Proshad Efune, M.D., Robin Higashi, Ph.D. and Dominic Moon, M.D. were honored during The Cary Council’s signature “An Evening with DocStars” fundraising event  

DALLAS – November 3, 2022The Cary Council, a group of young leaders dedicated to advancing early stage research in support of Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern Medical Center, have selected three $50,000 grant recipients as part of The Cary Council’s fourth An Evening with DocStars fundraising event, which was held on Thursday, November 3 at UT Southwestern.

Guests interacting with one of the innovation stations set up at an evening with docstars 2022.
Jonathan and Saryn Dietz, members of The Cary Council Steering Committee with Brittany and Travis Mathews, members of The Cary Council at the Catch Me if You Scan simulation station.

The Cary Council’s signature event raises funds to support talented, early-career UT Southwestern principal investigators, or “DocStars,” in pursuit of novel treatments and cures. This year, UT Southwestern nominated five finalists, and The Cary Council Steering Committee selected three winners – Proshad Efune, M.D., Robin Higashi, Ph.D. and Dominic Moon, M.D. The 2022 DocStars will each receive $50,000 to continue their pioneering work in Anesthesiology & Pain Management and Pediatrics, Population and Data Sciences, and Radiation Oncology, respectively.  

As a result of The Cary Council’s seed funding, Dr. Efune, Dr. Higashi and Dr. Moon have stronger chances of attracting additional sources of funding to further their breakthrough research. Since the inaugural An Evening with DocStars event in 2017, The Cary Council has awarded 15 substantial grants to young investigators to accelerate their work. These grants have attracted $9.4 million in additional funding for research spanning several important medical areas including breast cancer, brain cancer, genomic technologies, and infectious disease.  

“Ensuring a healthier, more innovative future for the delivery of health care is dependent in part on the support received by the next generation of exceptional and talented leaders in research,” said Southwestern Medical Foundation President and CEO Kathleen M. Gibson. “The signature event created by The Cary Council, An Evening with DocStars, has been an exciting evening for all who participate while providing the means to significantly invest in this next generation of outstanding talent.” 

The 2022 DocStar early-stage research grant recipients picture from left to right: Dominic Moon, Robin Higashi, and Proshad Efune.
The Cary Council Early Stage Research Grant Recipients for 2022: Dominic Moon, M.D., Robin Higashi, Ph.D., and Proshad Efune, M.D.

Dr. Efune: Predicting post-tonsillectomy breathing complications in children   

Dr. Efune’s research seeks to predict which children will be at risk for severe breathing complications following tonsillectomy, to safely allow more children to recover at home. After earning her medical degree at UT Southwestern, Dr. Efune completed a residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, followed by a residency in anesthesiology at UT Southwestern. She then completed fellowships in pediatric critical care medicine and pediatric anesthesiology at UT Southwestern and Children’s Health and currently serves as Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology & Pain Management and Pediatrics at UT Southwestern.  

“The first 24 hours after a tonsillectomy are crucial to a child’s recovery, and The Cary Council Early Stage Research Grant will allow me to predict post-surgery complications and challenges more accurately,” said Proshad Efune, M.D. “Thank you to The Cary Council, Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern for recognizing my research and this important issue. Your generosity and philanthropy will influence future tonsil-removal surgeries, creating more comfortable and lower risk experiences for children, families, and doctors in North Texas.”  

Dr. Higashi: Accelerating telehealth care for patients with cancer

Dr. Higashi seeks to improve delivery of telehealth care to underserved patients with cancer in the Dallas-Redbird area. She earned an undergraduate degree in psychology at Stanford University and a doctorate in medical anthropology at the University of California, San Francisco before joining UT Southwestern as an Assistant Professor in the O’Donnell School of Public Health.

“Expanding digital health literacy and telehealth services in underserved communities is an important part of enhancing access to cancer care throughout North Texas,” said Robin T. Higashi, Ph.D. “Telehealth is a valuable service and, when coupled with treatment and medication for cancer, can be lifesaving. I am very grateful for The Cary Council’s Early Stage Research Grant, which will help me achieve my goal of reducing health disparities among minoritized and lower-income populations in the Dallas-Redbird community.”

Dr. Moon: Predicting cancer treatment responses  

Dr. Moon’s work aims to tailor head and neck cancer treatment regimens to each specific patient. Currently, Dr. Moon is studying a novel blood test to help physicians assess response to treatment and better understand the biology of each individual cancer. He earned his medical degree at University of Michigan Medical School where he spent a year conducting translational research at the National Institutes of Health through the prestigious Medical Research Scholars Program. He then completed his residency training in radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina Hospitals, where he served as Chief Resident. Dr. Moon now serves as the Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at UT Southwestern.

“Specialized cancer regimens have saved thousands of lives that would have been lost to cancer, and the funding for this research will further our understanding of specific pathways activated in different head and neck cancers,” said Dominic Moon, M.D. “With this grant, my team and collaborators are one step closer to developing a blood test that can ultimately personalize cancer therapy to improve its effectiveness.”

An Evening with DocStars 2022 Event Co-Chairs Jacob and Barrell Jones, Amber and Grafton Ifill with Jere Thompson, Jr., Southwestern Medical Foundation Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

More on An Evening with DocStars event:  

The 2022 An Evening with DocStars event was an immersive, interactive experience featuring leading-edge simulation technology and early stage biomedical research. It included stations showcasing cancer-detecting nanosensors, immersive virtual reality ultrasound trainers, and more.  

“Funding this research, and more importantly, partnering with the people behind the research is very special,” said Jacob Jones, Event Co-Chair of The Cary Council’s An Evening with DocStars. “Being able to see their progress over the years, hear their updates along the way, and then witness the long-term impact of this funding…it’s rare to find something so rewarding.” 

The Cary Council sold take-home kits inspired by Dr. Efune, Dr. Higashi, and Dr. Moon’s research. All kits included necessary materials, a QR code with a demonstration video and step-by-step instructions so each experiment can be easily conducted at home: 

  • We BeLung Together, inspired by Dr. Efune – Using two balloons to represent the diaphragm muscle and a lung, this experiment first demonstrates how healthy lungs work when taking a deep breath. It then illustrates what happens when the airway is partially obstructed, as is the case in some sleeping children with enlarged tonsils following a tonsillectomy.  
  • Home is Where the Health Is, inspired by Dr. Higashi – This experiment contains health assessment tools that help give patients and their doctors a clearer picture of vital signs during a telehealth visit. In the video demonstration, Dr. Higashi explains the benefits of telehealth, as well as the importance of expanding telehealth access in underserved populations. 
  • At the Bead of Light, inspired by Dr. Moon – Materials provide the opportunity to act as an oncologist and determine the best personalized treatment course for three fictional patients undergoing radiation therapy. Their “circulating tumor cells” are represented by beads that show up in a bowl. By analyzing how many bead “cells” are captured, a treatment plan can then be tailored to each individual patient. 

The event was held in the T. Boone Pickens Biomedical Building, located at 6001 Forest Park Road, from 7-10 p.m.  

“We care a lot about this mission, and this is a very important event for us,” said Grafton Ifill, Co-Chair of The Cary Council’s An Evening with DocStars. “Funding from An Evening with DocStars is directly supporting innovative research right here in Dallas. This is impact in action.” 

2022 An Evening with DocStars Sponsors 

Michael and Abby Gregory Foundation 

Mary Kay Foundation 

Sewell Automotive Companies 

AVJ Foundation 

Bev and Larry Dale 

Jennifer and John Eagle 

Evolution Spine 

J.P. Morgan Chase 

Beth F. Khan Family 

Kate Morris and Cat Needham 

Southwestern Medical Foundation 

Pete and Alison Dale 

The Patricia Dedman Family Foundation 

Sandy and Rex Jobe 

Tori and Ross Mulford 

The Eugene McDermott Foundation 

PlainsCapital Bank 

BioLabs Pegasus Park 

Brittny and Hunt Allred 

Lauren and Ben Baldwin 

Katy and David Cecere 

Nancy and William Collins 

Crowe & Dunlevy 

Katie and Dean Dillard 

Amanda and Chris George 

HPS Investment Partners 

Lantower Residential 

Adrian and Vipin Nambiar 

Sterling and Brenda O’Hara 

Lara and Brian Pryor 

Signify Health 

Soraya and Rob Spencer 

Caitlin and David Stinnett 

Cici and Giffen Weinmann 

Woodforest Commercial Bank 

Exclusive Magazine Partner 

Modern Luxury 



The Cary Council is dedicated to carrying on Dr. Edward H. Cary’s legacy to “inspire a great citizenship to greater deeds.” In September 2015, Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern launched The Cary Council, a group of emerging community leaders, whose mission is to support and strengthen the work of the Foundation and Medical Center. The Council was created to educate the next generation about the critical role medical research, education, and patient care plays in improving our health and making Dallas a leading 21st century city. Learn more.


Southwestern Medical Foundation is a public charity and a registered 501(c)(3) organized in 1939 with a question: “Why not a great medical center in the Southwestern United States?” The Foundation was created to rally citizens in support of the highest quality health care possible in the Southwestern US. Out of that community vision, UT Southwestern Medical Center emerged. Today it remains the Foundation’s partner and most significant beneficiary. Southwestern Medical Foundation is guided by four core principles: Service to Community, Vision of Excellence, Mindful Stewardship, and Best Outcomes. Each principle is a promise to donors, beneficiaries, and generations to come that the Foundation is dedicated to bringing the gift of better health to the Southwest and the world beyond. Southwestern Medical Foundation holds a 100 out of 100 Encompass rating with Charity Navigator and a Platinum rating with Candid (formerly GuideStar) – the highest status offered by each rating organization. These organizations rate governance, accountability, and transparency, supported by both qualitative and quantitative measures. Learn more.


UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 24 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,900 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits a year. Learn more.