The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Juanita Merchant, MD, PhD, has received the 2020 Distinguished Mentor Award from the American Gastroenterological Association. A professor and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Dr. Merchant is a cancer biology program researcher at the UArizona Cancer Center, an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, and a renowned physician-scientist who has advanced the understanding of the gastric and colonic responses to chronic inflammation leading to gastric or colon cancer.
“I would like to thank the AGA for selecting me as this year’s recipient,” Dr. Merchant said. “I am most humbled by the Distinguished Mentor Award because it means I have been recognized by individuals I have trained and whose careers I have significantly impacted. I also am most grateful to those who opened doors for me, several of whom have received this same prestigious award.”
Established in 2004, the Distinguished Mentorship Award honors individuals for achievements as outstanding mentors over a lifelong career. In addition to her own role as a mentor, many of Dr. Merchant’s trainees are faculty members in institutions throughout the world who also have stimulated young learners to pursue careers in science.
Studies from the Merchant Lab focus on the role of bacterial colonization and the development of type B chronic atrophic gastritis in a mouse model. They found that, during infection by Helicobacter, certain immune cells are recruited to the stomach and over time change their phenotype from pro-inflammatory to immune-suppressive, which triggers cancer progression in the epithelium. Her lab has also developed a mouse model of gastric carcinoid, gastrinomas, and is actively investigating the role of ZBP-89, a zinc finger transcription factor, in polyp formation preceding colon cancer.