Meet UNMC New Investigator Awardee Benita McVicker, Ph.D.

April 10, 2013

Image with caption: Benita McVicker, Ph.D., will be honored with a New Investigator Award on April 30.

Benita McVicker, Ph.D., will be honored with a New Investigator Award on April 30.

NOTE: This profile is part of a series to highlight the 16 researchers who will be honored April 30 at a ceremony for UNMC's 2012 Scientist Laureate, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

  • Name: Benita McVicker, Ph.D.
  • Title: Assistant professor
  • Joined UNMC: 1998
  • Hometown: Omaha

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms.
Drinking alcohol can lead to a variety of clinically significant problems in the liver including the accumulation of fat and the presence of inflammation. However, the mechanisms involved in the development of these events are not understood and are an important area of study. The goal of our research is to determine how alcohol-related damage to the main cell of the liver, the hepatocyte, is related to the accumulation and action of cytotoxic immune cells and the ultimate development of alcoholic hepatitis. Using animal models and cell culture techniques, we have identified hepatocellular receptor systems and hepatocyte-lymphocyte interactions that are altered by alcohol and associated with aberrant immune cell processing in the liver and the development of disease.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?
Liver disease caused by alcohol consumption is a serious health care issue resulting in a significant need for a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the development of alcoholic liver injury. Our research aims to define key biochemical mechanisms involved with the development and progression of alcoholic hepatitis, a serious pre-cirrhotic form of alcoholic liver disease in hopes of contributing to the identification of cellular targets for better therapeutic intervention and treatment.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?
My beloved late mother used the phrase "this too will pass" to comfort and guide me when faced with a challenge. Her advice was to keep working toward desired goals, even if there are challenges, for such problems will soon pass and be behind us.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I grew up in South Omaha in a large family. I am the last of 10 children;
  • I make wedding cakes; and
  • My husband, son and I enjoy hiking and bird watching in Fontenelle Forest.

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George McVicker
April 12, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Benita, Congratulations on your award and recognition. It was a pleasant surprise to open my "McVicker" Google alert and see your story. Uncle George and Mary Jo

Teri Jo Mauch
April 10, 2013 at 12:23 PM

Congratulations, Benita! Teri Mauch