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NEOMED, Akron Children’s physician-scientist Ronald Seese wins prestigious NIH award

10-03-2023 (Akron, Mahoning Valley, Ohio)

ROOTSTOWN, OHIO– The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, supported by the Common Fund at the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a $1.95 million grant to Ronald R. Seese, M.D., Ph.D., a developmental neurologist at Akron Children’s and an associate professor of pediatrics at Northeast Ohio Medical University. The 2023 NIH Director's Early Independence Award (DP5) is across five years for Dr. Seese’s project, titled “Defining the Autonomic Cerebellum in Autism.”

Dysautonomia is a prevalent and disabling neurologic disorder that affects over 70 percent of children with autism. There are no targeted treatments to reduce the dysregulated autonomic responses, or dysautonomia, that affect patients. Dr. Seese aims to test if modulating the adrenal-related cerebellum alters autonomic physiologic responses.

Dr. Seese’s studies have the potential to identify specific cerebellar regions to target with new treatment approaches that aim to reverse refractory dysautonomia in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The proposed work could ultimately transform how dysautonomia in ASD and other disorders associated with cerebellar abnormalities are managed.

“I am humbled by and grateful for the support of the NIH High-Risk, High-Reward program, Akron Children’s and Northeast Ohio Medical University,” said Dr. Seese. “This NIH Director’s Early Independence Award will help accelerate translational research aimed to better understand the neurobiological basis of autism spectrum disorder, a highly prevalent neurodevelopmental disability that affects 1 in 36 children.

“Focused efforts to better understand the brain basis of autism are needed to improve how we diagnose and manage this disability and as a result improve the health of children worldwide.”  

According to the NIH, the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award was created to accelerate the pace of biomedical, behavioral and social science discoveries by supporting exceptionally creative scientists with highly innovative research. The program seeks to identify and support early-career scientists with high-impact ideas. The program encourages creative, outside-the-box thinkers to pursue exciting and innovative ideas in any area of biomedical, behavioral or social science research relevant to the NIH mission. 

"Dr. Seese has been recognized by the Director of the NIH as one of our nation’s leading young physician-scientists," said Dr. Michael Forbes, chief academic officer at Akron Children's. "His research aligns beautifully with our goal of improving child health through discovery. As a dedicated, compassionate child neurologist, he is inspired by his patients to seek deeper understanding into the origins of autism and autistic behaviors, that may one day lead to novel treatments. This award also underscores the power of our collaboration with the NEOMED, one of our regional academic partners. We hope that doing this type of historic research together demonstrates what is possible when we combine the complementary strengths in our northeast Ohio academic community."

"NEOMED is excited about Dr. Seese’s work and the NIH’s support of his innovative research. The NIH Director's Early Independence Award is very prestigious, with the intent of helping exceptional junior investigators,” Rebecca Z. German, Ph.D., NEOMED’s vice president for research, noted. “Dr. Seese, who will be working both as an independent researcher at NEOMED and clinician at Akron Children's, is deserving of this award. I look forward to his continued success as he represents the partnership’s collective mission of improving health through innovative education, practice and research.”

NEOMED and Akron Children’s have been partners since 1974, the year following the University’s founding.  



Celebrating the 50th year since its founding, Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) harnesses diversity, innovation and collaboration to create transformative leaders and improve health through education, discovery and service. NEOMED’s mission is made possible through its network consisting of several nationally ranked health care systems. The University values leadership, excellence, advocacy, diversity, equity and respect. NEOMED has four Colleges — Medicine, Pharmacy, Graduate Studies and the Bitonte College of Dentistry. Its programs offer Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degrees, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees and research opportunities in other medical and life science areas. The dental program will begin offering a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degree in 2025. In addition to the basic sciences at its Colleges, NEOMED conducts research to advance innovation and discovery in health care through seven research focus areas of excellence. NEOMED’s unique areas of service include Coordinating Centers of Excellence which disseminate best practices for treating mental illness; online didactics and onsite training through several programs; and patient services through its centers at NEOMED Health Care and its award-winning Student-Run Free Clinic. Learn more at

About Akron Children’s
Akron Children’s is an independent, nonprofit pediatric health care system that has been caring for children in northeast Ohio since 1890. With two hospital campuses, six regional health centers and more than 50 primary and specialty care locations throughout Ohio, we are making it easier for today’s busy families to find the high-quality care they need. We also operate neonatal and pediatric units in the hospitals of our regional health care partners. In 2022, our health care system provided more than 1.3 million patient encounters. Every year, our Akron Children’s Home Care nurses provide thousands of in-home visits, and our School-Based Health Center nurses manage clinic visits for students from preschool through high school. With our Quick Care Online virtual visits and Akron Children’s Anywhere app, we are here for families whenever and wherever they need us. Learn more at

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