2018 Award Recipients

In recognition of the importance of research in shaping the future of the treatment and care of chronic digestive disorders, IFFGD was pleased to honor four young investigators as recipients of the 2018 IFFGD Research Recognition Awards. The awards support and encourage the participation of clinicians and scientists in multidisciplinary efforts aimed at providing a better understanding of these conditions in adults and in children. Through research patients have hope for new treatments, and perhaps one day, cures.

Peer-Review Selection Committee

  • William Whitehead, PhD, Chair
  • Gary Mawe, MD
  • Emeran Mayer, MD
  • Samuel Nurko, MD
  • Douglas Drossman, MD
  • William Chey, MD

Since 2003 we have presented Research Awards to 42 investigators from around the world engaged in research aimed at advancing the understanding and treatment of chronic gastrointestinal (GI) disorders in adults and children. Their work contributes to our growing understanding of these complex conditions and how to improve their treatment.

The four honorees were recognized at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) 2018 in Washington, DC. The awards were presented by Ceciel T. Rooker, President and Executive Director, IFFGD and William Whitehead, PhD, Chair, IFFGD Research Awards Peer-Review Selection Committee.


Award Recipients and Presenters (Left to Right): Javier Santos Vicente, MD, for Cristina Martinez, PhD; William Whitehead, PhD; Katja Kovacic, MD; Ans Pauwels, PhD; Ceciel T. Rooker; Amaranath Karunanayake, PhD.   

We are pleased to recognize the 2018 IFFGD Research Award recipients for their achievements and thank them for their commitment to research that will improve the diagnosis, treatment, and care of adults and children with chronic digestive disorders.

The 2018 IFFGD Research Award Recipients are:

Cristina Martinez, PhD, Vall d’Hebron Research Institute, Spain – 
Recipient of the 2018 award for Basic/Translational Science Investigator

Dr. Cristina Martinez is a researcher in the neuro-immuno-gastroenterology group at the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain. Her current research focuses on molecular and functional approaches to the study of epithelial barrier function and its association to intestinal pathology.

Learn more about Dr. Martinez.

Katja Kovacic, MD, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin, US –
Recipient of the 2018 award for Pediatric Investigator – Clinical/Basic/Translational Science

Dr. Katja Kovacic is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and serves as the Director of Pediatric Gastrointestinal Motility and Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome programs within the Pediatric Neurogastroenterology, Motility, and Autonomic Disorders Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Dr. Kovacic’s work currently focuses on investigating the brain-gut mechanisms of auricular neurostimulation via functional neuroimaging.

Learn more about Dr. Kovacic.

Ans Pauwels, PhD, Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders (TARGID) at the University of Leuven, Belgium –
Recipient of the 2018 award for Clinical Science Investigator

Dr. Ans Pauwels is a researcher in the Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders (TARGID) at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. She is currently investigating the mechanisms of symptom generation in reflux hypersensitivity and functional heartburn as well as studying the overlap between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and functional dyspepsia and other esophageal disorders, such as rumination syndrome, supra-gastric belching, and extra-esophageal symptoms of reflux.

Learn more about Dr. Pauwels.

Amaranath Karunanayake, PhD, University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka –
Recipient of the 2018 award for Developing Nation Investigator

Dr. Amaranath Karunanayake is a researcher working in the Department of Physiology at the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka. He is primarily interested in the epidemiology, pathophysiology, and managment of functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) is Sri Lanka. Dr. Karunanayake’s current research activities include exploring the epidemiology of FGIDs in different communities in Sri Lanka and assessment of autonomic functions and pain-related behaviors.

Learn more about Dr. Karunanayake.

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IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization. Our mission is to inform, assist, and support people affected by gastrointestinal disorders.

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