DALLAS, TX (Sept. 22, 2023) – The Cary Council has announced the latest recipients of its Early-Stage Research Grants, recognizing three UT Southwestern Medical Center physician-scientists united in the pursuit of preventing and treating disease that affect various stages of child development. 

The annual awards support UT Southwestern investigators working on promising research and are made possible by donations to The Cary Council, whose members refer to the award recipients as “DocStars.” The organization’s yearly fundraising event, An Evening With DocStars, will be held on UT Southwestern’s campus on November 2 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. to celebrate these rising stars and encourage community support for early-stage medical research.  

“The Cary Council’s grant recipients are leading exceptional work to provide better care for parents and children through their various areas of focus,” said Southwestern Medical Foundation President & CEO Michael McMahan. “We are thrilled to see the Council continue its steadfast support of  
UT Southwestern’s innovative research, and we look forward to tracking the progress of their grant recipients as they pursue such worthy goals.” 

“The Cary Council has been a catalyst for innovative research focused on a wide range of important unmet medical needs by investing in the next generation of physician-scientists at UT Southwestern,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “Their creativity in generating support for new research initiatives has been both inspiring and galvanizing.” 

Recipients of the Early-Stage Research Grants

Christina Herrera, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr. Hererra has been working to understand the placenta’s role during normal pregnancy and how that differs when placental disease is present. Her efforts may help doctors accurately predict placental abnormalities and intervene quickly when needed. Dr. Herrera received an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a medical degree from Columbia University. She completed residency training at UT Southwestern. [VIDEO]

Margaret “Katie” Hoge, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Hoge has been developing a new treatment for Vulnerable Child Syndrome, a mental health phenomenon that affects parents of babies who have received treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit. Using a common form of talk therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dr. Hoge helps parents work through the trauma of having a child in the NICU. She is the only researcher in the nation conducting pilot studies on this condition which often inhibits child development. Dr. Hoge received her undergraduate degree and medical degree from Wake Forest University and completed residency training at UT Southwestern. [VIDEO]

Avanthi Shah, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern

Dr. Shah is working to improve how thyroid cancer is diagnosed in children. Currently, diagnosing thyroid cancer requires a biopsy and the results can often be inconclusive. In those cases, the thyroid is removed as a precaution, requiring children to receive lifelong hormone replacement therapy. Dr. Shah’s research is working to replace the biopsy with a simple blood test that identifies tumor DNA in the bloodstream, making the process less invasive and improving the accuracy of diagnosis. She completed medical school and residency training at UT Southwestern and completed fellowship training at Stanford University. [VIDEO]

Honorees were selected by The Cary Council’s Steering Committee from faculty nominated by UT Southwestern leaders. Since the Early-Stage Research Grants were first awarded in 2017, The Cary Council has honored the work of 18 UT Southwestern faculty. 

“The importance of these seed grants cannot be overstated,” said Josie Sewell, Chair of The Cary Council. “These grants build credibility for brilliant early-career researchers, and to-date have enabled past recipients to secure more than $13 million in follow-on funding, which is crucial for next steps in the meaningful research they are pursuing.” 

Learn more about The Cary Council and how members are impacting innovative medical research at UT Southwestern by visiting www.swmedical.org/the-cary-council/.



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 continues to earn a Candid (formerly GuideStar) Platinum Seal and Charity Navigator Four-Star Rating. These organizations rate governance, accountability, and transparency, supported by both qualitative and quantitative measures. Learn more at www.swmedical.org.


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 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 19 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 120,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 5 million outpatient visits a year. Learn more at www.utsouthwestern.edu/.