Jim Donahue, Ph.D., a project scientist at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute’s Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health, was named the 2018 recipient of the Gwen D. Sebold Fellowship for Outstanding Research. He will be honored Wednesday, Oct. 10, at a presentation in the Froehlke Auditorium.

Donahue learned of the honor when a crowd of people crashed a meeting he was attending with several of his colleagues, much to his and everyone else’s surprise. 

“I was completely surprised by this wonderful honor and I’m not totally convinced that I am deserving of it,” Donahue said. “However, whatever success I have had, it is because of the great people with whom I work.”

The fellowship has been given by D. David “Dewey” Sebold since 1988 to recognize an outstanding medical researcher and support continued research in his or her field. Donahue is the 31st researcher to receive the annual Gwen D. Sebold Fellowship for Outstanding Research.

Recipients receive $5,000 for continuing research in their field and a memorial plaque presented by Sebold in memory of his sister, Gwen, who grew up in Dorchester, about 30 miles north of Marshfield. She joined Marshfield Clinic as a medical stenographer in 1955 and died in July 1974.

“It was amazing to read the nomination letters written on your behalf listing your many accomplishments, contributions to research and the dedication to improving vaccine safety,” Sebold said.

Donahue, who specializes in vaccine safety research, joined the Research Institute in 2003 to work on the Vaccine Safety Datalink. This is a long-term, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded project to conduct vaccine safety research using large linked databases at health care systems across the U.S.

Over the past 15 years, Donahue has become a leading vaccine safety investigator with more than 36 published research articles since joining the Research Institute. He recently led a near-real time analysis to assess the safety of a new human papillomavirus vaccine. He was invited to present the study results to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in February 2018.

In 2015, Donahue was recognized nationally with the Margaret Kolczak Award for his dedication and outstanding performance in epidemiology and biostatistics that contributed significantly to the Vaccine Safety Datalink.

He received attention from prominent national media when the results were shared from the CDC-funded study he led that assessed the risk of miscarriage after receiving the flu vaccine.

“His calm and straightforward explanation of the study and its limitations helped ensure that accurate information was conveyed to physicians and the general public,” wrote the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health staff, led by Director Dr. Edward Belongia, in the nomination letter.

Even national leaders vouched for Donahue. Dr. Frank DeStefano, director of Immunization Safety at the CDC, and Eric Weintraub, CDC vaccine safety epidemiologist, shared their thoughts on Donahue’s nomination.

“James Donahue has been critical to the success of the CDC Vaccine Safety Datalink Project. His research at Marshfield has contributed significantly in the areas of clinical research and policy as it relates to vaccine safety. He has constantly shown outstanding performance and knowledge of epidemiology and biostatistics and how it relates to the challenging field of vaccine safety.”