By Anita Martin
AMVETS has awarded Goll-Ohio Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology John J. Kopchick a Silver Helmet Award, considered the most prestigious award given by veterans organizations. Kopchick accepted the award Saturday at an AMVETS awards banquet in Washington, D.C.
An internationally recognized researcher in growth hormone and diabetes research with Ohio University's Edison Biotechnology Institute (EBI) and College of Osteopathic Medicine, Kopchick founded the AMVETS Diabetes Research Institute in association with EBI in 2004. AMVETS collaborated in the institute's formation and has donated more than $100,000 toward the research program, which trains undergraduates to conduct biomedical research focused on discovering drugs, drug targets or diagnostics related to diabetes.
"It's an enormous honor to receive this remarkable award. I am very, very thankful, humbled and honored by this recognition," Kopchick said.
Vietnam veterans are at a higher risk for developing diabetes, Kopchick said. The AMVETS' commitment to community service and interest in the larger epidemic of diabetes, particularly in Southeast Ohio, sparked this collaboration.
The AMVETS Institute has so far trained 14 undergraduates for careers as research scientists or clinicians, Kopchick said. The students present research findings at national and international meetings and publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals. To participate, students must be in good academic standing and have served in the armed forces or have parents, grandparents or siblings who have served in the armed forces.
Three Ohio University students currently participate in the program: Matt Tarnowski, Arianne Bentley and Brian Bower. Eleven others have graduated, and all are pursuing higher education in science or medicine, Kopchick said.
"Working in the (AMVETS Institute) laboratory has taught me a lot of necessary skills for biomedical research," Bower said. "We touch on disciplines from every facet of biology."
A former combat engineer in the Ohio Army National Guard, Bower served in Iraq from in 2005 and 2006. Now a senior majoring in biological sciences, he plans to attend medical school in the fall and eventually pursue post-doctoral research in the fields of anti-aging and genetics. With support from the AMVETS and Ohio University, he will present his research at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting in San Francisco this June.
In 1989, Kopchick pioneered a discovery that led to the development of the drug Somavert, which treats acromegaly, a chronic disease caused by excessive secretion of growth hormones. Somavert also may prove useful in treating conditions related to diabetes and kidney disease as well as breast and other types of cancer.
To speak with a media representative regarding this story, please contact College of Osteopathic Medicine Assistant Director of Communications Anita Martin at 740-593-2199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.