Accolades: UVA Honors Cancer Doctor’s Suffering-Relief Invention

January 23, 2024 By Dan Heuchert, Dan Heuchert,

The University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group selected Dr. Timothy N. Showalter as the 2023 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year, an endowed award recognizing University inventors whose work is having a major impact on society.

Showalter, a School of Medicine professor and clinician at the UVA Cancer Center, invented a product for women with cervical cancer called the BrachyGel Vaginal Hydrogel Packing System. The product received U.S. Food & Drug Administration clearance last year as the first of its class. It replaces gauze during radiation therapy, reducing patient discomfort during treatments.

“I’m delighted that Dr. Showalter was named as the Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “Dr. Showalter’s research, and his ability to turn that research into a product available to patients nationwide, is helping women with cervical cancer and their families during a very difficult time.”

Showalter recently sold his startup company, Advaray – which was founded to develop his product, BrachyGel – to CQ Medical, a global leader in health care innovations.

“It’s not too often that an innovator can be the lead inventor and the co-founder of a company – leading the company to get FDA approval and then leading the acquisition of the company,” UVA Licensing & Ventures Group Executive Director Richard W. Chylla said. “The fact that Tim was able to do all of this is truly remarkable.

“Most important is that Tim’s invention is helping women with cervical cancer. This goes hand-in-hand with the mission we have here at LVG of improving lives.”

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The most gratifying moments for Showalter occurred during the UVA Health clinical trial when women volunteered that they preferred BrachyGel to gauze, the previous standard for care.

“My motivation in developing BrachyGel was to do what I could to make the experience more comfortable for patients and to simplify the procedure for physicians,” Showalter said. “For an emotionally painful and anxiety-inducing procedure, improving one step of it represents forward progress.”

Showalter said he expects BrachyGel to be used in 50 hospitals in the United States by the end of the year and to gain international distribution soon after.

Initial funding for Showalter’s prototypes came from the Ivy Foundation, which supports biomedical innovation and translation research at the University. The polymer chemistry components of the invention were led by Dr. Timothy Long while he was a faculty member at Virginia Tech.

LVG’s 31st annual Innovator of the Year event will take place Feb. 8 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Rotunda. It will include a talk from Showalter and a reception afterward. It is free and open to UVA faculty, staff, students and community members. Click here to register.

Eight UVA Professors Among Top 200 ‘Most Influential’ Education Scholars in the Nation

Eight UVA professors were named in the 2024 Rick Hess Straight Up Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings. Published Jan. 4 in Education Week magazine’s blog, the annual rankings identify the 200 university-based faculty members “who had the biggest influence on educational practice and policy.”

UVA’s most influential educators include (top row, left to right) Julie Jackson Cohen, Carol Tomlinson, Daphna Bassok and Bob Pianta; (bottom row, left to right) Jim Wyckoff, Derrick Alridge, Daniel Willingham and Sarah Turner.

Climbing one spot to No. 9 this year, psychology professor Daniel Willingham was the highest-ranking UVA scholar on the list. Carol Tomlinson, professor emerita of the School of Education and Human Development and expert on differentiated instruction, was ranked No. 16.

Bob Pianta, Batten Bicentennial Professor of Early Childhood Education and former dean of the Education School, climbed 21 spots to land at No. 34 this year. University Professor of Economics and Education Sarah Turner ranked No. 96 in the 2023 rankings, up from No. 126 last year.

Daphna Bassok, professor of education and public policy and associate director of the EdPolicyWorks research center, jumped 32 spots to No. 146. Jim Wyckoff, professor and founding director of EdPolicyWorks, rose nine spots to No. 148.

Returning to the rankings for the second time, Julie Jackson Cohen climbed 14 spots to No. 182. Cohen is focused on improving the quality of teaching and is currently leveraging the use of mixed-reality simulations in her research. Derrick Alridge, Philip J. Gibson Professor of Education and director of the Center for Race and Public Education in the South, rounded out the list of UVA faculty members included on the list with a ranking of No. 196.

Scholars in the rankings include top finishers on last year’s list, as well as selections made by a committee. All members of the committee, which included UVA’s Pianta and Tomlinson, had already qualified for the rankings. The rankings are compiled using a combination of metrics, including book publications, Google scholar scores, media and congressional record mentions. 

The blog’s author, Rick Hess, is a former member of the UVA faculty.

Indian Academy Taps UVA Math Professor

Ken Ono, Marvin Rosenblum Professor of Mathematicshas been selected as one of three 2024 honorary fellows of the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Fellows of the academy work within India, while honorary fellows reside outside the country. Ono becomes one of just 48 honorary fellows worldwide.

Ono is an honorary professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, and also at the Mathematical Sciences Institute Belgavi in Karnataka, India. He has mentored two Breakthrough Mirzakhani Prize winners, nine Morgan Prize winners, eight Schafer Prize winners and two Rhodes Scholars. 

Math professor Ken Ono is one of three 2024 honorary fellows elected to the Indian Academy of Sciences. (UVA College of Arts & Sciences Foundation)

He also is the founder and director of the Spirit of Ramanujan Global STEM Talent Search, which has awarded financial grants to 125 emerging engineers, mathematicians and scientists from 23 countries who lack traditional institutional support. The organization’s namesake, Srinivasa Ramanujan, was the subject of a feature film, “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” for which Ono served as an associate professor and mathematical consultant. 

Ono has served as vice president of the American Mathematical Society, chaired the Mathematics Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been a member of the U.S. National Committee for Mathematics at the National Academy of Sciences, the advisory board of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, and the U.S. delegation to the General Assembly of the International Mathematics Union. He is currently vice president of the Association of the Members of the Institute for Advanced Study’s board of trustees and a member of the National Security Agency Advisory Board.

At UVA, Ono is a STEM adviser to the provost and a fellow of UVA’s Shannon Center for Advanced Studies. He formerly chaired the Department of Mathematics.

Professor Elected to American Law Institute

School of Law professor Josh Bowers  has been elected a member of the American Law Institute.

There are now 35 members of the UVA Law faculty currently affiliated with the institute, which produces scholarly work meant to update or otherwise improve the law. The organization includes judges, lawyers and law professors from the U.S. and around the world who are “selected on the basis of professional achievement and demonstrated interest in improving the law,” according to the institute’s website.

Bowers, who joined the faculty in 2008, is the Class of 1963 Research Professor of Law. His primary teaching and research interests are in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, legal theory and constitutional law.

Josh Bowers became the 35th member of the UVA Law faculty selected for the American Law Institute. (UVA Law photo)

He has written widely on police and prosecutorial discretion, plea bargaining, misdemeanor enforcement and adjudication, drug courts, drug policy reform, life without parole, capital punishment, grand juries, pretrial release and the right to counsel. 

Bowers is a member of the Virginia Criminal Justice Conference. Additionally, he was the lead reporter for the Uniform Law Commission’s Alternatives to Bail Committee, and he served as a founding member of the Civilian Review Board for the city of Charlottesville, which engages in oversight of the Charlottesville Police Department.

Professor Wins AALS Award for Paper on Religious Free Exercise

Law professor Xiao Wang has won an Association of American Law Schools award for his paper on a recent trend in religious freedom litigation.

For his paper “Religion as Disobedience,” Wang received the 2024 Harold Berman Award for Excellence in Scholarship, presented to scholars for an outstanding article on the subject of law and religion published within their first 10 years teaching at an AALS member school. 

Published in the Vanderbilt Law Review, the article argues that courts have used federal statutes concerning religious exercise to make it easier for plaintiffs to bring religious freedom lawsuits and harder for governments to defend and enforce policies such as vaccine mandates and antibias laws. Analyzing the sincerity of plaintiffs’ beliefs will help prevent religion from being used as a tool of disobedience, Wang argues.

Xiao Wang’s paper, “Religion as Disobedience,” won the Association of American Law Schools’ Harold Berman Award for Excellence in Scholarship, given for an outstanding article on law and religion published within the author’s first 10 years of teaching. (UVA Law photo)

In the first analysis of its kind, Wang reviewed 350 federal appellate cases and found that in the past 30 years, the Supreme Court has never found a single plaintiff to be insincere in a religious freedom case.

“Federal appellate courts, likewise, have found plaintiffs sincere 93% of the time,” he writes, adding that in employment discrimination and Americans with Disabilities Act cases, plaintiffs meet the burden of proof to prove their claims just 27% and 60% of the time, respectively.

“Without appropriate tools to discern genuine religious practice from opportunistic litigation, free exercise becomes an open invitation to true believers and make-believers alike to break the law,” he writes.

Winners this year were recognized Jan. 4 during an awards ceremony at the AALS annual meeting.

Wang, also an assistant professor of public policy at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, directs the Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, organizes the En Banc Institute and supervises the National Appellate Clinic Network. 

Law Dean Tapped for AALS Executive Committee, Guggenheim Board

School of Law Dean Risa Goluboff has been elected to the Association of American Law Schools’ Executive Committee and named a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation trustee. 

The executive committee appoints the AALS executive director and the members serve staggered, three-year terms. 

“AALS plays a critical role in advocating for law schools, faculty members, students, and the legal profession as a whole,” she said. “I’m honored and excited to join the Executive Committee and help pursue this important mission.”

Risa Goluboff, who will step down as dean of the School of Law at the end of the academic year, will remain busy as a member of the Association of American Law Schools’ Executive Committee and a Guggenheim Foundation trustee. (Photo by Julia Davis, UVA Law)

Goluboff was named a Guggenheim trustee in November. In 2009, she was named a Guggenheim Fellow in the field of constitutional studies. Comprised of fellows and supporters, the board of trustees is the steward of the foundation’s endowment and the final arbiter in fellowship selection, according to the foundation.

Goluboff is the Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law and a professor of history at UVA. She will complete an eight-year term as the Law School’s dean at the end of the academic year.

Media Contact

Dan Heuchert

Assistant Director of University News and Chief Copy Editor, UVA Today Office of University Communications