Zea Borok, MD, professor of medicine, Ralph Edgington Chair in Medicine and chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, is having a banner year already. In January, Borok was named this year’s recipient of the Mayo H. Soley Award by the Western Society for Clinical Investigation; in April, she will be presented with the Elizabeth A. Rich, MD Award by the American Thoracic Society (ATS).

Named for society cofounder Mayo H. Soley, who was recognized by his peers as a distinguished clinical scientist and a generous mentor to aspiring colleagues, the award honors the lifetime achievement of outstanding medical researchers who are devoted to training junior investigators. Similarly, the Elizabeth A. Rich, MD Award is presented to “an outstanding woman in ATS who has made significant contributions in the fields of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine,” according to the society’s website.

“I’m really honored,” said Borok, who also is director of the Hastings Center for Pulmonary Research. “For me, being recognized by my peers makes these awards particularly meaningful. None of this could be accomplished without the amazing support and hard work of all the members of the pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine division — faculty, fellows and of course members of my laboratory.”

As director of the Hastings Center, which was established at Keck Medicine in 2015 with the goal of creating a nationally recognized center of excellence for advanced lung disease, Borok said, “Awards like these help to raise the profiles of organizations like the Hastings Center, which in turn draws the attention of talented researchers and clinicians.”

Edward Crandall, PhD, MD, chair and professor of medicine, and holder of the Kenneth T. Norris, Jr., Chair in Medicine and Hastings Foundation Professorship in Medicine at the Keck School, nominated Borok for the Mayo H. Soley Award.

“Zea is a gifted scientist and researcher who has always been extremely generous with her time and talents,” he said. “I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”

Borok was nominated for the Elizabeth A. Rich, MD Award by Kristin Burkart, MD, MSc, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. She met Borok at the annual Association of Pulmonary and Critical Care Program Directors in 2011, when Burkart had just stepped into her role as Columbia’s program director of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Fellowship.

“I was fortunate enough to sit next to Zea at that meeting and she took me under her wing,” Burkart recalled. “I was still early in my career and Zea essentially told me that I could and should become a leader, that I could make valuable contributions in the field and that I needed to just go for it. She introduced me to other women mentors and helped create a network of women that I and other early-career directors could call upon.

“She inspired me, she encouraged me, and most importantly, she led by example,” Burkart concluded.

“We are proud to have a physician-scientist of Dr. Borok’s caliber among the faculty here at the Keck School, particularly given her dedication to mentor to and support junior faculty,” said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, dean of the Keck School and director of the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute. “I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate Dr. Borok on these well-deserved awards.”

— Leigh Bailey