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Assembly on Respiratory Structure and Function Stuart J Hirst Abstract Excellence Award

This award was established in 2011 to honor the memory of Dr. Stuart J Hirst, a long-standing and active international supporter of the RSF Assembly.  Stuart was born in Blackpool, UK, on May15, 1964. He graduated from Portsmouth University in 1986 with a BSc (Honours) in Pharmacology and moved to London to undertake a PhD with Maureen Dale at University College London. In 1990, he joined Charles Twort and Jeremy Ward at St Thomas’, part of the United Medical and Dental Schools in London.  In 1998, Stuart spent 9 months in the laboratories of Newman Stephens and Andrew Halayko at the University of Manitoba, before being appointed to a tenured position as lecturer at King’s College London in 2001. In 2003 he was promoted to Reader (Associate Professor) and in 2008 Stuart moved to Monash University, Melbourne Australia.

Stuart Hirst was synonymous with airway smooth muscle (ASM). He provided the first detailed characterizations of human ASM proliferation in culture and developed the important concept of ASM cells secreting key cytokines to therefore contribute to the inflammation associated with asthma.  Stuart also developed techniques for measuring and understanding the events governing contractile function in small bronchioles and isolated ASM cells.  Using these techniques, he was the first to demonstrate ex vivo that repeated antigen exposure induced increased ASM content, ASM phenotypic modulation as detected by decreased levels of contractile proteins, and subsequent increased airway contraction.  He made significant contributions to our understanding of the signaling pathways associated with both ASM contraction and those regulating phenotypic modulation from a contractile to a synthetic phenotype and was integral in the initial explorations of the functional consequences of ASM / extracellular matrix interactions in asthma.  He also pioneered the characterization of the role of ASM derived mediators in promoting airway microvascular changes in the context of airway remodeling in asthma.

Stuart was an outstanding teacher and mentor.  He was highly respected for his thoughtful and hands on efforts to promote the success of graduate students, as well as clinical and basic research fellows in the area of airway biology and pathophysiology.  To his students and employees, he was an enthusiastic group leader, a father and a friend.  He was an integral part of the team that founded the Smooth Muscle Young Investigator meetings which continue to be a unique networking meeting for junior members of the RSF and beyond.  Like other founding members, he committed himself to mentoring the young researchers from Europe, Australia, USA and Canada, who aspired to make a contribution to this ever growing field. These young researchers are now forming collaborations of their own, many of which were catalyzed by Stuart.  A number of Stuart’s trainees and mentees have established themselves as young and upcoming faculty members across the world, and are highly active members contributing to the RSF, a true reflection of the lasting legacy left by Stuart Hirst. 

This memorial award is presented annually at the ATS International Conference to the trainee submitting the top ranked abstract (determined by the mean score given by the RSF Programming Committee) in an RSF abstract category relevant to airway biology and physiology.

Past Recipients of theStuart J Hirst Abstract Excellence Award

2017 - Kiel McAlinden, Bsc
2016 -Christopher Pascoe, PhD, BSc
2015 - Richa Gupta, PhD
2014 - Oluwaseun Ojo, PhD
2013 - Aruni Jha, MPH (University of Manitoba)
2012 - Kuldeep Kumawat, MSc (University of Groningen)
2011 - Dr. Rachel Clifford, PhD (University of Nottingham

Last Reviewed: October 2017