Surgical research resident Julie Stortz, M.D., receives Shock Society’s New Investigator Award

Julie Stortz, M.D.

Julie Stortz, M.D., a fourth-year resident with the UF department of surgery, received the New Investigator Award from the Shock Society. The award, which includes a plaque, $650 and a $1,000 travel grant, was presented June 4 at the Shock Society’s annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale. She was among five finalists selected by a panel of past society presidents.

Stortz and her colleagues seek to determine the presence and effects of immunosuppression on sepsis survivors who develop chronic critical illness, or CCI, compared to patients who rapidly recover from sepsis. Their work suggests that there is biomarker and clinical evidence of prolonged immune suppression in ICU patients who initially survive sepsis.

“It was exciting and such an honor to receive the award. However, I couldn’t have done it without the support of every person involved in the Laboratory of Inflammation Biology and Surgical Science,” Stortz said.

Sepsis, which can be life-threatening, is an illness or complication in which the body has a severe and overwhelming response to infection. That response can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Almost half of sepsis survivors progress to CCI, characterized by prolonged stays on intensive care units, cognitive and functional disabilities, increased susceptibility to secondary infections, discharge to long-term health-care or nursing facilities, and death, Stortz noted.

“The long-term effects and challenges for those that survive sepsis is an emerging area of great interest and significance. Dr. Stortz’ election as winner of this award reflects that,” said Scott Brakenridge, M.D., MSCS, an assistant professor of surgery on the acute care surgery team and a primary investigator with the University of Florida Sepsis and Critical Illness Research Center.

To be eligible for the New Investigator Award, applicants must be predoctoral students or research fellows with no more than two years in postdoctoral research training, and they must submit an abstract to the Shock Society Annual Meeting as the first author.

Applicants also agree to publish their work in the SHOCK journal if accepted for publication. A paper by Stortz and colleagues — “Evidence for Persistent Immune Suppression in Patients who Develop Chronic Critical Illness after Sepsis” — is currently under review.