Diversity, affirmative action, and equal opportunity

Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity at OHSU exists to promote diversity and prevent discrimination. Learn about affirmative action and equal opportunity at the OHSU Department of Neurology.

The BENFRA Center is actively committed to equity, inclusion and expanding diversity within our Program.


BENFRA Director Dr. Amala Soumyanath was interviewed by Medical News Today about Ashwagandha. Read the article, published October 24, 2023.

Congratulations to the Fall 2023 Neurology Department Pilot Awardees Olivia Monestime and Rachel Morrill! Olivia will be working with Dr. Nora Gray on a project titled “Assessing microglial phenotypes in 5xFAD mice following oral botanical administration” and Rachel will be working with Dr Doris Kretzschmar on the project “Investigating neuroprotective effects of Centella asiatica in a Drosophila Tauopathy model.”

Congratulations to first author Helen Holvoet on her paper recently published in NutrientsChlorogenic Acids, Acting via Calcineurin, Are the Main Compounds in Centella asiatica Extracts That Mediate Resilience to Chronic Stress in Drosophila melanogaster.

Congratulations to first author Dr. Liping Yang and the BENFRA Botanical Research Core team on their paper recently published in the Journal of Chromatography Open:
Quantification of caffeoylquinic acids and triterpenes as targeted bioactive compounds of Centella asiatica in extracts and formulations by liquid chromatography mass spectrometry.

    BENFRA and associated R03’s were well represented at the recent American Society of Pharmacognosy conference and the NIH CARBON meeting in Bethesda MD, July 2023 . View photos

    August 2023 Congratulations to three of our Postdoctoral Scholars who have obtained Career development awards linked to their work at BENFRA!

    • Dr. Alex Speers has been awarded a NIH/NCATS KL2 training grant through the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute at OHSU. The title of his project is: Safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of an oral Withania somnifera product in older adults. 
    • Dr. Ben Zimmerman received a Medical Research Foundation Early Clinical Investigator award. The title of his  project is: Effect of Centella asiatica on Vascular Endothelial Function in Older Adults. This study will be conducted at the National University of Natural Medicine, Portland.
    • Dr. Steven Chamberlin was awarded a K08 grant from the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH/NCCIH). The title of his project is: Network models to capture multiple outcomes resulting from multi-component, salutogenic interventions.

    July 2023  Congratulations to BENFRA Co-Investigator Dr. Anusha Mishra, promoted to Associate Professor!

    July 2023  BENFRA welcomes a new R03 collaborator, Dr. Wendy Strangman, from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington who will be evaluating metabolic stability of Ashwagandha extracts using in vitro laboratory models simulating the gastrointestinal environment. Welcome Dr. Strangman and lab!

    May 2023  Congratulations to the joint first authors Dr. Alex Speers and Kadine Cabey!
     review written by BENFRA authors (Speers et al, 2021) is cited as a “key reference” on the NCCIH’s public information sheet on Ashwagandha.

    May 2023  Congratulations Ben!
    BENFRA’s Dr. Ben Zimmerman won the “Best Post-doc poster award” at the Oregon & Southwest Washington Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience Meeting (May 12-13, 2023), for his poster on “An ex vivo mouse brain slice model to study acute cerebral vasoactivity of Centella asiatica water” extract.  

    May 2023  Congratulations Amala!
    Dr. Amala Soumyanath was interviewed and quoted in this Huff Post article about ashwagandha and stress.

    The BENFRA Center is one of three national Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Centers funded (U19 AT010829) by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), and is part of the NIH CARBON program. This Center investigates Botanicals Enhancing Neurological and Functional Resilience in Aging.

    The Center’s mission is to scientifically evaluate botanicals currently being sold as dietary supplements that are reputed to improve resilience to age-related changes in cognition, sleep or mood. Our goal is to obtain a firm understanding of the biological and chemical properties of these botanicals, so that well-designed clinical trials can be performed to evaluate their efficacy. Ultimately this work will support the development of optimized botanical products with reliable health benefits.

    The Center comprises a multidisciplinary group of scientists based at OHSU, along with collaborators at Oregon State University, the University of Mississippi and Oregon’s Wild Harvest, a botanical dietary supplement company.  

    Learn more about our research, botanicals of interest, and research team.

    Program Director
    Amala Soumyanath B.Pharm., Ph.D.

    Center Administrator
    Lucy Allison, M.S.