funded prize is to recognize healthcare professionals who’ve proven they care deeply about treating patients as people, not just for their disease and symptoms. Their award honors outstanding healthcare professionals who not only value the empathetic treatment of patients and their families, but have also dedicated themselves to push the limits of modern medicine for better treatments. Special honors are also saved for those who have given special attention to underserved and rural communities with limited access to medical care.

Every year, the Sherman Prize is given to two individuals who have personally made major impacts and contributions toward the health of people living with IBD. An additional award, the Emerging Leader Prize, recognizes someone who shows great potential in changing this field of medicine for the best. The Sherman Prize Board of Directors carefully picks winners with the help of a committee of well-respected doctors, scholars, and patient advocates.

Now in its second consecutive year, the 2017 Sherman Prize has been awarded to Stephan R. Targan, MD and Lee A. Denson, MD. Both have received $100,000 to recognize their incredible dedication for improving the lives of people living with IBD.

The 2017 Sherman Emerging Leader prize of $25,000 has been awarded to Heidi Drescher, MMS, PA-C for her dedication to providing the utmost quality care to IBD patients with limited access to healthcare.

Congratulations to all three winners! Meet the Sherman Award Recipients of 2017!

Stephan R. Targan, MD

Dr. Targan is a recognized physician scientist, and leader and mentor among experts in the field of IBD. Early on, he recognized and has proven that teamwork is the best way to solve complex disease challenges, such as those seen in Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Dr. Targan knew that mountains can only be moved with the active collaboration and input of everyone involved in each project. To help build bridges between talent in other fields & disciplines, he organized a meeting of experts in 1989. The ideas shared at this conference has helped lay the foundation for IBD research & funding for decades to come. Dr. Targan’s work was largely responsible for properly defining important differences between Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Ultimately, this discovery led doctors to more accurate diagnoses, improved personalized patient management, and overall better outcomes for people with inflammatory bowel disease.

Since establishing an integrative team to battle the challenges faced by people with IBD, Dr. Targan also made important discoveries for new and better treatments for this complex disease. He studied the disease at molecular levels to understand how inflammation causes IBD, and he was the first to start clinical trials for the biologic therapy; Infliximab. What makes biologics so much better than your typical drug? These medications are created to target specific molecules that cause disease. Because of that, they are very accurate in treating symptoms without causing patients as many side effects. Infliximab was the first biologic treatment approved for IBD. Its use increased rates of remission and helped many people achieve better quality of life.

Today, Dr. Targan’s work at Cedars-Sinai is just as impressive. He continues to collaborate with teams of physicians, scientists, and patients to constantly explore new and better therapies for IBD. Leading a new program called 360 IBD at Cedars-Sinai, Dr. Targan has found yet another potential groundbreaking treatment. This treatment is another biologic that could potentially cure the permanent scarring that can happen while living with Crohn’s disease. Clinical trials for 360 are hoped to begin soon.

Lee A Denson, MD

Dr. Denson spent 25 years of his career caring deeply for children living with IBD. He’s never okay with just the “status quo”, and spent tireless hours exploring any new ways he could makes his patients lives better. He documented everything he learned and shared with people what he thought were the best practices in this field. Through his work, he has helped many children successfully reach disease remission, raising the remission rate at Cincinnati Children’s from 60 to 85%. He helped create the Pediatric IBD Quality Improvement Network, which is a system designed to make sure every child gets the right medical care based on his or hers unique needs. He also started a program geared towards teens, helping them understand their disease and feel empowered to manage their own medications. This program helped teens transition their care when going to college, which is an important challenge to overcome for young adults with IBD.

Dr. Denson has also made important discoveries for better IBD treatment. He is a talented researcher who sought to understand the disease in order to explore better therapies for children. Recently, he has been doing research with other scientists to better detect children at risk for Crohn’s complications. He also has been working on projects to better personalize the treatments available for ulcerative colitis.

Meet the 2017 Sherman Emerging Leader Award recipient.

Heidi Drescher, MMS, PA-C

Ms Drescher provides dedicated care to IBD patients who come to her small community practice in Missoula, Montana. People living in smaller, rural communities have a tough time finding specialized health care for lifelong diseases, like IBD. Sometimes, people have to travel many hours to find a doctor. It can be very difficult to find specialists or even any provider who knows IBD management. In terms of practicality and convenience, seeking medical help for these people can be a nightmarish experience. Ms. Drescher has helped her community by keeping up-to-date with the latest IBD research. She offers her patients only the best possible care, even using cutting-edge medications that can sometimes be aggressive. Her patients are very lucky to have someone like Ms. Drescher who will never stop trying to get them the medicine that they need.

Ms. Drescher is always considerate of her patients and understands that healing from IBD also involves emotional well being. She is a firm believer in a holistic approach, including diet, exercise, and mental health. Ms. Drescher is also a tireless patient advocate. Whether or not someone has medical insurance does not change the care that she provides. Not only will she defend her patient’s access to medicine, but also she will actively seek out patient assistant programs for help. She fought for her patients in state Medicaid meetings to get her patients the drugs they need.

It is inspiring to hear the stories of these medical professionals who have contributed so much to IBD communities. Because of their work, millions of people suffering from IBD can hope for comfort and healing through modern medicine.