Two School of Medicine faculty receive prestigious awards at annual faculty convocation

M. Imad Damaj, Ph.D. and Caitlin Martin, M.D., were recognized for their innovative and compassionate approaches to addiction treatment.

By Laura Ingles VCU School of Medicine

September 2, 2022

Two School of Medicine faculty were among seven Virginia Commonwealth University educators and researchers who received awards during the 40th annual Faculty Convocation. The ceremony, which took place on Tuesday, Aug. 30 at the W.E. Singleton Center on the Monroe Park Campus, celebrated faculty excellence across five VCU schools. 

Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU, addressed the auditorium filled with friends, family members and colleagues before school deans presented the awards. He described VCU as “unlike a lot of research universities,” expressing gratitude for the faculty who exemplify VCU’s dedication to the mission of public higher education.  

“We are here to celebrate the success of our faculty,” Rao said. “We’ll honor faculty colleagues who truly model the very, very best of a public research university, which has really become an inclusive public good that continues to shape all of Virginia.” 

M. Imad Damaj, Ph.D.  
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology  

This year’s University Award of Excellence went to M. Imad Damaj, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Damaj, who earned a pharmacy degree and then decided clinical practice was not for him, has dedicated his career to scientific discovery. He researches the intersection of chronic pain and substance use disorder, with a focus on nicotine and opiates. Over the course of his career, Damaj has published 236 peer-reviewed papers and presented at more than 100 scientific meetings. He also has established a strong record of NIH funding since 2001. 

“At VCU, you get so much diversity that brings to research a tremendous strength of different ideas that makes the research lab vibrant,” Damaj said. “The next generation of scientists will take these discoveries to the next level. That is an important mark of success in what I'm doing.”  

Caitlin Martin, M.D., M.P.H. 
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology  

Caitlin Martin, M.D., M.P.H., was a first-year medical student when she volunteered for a needle exchange program in Baltimore. Frustrated and motivated by the stigma surrounding substance use disorder, especially among women seeking reproductive health care, Martin said she knew she “wanted to empower women for their health and their lives.” Now an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of OB-GYN addiction services at the Multidisciplinary Outpatient Addiction Treatment, or MOTIVATE, Clinic, Martin received this year’s Outstanding Early Career Faculty Award.  

“I have two passions. I have a passion as an obstetrician-gynecologist, and I also have this passion related to addiction medicine,” Martin said. “VCU has been amazing for helping me collaborate with others across multiple different specialties. Coming together is really where we can make that change that I knew I wanted to make.” 

David Chelmow, M.D., interim dean of the VCU School of Medicine, emphasized Damaj’s and Martin’s contributions to their fields and to the school.  

“Through their innovation and advocacy, Dr. Damaj and Dr. Martin are at the forefront of improving treatment and outcomes for patients with substance use disorder,” Chelmow said. “We are extremely proud of both of them for their accomplishments and grateful for their leadership.”