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Laquita Grissett named Magnuson Scholar

Laquita M. Grissett, a PhD candidate at the School of Dentistry, has been named a University of Washington Magnuson Scholar for 2019-20, the university has announced.

Laquita GrissettGrissett, a graduate research assistant in the school’s Department of Oral Health Sciences, is one of the six scholarship recipients named annually, one for each of the UW’s Health Sciences schools. She plans to pursue a dental degree after completing her PhD.

“I feel incredibly blessed and honored to be a recipient of the Magnuson Scholarship,” she said. “This is an extremely prestigious award, and my heart is overflowing with gratitude.”

The scholarships, funded from a $2 million endowment from the Warren G. Magnuson Institute for Biomedical Research and Health Professions Training, commemorate the late U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson. He was a dedicated supporter of biomedical research and was instrumental in establishing the National Institutes of Health, Medicare, and Medicaid during his career in the Senate. The awards are the highest given to UW Health Sciences students, who are selected for their academic performance and potential contributions to research in the health sciences.

Grissett’s current research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular underpinnings that govern and drive the development of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma in patients with a genetic disorder called Fanconi anemia. After she completes her studies, she said, she wants to pursue head and neck cancer research and investigate the link between oral and systemic diseases.

A South Carolina native, she received a BS in biology, magna cum laude, from the University of South Carolina in 2016 and was named to the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society. She was a 2017 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program pre-doctoral trainee, and her previous scholarship awards include a 2019 Student/Post-Doc Advisory Committee Course Scholarship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Abney Foundation Scholarship, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, and University Studies Abroad Consortium Scholarship.

She has also been a volunteer in Washington at a migrant camp and at Seattle’s Danny Woo Community Garden, and was a mentor while completing the UW’s Summer Medical and Dental Education program. In South Carolina, she served at a retirement community and a food bank.

“I am so happy to learn that Ms. Grissett has been named a UW Magnuson Scholar this year,” said Interim Dean Gary Chiodo. “Her work in elucidating the molecular bases for head and neck cancer in Fanconi anemia patients is critically important and timely. While Fanconi anemia remains a relatively rare genetic disease, it carries very high morbidity and mortality. We have so much more to learn about it, and Laquita’s research focus is another important step toward improving diagnosis and treatment options.”