SUNY Downstate’s Dr. Helen Durkin to Receive 2014 Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award

Oct 20, 2014

Honor Is Given to Professors Who Inspire Their Students to Make a Difference

Brooklyn, NY – Helen G. Durkin, PhD, associate professor of pathology and medicine and scientific director of the Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, is one of ten professors nationwide to receive the 2014 Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award, which recognizes educators who have inspired a former student to establish on a lasting basis a concept or procedure of benefit to the community at large. This award will be presented to Dr. Durkin at a ceremony in Atlanta in November, and includes a monetary award of $25,000.

Dr. Durkin’s laboratory at SUNY Downstate studies mechanisms regulating the production of Immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody produced after exposure to allergens and which is responsible for the symptoms associated with asthma and allergy.

Dr. Durkin notes that allergic asthma and food allergies are diseases of altered IgE regulation, and are major and increasing health problems in the United States, especially the inner city served by Downstate, where asthma is epidemic. There are no current therapies that prevent IgE production.  Instead, current therapies target pathological responses after IgE is produced.  According to Dr. Durkin, more effective treatments would decrease IgE production, preventing downstream IgE-mediated inflammatory responses.

Dr. Durkin served as mentor for 15 PhD or MD/PhD students who have graduated from Downstate’s School of Graduate Studies. One of her former students, Vincent K. Tuohy, PhD, nominated Dr. Durkin for the Beckman award. Dr. Tuohy is the Mort and Iris November Distinguished Chair in Innovative Breast Cancer Research, Department of Immunology, Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute.

Dr. Tuohy said, “As my mentor, Dr. Durkin gave me the freedom to explore and find my limits. She consistently encouraged free thinking and seemed to know intuitively how important it was for a junior investigator to find their own way, to learn how to become an independent thinker, to have the courage to take risks and make mistakes, and to aim higher than one’s reach. I learned from Dr. Durkin that the key to successful research lies in the willingness to fail often, that our failures define us as much as our accomplishments and that tenacity alone could overcome so many other shortcomings.”

He added, “I am certain that other students she mentored for doctoral degrees feel as I do, that we have all been blessed by her life force. Helen is a wonderful person and a remarkable teacher, and I am delighted that she has received this well-deserved and long overdue recognition.”

Since its inception, the Beckman Award Trust has awarded over $1.5 million to 63 professors and/or faculty members to date. This year’s award ceremony will take place at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center in Atlanta on Saturday, November 15, 2014.

The trust was established in 2008 under the will of Gail McKnight Beckman in honor of her mother, Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman. Recipients must be current or former professors or instructors at a college, university, junior college, community college or technical school in America. Preference is given to those who teach in the fields of psychology, medicine, or law.


About SUNY Downstate Medical Center

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively.

SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.