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Kaunitz continues research efforts following receipt of prestigious UF accolade

Published: August 15, 2014 By: Jesef Williams
Andrew Kaunitz, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, reviews an ultrasound with sonographer Laura Smith. View Larger Image

Andrew Kaunitz, MD, is widely respected in the arena of women’s health. His extensive research in obstetrics and gynecology has been sought out and referenced for decades throughout the country and also internationally.

For instance, Kaunitz, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, has authored or coauthored 175 peer-reviewed publications, which have been cited more than 4,700 times. He’s written more than 50 chapters in prominent medical texts and authored 11 sections in the popular electronic medical resource UpToDate.

Earlier this year, UF recognized Kaunitz’s contributions by awarding him the University of Florida Research Foundation (UFRF) Professorship. The accolade is given each May to tenured faculty members who have a distinguished research record. Its purpose is to recognize recent contributions and provide incentive for continued excellence in research.

Kaunitz is only the second UF faculty member in Jacksonville to receive the honor.

“I was very pleased to hear that I had been selected,” he said. “It’s something that’s very positive for our campus. I look forward to other Jacksonville faculty receiving this recognition in the future.”

Past, current and future trials

Kaunitz has been a UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville (COMJ) faculty member since 1984. He became a tenured professor in 1994. During his time in Jacksonville, he’s done a great deal of research on women’s health, particularly in the areas of contraception, menopause and gynecology.

He has served as the local site investigator for nearly 60 clinical trial studies. Perhaps the most prominent was the Women’s Health Initiative, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored trial on the health of menopausal women. It focused on benefits and risks of menopausal hormone therapy. That study generated $6 million in funding for the UF Health Jacksonville campus.

More recently, Kaunitz served as lead investigator for an international multicenter trial of a hormone-releasing intrauterine system, or IUD (intrauterine device), to address heavy menstrual bleeding. The study led to the system receiving Food and Drug Administration approval for treating this common women’s issue. As a result, surgery is no longer the only solution for women dealing with this problem.  

Kaunitz and his colleagues are now recruiting participants for two trials. One is to assess an investigational nonsurgical treatment for symptomatic uterine fibroids, which are common tumors that originate in the uterus and often cause heavy menstrual bleeding.

The other trial is assessing a new approach to estrogen-progestin therapy in women with bothersome menopausal symptoms commonly known as night sweats or “hot flashes.”

Kaunitz hopes to soon start recruiting patients for an NIH-funded trail that aims to prevent transmission of genital herpes from mother to infant. The study will be in collaboration with University of Washington investigators.  

“This trial will involve rapid assessment for genital viral shedding in women presenting to UF Health Jacksonville in labor,” he said. “Women found to have viral shedding will be rapidly assessed for the presence of antibodies to the herpes virus.”

The UFRF Professorship

Kaunitz’s UFRF Professorship award includes a $5,000 annual salary supplement for three years and a one-time $3,000 grant. The professorships are funded largely from UF’s share of royalty and licensing income on university-generated products. These awards involve no state funds.

This was just the second year COMJ was allowed to make a selection as an independent unit. Previously, it was grouped together with the College of Medicine in Gainesville. In 2013, Robert Wears, MD, PhD, a COMJ professor of emergency medicine, won the award.

“For nearly two decades, the UFRF Professorships have recognized the university’s top faculty researchers,” said David Norton, UF’s vice president for research. “Key to the UFRF Professorship selection process is that it is based not only on what these individuals have done in the past, but what they are expected to achieve in the future. These are faculty who we anticipate will continue to generate cutting-edge research well into the future.”

Andrew Kaunitz, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, reviews an ultrasound with sonographer Laura Smith.

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