New award to help junior child psychiatry faculty jumpstart their careers

By Francie Williamson, Communications Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry

Child psychiatrists who are just starting their careers have a new avenue of funding thanks to a University of Iowa alumnus.

Dr. A.J. Allen, MD ’88 R ’92, worked with the UI Center for Advancement to establish an endowment to fund the Samuel Kuperman Faculty Development Award. Kuperman, a longtime child psychiatrist at UI, was Allen’s mentor during residency. 

Allen, a child psychiatrist who now works for Eli Lilly and Co. in Indianapolis, and who grew up in Davenport, Iowa, says his goal is to encourage junior faculty in the child psychiatry program at UI to develop their careers.

“I couldn’t afford to build a building or something like that, but what I could do is I could try to do something that would encourage good people to come into Iowa,” Allen says.

Allen says he wanted to recognize Kuperman’s many years of service in the UI Department of a Psychiatry, as a division chief, researcher and teacher.

“While he probably would cringe to hear me say it, I learned a lot from him,” Allen says, adding the two have kept in touch over the years.

Kuperman says he was “flabbergasted” when he heard about the endowment.

“I enjoy teaching and do not expect anything like this to result from it,” Kuperman says. “I am humbled by his kind gesture and am still in disbelief. I refer to it as the Samuel Kuperman/A.J. Allen award because he really should share this honor.”

Kuperman says Allen is “bright, driven, caring about patients, and was somebody who was always interested in something.”

“He read a lot both in the scientific and literature fields and was always an interesting conversationalist,” Kuperman says.

Hanna Stevens, MD, PhD, division director for child psychiatry, says she, Kuperman, Aaron Kauer, MD and Erin Martin, DO, brainstormed about how to distribute the award. They decided to let junior faculty submit an idea of how they would use it.

“We could have just said, oh, we’ll give it to the person that seems the most successful’, or a ‘you’re doing awesome award’, but we thought it would be better at least to start to see if we could help spur people’s imagination a little bit.”

Stevens says they listed a number of things that could apply for, such as funding for a research project, special training, editing support for a writing project or creation of education materials, as long as it was something that people thought could enhance their careers at the university.

For the first award, the committee chose a proposal from Allan Andersen, MD. He will receive $2,500.

Andersen said he applied for the award “because I am at a stage in my career where I would like to take on larger and more independent research projects, and to do that I will have to apply for competitive NIH funding.”

The Kuperman award, Andersen says, will allow him to do a pilot study, “which will make my future grant applications more competitive.”

Andersen says he thinks it was “extremely generous of Dr. Allen” to have established the award.

“I hope he can come talk to our division someday and tell us more about his career,” Andersen says.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020