Dr. Swathi Balaji, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Pediatric Surgery, has received the inaugural H. Paul Ehrlich Rising in Wound Healing Award from the Wound Healing Foundation. The award will be given annually to a recipient who shows leadership potential in the avenue of wound healing research. Dr. Balaji received the award May 19 at the virtual award ceremony. This award honors Dr. Paul Ehrlich, who passed away Aug. 25, 2020. Dr. Ehrlich was a world-renowned scientist in wound healing and scar research, and a founding member of the Wound Healing Society and the second president. He was a staunch advocate for aspiring investigators throughout his career, making major contributions to research and education efforts of the Foundation and Society aimed at engaging and promoting junior researchers.
Dr. Balaji has a broad academic and research background in bioengineering, wound healing, and regenerative and translational medicine. Her current research interests are to understand the mechanisms that regulate fibrosis in response to dermal injuries, and how these vary among individuals, leading to heterogeneous repair outcomes that range from near perfect repair in some, to poor quality of healing with marked fibrosis in others. She aims to study how mechanical tension influences fibroblast energy metabolism and their intercellular signaling via exosomes to regulate tissue repair phenotype and durable fibrotic milieu and translate the findings to achieve postnatal regenerative tissue repair in various organ systems.