The annual Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement have been awarded to four associate professors who exemplify groundbreaking and innovative research along with future career promise. The 2020 awardees are Mohit Bansal, Ph.D. (Computer Science, College of Arts and Sciences), Andrea Bohlman (Music, College of Arts and Sciences), William Sturkey, Ph.D. (History, College of Arts and Sciences), and our very own Angela Smith, MD, MS, FACS (Urology, School of Medicine).
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz presented each of the recipients of the Hettleman Prize during the virtual Faculty Council meeting held on Friday, September 11, 2020 and each awardee will deliver a presentation on their research at a later date.
UNC Faculty Council Meeting | Sept. 11, 2020
“I am incredibly humbled to receive the 2020 Hettleman Prize, which acknowledges my deep commitment to improving the lives of patients with bladder cancer by amplifying their voice in clinical care and research. My success could not be possible without the exceptional leadership, mentorship and collegiality for which UNC is widely known, and for this I am deeply grateful.”
Angela B. Smith, MD, MS, FACS
Vice Chair of Academic Affairs
Director of Urologic Oncology
Associate Professor of Urology
On Dr. Smith’s Unwavering Commitment
From Matthew Nielsen, MD, MS, FACS | Interim Chair, Department of Urology
Since joining the faculty at UNC Urology, Dr. Smith has had tremendous success as a research scholar, beginning with the prestigious institutional career development award (KL2) program through the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute. Building on her strong foundation in quantitative methods, Dr. Smith assembled a diverse mentorship team to support the development of additional patient engagement skills, mixed methods research, and interventional design.
Her initial work as a KL2 Scholar, describing unacceptably-high rates of patients requiring readmission after major bladder cancer surgery, highlighted important opportunities for improvement. From there, Dr. Smith transitioned to an independent Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (K08) career development award supporting the development of an innovative mobile health (mHealth) intervention. Importantly, the first step of this work was a qualitative study of patients and caregivers to understand gaps in the prevailing norm of care from these important perspectives. This first step, described in her first-author Cancer publication from last year, informed the novel technological intervention, designed to address the identified barriers to patient and caregiver education and communication as levers to mitigate the problem.
In parallel, Dr. Smith has led a series of Engagement Awards supported by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) with the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN), to incorporate the voice of patients and caregivers from a >1300-member online network in the research process. The first Engagement Award created the BCAN Survey Network to identify and prioritize research questions that matter most to patients and caregivers. This important work, described in her first-author Cancer publication from 2018, resulted in PCORI calling for proposals related to the comparative effectiveness of options for the treatment of high-risk localized bladder cancer.
Dr. Smith is now co-PI on the $8.5 million PCORI Large Pragmatic Trial, Comparison of Intravesical therapy, and Surgery as Treatment Options (CISTO) for bladder cancer, a study directly addressing the top-priority research question for patients and caregivers, poised to transform the standard of care. Subsequently, Dr. Smith led two additional PCORI Engagement Awards, developing, implementing, and disseminating research training and engagement tools for patients and caregivers.
Given her extraordinary productivity, Dr. Smith is already a demonstrated leader in academic urologic oncology and has received multiple national recognitions in the field at this relatively early stage of her career.
In 2019, she received the “Best of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network” award, in recognition of her leadership of patient-centered outcomes research. This year, she received the American Urological Association Young Urologist of the Year award for her efforts and commitment to advancing the development of fellow early-career urologists.
In recent years, Dr. Smith has been inundated with invitations to contribute to various local, national, and international organizations. Over this time, she has taken a deliberate step back, articulating her vision, oriented not only around incorporating the patient’s voice in clinical research, but also the broader goal of advancing women in surgery.
At the local level, Dr. Smith has been a devoted mentor for our chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association, mentoring numerous female medical students and residents at UNC. Her mentorship and role modeling have dramatically increased the number of high-caliber trainees pursuing surgical careers at UNC and other prestigious institutions.
Nationally, Dr. Smith has been an active member of the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS), serving on the Membership Committee since 2018 and recently transitioning to the new Outreach Committee in 2019. She is also on the Board of Directors for the Society of Women in Urology (SWIU), working across SWIU and AWS to foster collaborations between these organizations through her work with the Outreach Committee. In 2018, she developed a scholarship for women interested in robotic surgery through SWIU. As a leader in urology active in both organizations, she has identified other opportunities for cross-pollination and strength in numbers, crucial for effective advocacy and change.
Within her subspecialty of urologic oncology, Dr. Smith helped to organize the first Women in Urologic Oncology meeting at the Society for Urologic Oncology annual conference several years ago, which has gained momentum and increased representation in this historically under-represented field.
On the international level, Dr. Smith has assumed the position of Assistant Secretary for the American Urological Association (AUA), leading AUA’s international activities in Latin America. This position requires a substantial commitment, with extensive international travel obligations. Reflecting her unwavering commitment, Dr. Smith deliberately took on the challenge of the Assistant Secretary position because she felt this would provide a larger opportunity of advancing women in the field in multiple dimensions.
First, as Assistant Secretary, Dr. Smith can select speakers for the AUA and international symposia; frequently nominating women deserving of that honor. Second, serving on the executive leadership team of this international organization, she provides a positive, highly visible example to both other women – and men – of what women surgeons can achieve. Finally, with travel to over 10 countries in the past year alone, Dr. Smith has had extensive opportunities to meet with women urologists (both trainees and attendings) to advance her broader goals on a global scale. Congratulations Dr. Smith on this well-deserved recognition!
About the Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize
Each year the recipients of the award are recognized at a fall Faculty Council Meeting, and each delivers a presentation on their research later in the semester.