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“I am grateful for the Physician/Scientist Development Award for helping to fund some of my initial research, which has led to additional funding from Harvard Catalyst and NICH NCI (K23). Having this financial support for four years has been crucial to helping me transition into an independent investigator.” -- Abner Louissaint, Jr., MD, PhD; 2010 PSDA
Nwamaka Eneanya,MD, MPHDepartment of Medicine, Nephrology DivisionInstructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical SchoolDr. Nwamaka Eneanya received a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Cornell University, medical degree from Meharry Medical College, and master’s degree in public health from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In 2011, she completed her residency training in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital followed by nephrology training at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Brigham and Women’s Hospital Combined Nephrology Fellowship program. Dr. Eneanya has served as an Assistant in Medicine in the MGH Nephrology Division and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School since 2014. Her clinical and research interests include informed treatment decision-making, end-of-life care, and racial disparities among patients with advanced kidney disease. Dr. Eneanya was the inaugural recipient of the Sharon Anderson Research Fellowship Award through the American Society of Nephrology Foundation for Kidney Research in 2013 and is also currently supported by the Loan Repayment Program through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health. She serves on the steering committee of the National Coalition for Supportive Care of Kidney Patients and is dedicated to improving patient-centered care for patients with kidney disease.Abstract: Integrating Advance Care Planning Into a Pre-Dialysis Educational ProgramPatients with end-stage kidney disease (ESRD) experience higher mortality and more aggressive end-of-life (EOL) care compared to other seriously ill patient populations. In light of this data, recent evidence has demonstrated the value of patient-centered care and aligning treatment with patient preferences and goals. Pre-dialysis education programs are the standard of care for patients with advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) who have progressed to ESRD to learn about treatment options. However, these programs do not routinely incorporate advance care planning (ACP), the process of discussing and documenting preferences for care at the end of life. Effective ACP results in greater patient and family satisfaction with care, greater hospice utilization, and lower rates of in-hospital death. The goals of this work will be to 1) develop an ACP educational intervention that will be integrated into a standard pre-dialysis program and 2) evaluate its preliminary efficacy on increased use of ACP among patients with advanced CKD and their families. This study will provide invaluable data to create a comprehensive pre-dialysis educational program to improve EOL education and informed decision-making for patients with kidney disease.
David Perez, MD, MMScDepartments of Neurology and Psychiatry Director MGH Functional Neurological Disorders Clinic, Cognitive Behavioral Neurology UnitInstructor in Neurology, Harvard Medical SchoolDavid L. Perez MD, MMSc is a dual trained neurologist-psychiatrist, cognitive-affective neuroscientist and neuroimaging researcher. Dr. Perez majored in Neuroscience and Behavior and graduated cum laude from Columbia University. He subsequently graduated from New York University School of Medicine as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha society. Dr. Perez completed the Partners Neurology Residency Program in 2011 and the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program in 2014. He also obtained a Master’s of Science in Clinical and Translational Investigation from Harvard Medical School in 2016. As a faculty member in the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry at MGH, Dr. Perez has developed a new interdisciplinary clinical program for the diagnostic evaluation and management of patients with motor Functional Neurological Disorders. In parallel, he has established a neuroimaging research program investigating biomarkers of symptom severity, disease-risk and prognosis in Functional Neurological Disorders. In these settings, Dr. Perez is the Director of the MGH Functional Neurological Disorders Clinic within the Cognitive Behavioral Neurology Unit, and the Director of the Functional Neurology Research Group. For his efforts, Dr. Perez has been recognized by the American Neuropsychiatric Association with the 2012 Young Investigator Award and the 2014 Career Development Award. Abstract: Neuroimaging Biomarkers of Symptom Severity, Disease Subtype and Prognosis in Functional Neurological DisordersMotor Functional Neurological Disorders (a.k.a. Conversion Disorders) are highly prevalent and disabling neuropsychiatric disorders, comprising 16% of outpatient neurology referrals; this includes patients with Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures, Functional Movement Disorders and Functional Limb Weakness. Motor Functional Neurological Disorders and other medically unexplained symptoms are exceedingly costly to the U.S. health care system, with an estimated $256 billion/year spent in caring for medically unexplained illness. To date, very little is known about the underlying biological mechanisms of this disorder at the intersection of Neurology and Psychiatry. This study seeks to identify structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging biomarkers of symptom severity, disease-subtype and prognosis across the spectrum of motor Functional Neurological Disorders. The aim of this research is to advance our pathophysiologic understanding of this condition and subsequently catalyze the development of biologically informed treatment studies. It is hypothesized that structural and functional circuit changes in specific brain regions that mediate the convergence of emotional, viscero-somatic, cognitive and motor functions are associated with symptom severity, disease-subtype and prognosis in motor Functional Neurological Disorders. This research leverages a large and relatively unique patient cohort in the newly established Functional Neurological Disorders Clinic at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the Department of Neurology.
Yakeel Quiroz, PhDDepartment of PsychiatryDirector, Clinical Neuroscience and Neuropsychology of Aging LabCo-Director, Multicultural Neuropsychology Program at MGH Psychology Assessment CenterInstructor in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School Dr. Quiroz joined the Harvard Medical School faculty in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital in January 2015. She completed her Ph.D. training in clinical psychology at Boston University and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology at MGH/Harvard Medical School.By applying her efforts to a large family that carries a genetic mutation that causes early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Dr. Quiroz’s research has focused on characterizing brain changes that may predispose individuals to develop memory loss or dementia later in life. Her work has already provided evidence of brain abnormalities in cognitively-intact individuals at high risk for AD decades before their clinical onset. Her findings have helped the field to re-conceptualize Alzheimer as a sequence of changes that begins decades before cognitive decline, and which may be targeted by promising disease-slowing treatments at a time in which they might have their most profound effect.
Dr. Quiroz is also the co-director of the MGH Multicultural Neuropsychology Program (MUNDOS) at the Psychology Assessment Center, and has strong clinical interests in the cognitive assessment of monolingual and bilingual Spanish-speaking patients. Abstract: Tracking Tau Pathology in Familial Alzheimer’s DiseaseFor the first time since Alzheimer’s disease (AD) was discovered, amyloid-modifying treatments are being evaluated in clinical trials, while other disease-modifying treatments, including anti-tau antibodies, are in preclinical development. These hold promise to modify the course of AD, and even prevent its clinical manifestation if administered early enough.We will work with an extraordinary family of approximately 5,000 individuals in Antioquia, Colombia, which contains roughly 1,800 carriers of the autosomal-dominant Presenilin1 (PSEN1) E280A mutation. These carriers are virtually certain to develop AD, and have a well-characterized disease course, with dementia occurring at a mean age of 51. We are currently using cross-sectional data to characterize associations of preclinical biomarker changes with age and temporal distance to the kindred's mean age of clinical onset. The addition of the longitudinal data proposed for this PSDA will greatly improve our understanding of the trajectory of these biomarker changes in preclinical AD and their role in subsequent cognitive decline.We will acquire PET images with two radioligands--which selectively bind tau aggregates and amyloid deposits, as well as neuropsychological data at baseline, 18- and 36-months in a sample of asymptomatic PSEN1 mutation carriers and non-carriers (ages 30-45 years). We hypothesize that in this sample, cortical amyloid pathology precedes tau pathology in preclinical AD, both within and beyond the medial temporal lobe, and that tau pathology correlates more strongly with cognitive impairment than does amyloid pathology.
Martin Aryee, PhD Assistant Molecular Pathologist, Department of Pathology Assistant Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School Secondary Affiliations: Associate Member, Broad Institute Assistant Professor in the Department of Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Dr. Martin Aryee received his PhD in Biostatistics from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2008, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. He joined the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School (HMS) Departments of Pathology as an Assistant Professor in 2012. He is an Associate Member of the Broad Institute, and holds a secondary appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where he teaches an introductory course on statistical genetics.
Dr. Aryee’s lab develops statistical methods for the analysis of genomic and epigenomic data, with a primary interest in cancer. His research is focused on improving our understanding of how the many different cell types present in a tumor interact with each other, contributing to drug resistance and disease progression.
Project Abstract: Spatial statistics methods for the study of intra-tumoral heterogeneity
It is increasingly clear that there can be significant genetic and epigenetic variability within a single tumor in a single patient. This intra-tumor heterogeneity has implications both for understanding the biology of tumor development, and for effective patient management since clinical decisions are based on pathological diagnosis of a small biopsy that may not represent the entirety of the tumor. While pathologists have long recognized morphological variability within tumors, high-throughput molecular techniques have until recently been limited to bulk ‘averaged’ tissue measurements, which obscure cell-to-cell variability. We are working in collaboration with labs that are developing techniques for single-cell resolution in-situ genomic profiling of biomolecules including RNA and protein. These approaches will allow the simultaneous study of changes in tissue architecture and cell state in diseases such as cancer. While proof-of-principle experiments have demonstrated the feasibility of in-situ transcriptional profiling, adoption of the techniques will be hampered by the lack of established bioinformatics tools. We plan to develop a publicly available computational analysis tool set for spatially resolved genomics data. These data can be layered on top of traditional morphology-based pathology images to dramatically improve our ability to characterize cellular states and diversity in tumors and other tissues.
Opeyemi Olabisi, MD, PhD Assistant in Medicine, Department of Medicine Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Dr. Olabisi graduated in 2001 from The City College of New York with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. He received his MD, PhD degree in 2009 from Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he studied the regulation of the transcription factor, NFAT. He came to MGH in 2009 and completed residency in internal medicine and subsequently completed a fellowship in the combined MGH-BWH nephrology fellowship program. Dr. Olabisi recognizes that an effective approach to reducing the mortality associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD) is to reduce the rate of progression of CKD to end stage kidney disease (ESKD). This passion motivates his ongoing research in the lab of Dr Pollak into the mechanism by which mutations in ApoL1 gene accelerate progression of CKD to ESKD. Early in 2015, he joined the Faculty of Renal Division in MGH Department of Medicine. In support of his work, Dr. Olabisi recently received the 2015 Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Project Abstract: Unmasking the Molecular Mechanism of ApoL1 Nephropathy
Though African Americans represent 13% of U.S. population, more than 32% of patients on dialysis in the U.S. are African Americans. The incidence of end stage kidney disease (ESKD) among African Americans is 5 times that of European Americans. Two common coding mutations in apolipoprotein L1 (ApoL1) gene found almost exclusive in people of recent African origin account for most of this excess risk of ESKD. However, the mechanism by which these mutant ApoL1 cause kidney disease remains unknown.
The focus of this proposal is to uncover the molecular mechanism by which mutant ApoL1 proteins cause kidney disease. Dr. Olabisi’s preliminary data show that expression of kidney disease associated ApoL1 mutant genes in human cell culture lead to abnormal activation of MAPK signaling pathways that are known to mediate kidney disease in human. In the proposed research, he will elucidate how mutant ApoL1 proteins activate the MAPK signaling pathways, and if these aberrantly activated MAPK pathways are the mediator of ApoL1 nephropathy.
Aimalohi Ahonkhai MD, MPH Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Dr. Aimalohi Ahonkhai completed her undergraduate training in Biological Anthropology at Harvard College in 1998. It was there that she began to nurture her interest in global infectious disease. She obtained her MD from Johns Hopkins University in 2004 after spending a year conducting translational HIV research as a Doris Duke Fellow. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2007. In 2008, she obtained an MPH from Johns Hopkins/Bloomberg School of Public Health, and completed an HIV Fellowship sponsored by the HIV Medical Association. Motivated to pursue a career in clinical investigation, Dr. Ahonkhai completed training in clinical Infectious Disease at MGH/BWH in 2010. As an NIH T32-funded research fellow, she studied predictors of retention to HIV care in Southern Africa under the mentorship Dr. Kenneth Freedberg. Dr. Ahonkhai received a NIAID K23 Career Development Award in 2012. With collaborators in Nigeria, she established the Care4Life Program, a multidisciplinary, initiative to study and improve retention in HIV care. With the support of the MGH Physician Scientist Development Award, Dr. Ahonkhai will expand her study of health-system and patient-level predictors, as well as outcomes, of loss to follow-up and interruption from HIV care in Nigeria.
Abstract: Understanding Health System and Patient-Level Predictors of Unplanned Care Interruption and Loss to Follow-Up from HIV Care in Nigeria
Sub-Saharan Africa contributes a staggering 71% of the global population living with HIV. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has an estimated 3.5 million people with HIV, the second largest worldwide. Despite the tremendous gains of antiretroviral therapy (ART) scale-up in Nigeria and other countries in the past decade, loss to follow-up (LTFU) and unplanned care interruption continue to undermine the clinical and transmission benefits of ART. One in four patients are lost-to-follow-up one year after initiating ART, resulting in loss of the survival gains of treatment. While some patients are completely lost from HIV care, about one-third interrupt but then return to care. Studies among this group are extremely limited. 1 Patient retention in care is likely influenced by a combination of health-system factors, driven by the facility and healthcare environment, and patient-factors, driven by individuals and community.
With support from the Physician Scientist Development Award, I aim to address important gaps in knowledge on patient retention. I have developed a collaboration with the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN), a large, multi-site HIV treatment program in Nigeria now caring for over 100,000 patients, to launch the Care4Life Study. Our team is enrolling a prospective patient cohort, which will consist of 750 patients newly enrolled in care and initiated on ART. We will investigate a range of factors informing patient decisions to remain in care over time, including clinical status, socio-demographic factors along with competing priorities on healthcare, stigma, religious/traditional beliefs, and levels of decisional conflict. I will also lead an effort to study APIN’s large retrospective database at 36 HIV treatment centers to identify health-system characteristics associated with patient retention. These studies will inform the development of novel interventions to improve retention for HIV-infected patients in Nigeria, and other resource-limited settings.
Tariro Makadzange, MD, PhD Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Dr. Azure Tariro Makadzange is an infectious disease physician scientist. She graduated from Harvard Medical School and received a PhD in HIV immunology from the University of Oxford. She trained in internal medicine at the University of Washington and did her Infectious Disease fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her primary research focus in on HIV infection and related opportunistic infections (OIs). She currently works focuses on understanding the immune correlates of HIV disease progression in perinatally infected children and adolescents, as well as the immunopathogenesis of cryptococcal disease in HIV infected adults. She is also involved in clinical trials and operational research studies. She recently completed a study to evaluate outcomes in children and adolescents at one of the largest public programs in Zimbabwe, and is leading a team to implement the CryptoART study in 13 clinics throughout Harare. The aim of the implementation science study is to reduce mortality among patients initiating ART through early screening and identification of those at risk of developing cryptococcal disease. She has also established a research an MGH-UZCHS collaborative research lab in Zimbabwe.
Abstract: Immunopathogenesis of Cryptococcal Reactivation in HIV infection
Cryptococcus is a fungus that affects humans and animals. It is a major opportunistic infectious agent and a leading cause of mortality in HIV-infected patients, particularly in the sub-Saharan region. Seroprevalence data suggests that >70% of individuals have acquired cryptococcal disease by age 7. Most individuals clear infection or achieve a state of disease latency. In individuals with severe immunocomprise (CD4 count <100 cells/l) cryptococcal disease can reactivate. There is limited understanding of the immune mediators of cryptococcal disease reactivation in humans. The aim of this study is to understand the cellular and humoral immune mediators associated with disease reactivation defined by positive cryptococcal antigenemia (CrAg) in HIV infected patients with low CD4+ counts. This study is a substudy nested within the CryptoART study. The CryptoART study population will be stratified into 2 main groups, those who are CrAg positive and those who are CrAg negative. A sub-cohort of individuals with cryptococcal antigenemia will be selected and age, gender and CD4 matched with individuals without antigenemia. Cryptococcal seroprevalence will be determined using ELISA to determine the IgG antibodies to glucuronoxylomannan (GXM) polysaccharide of cryptococcus. Inflammatory and suppressor cytokines IL-1, IL-6 IL-10 and IL-17 have been been shown in animal models to be critical for control of cryptococcal disease. Luminex technology will help identify inflammatory cytokines that may be important in regulating cryptococcal disease activation in humans. We will also use IFN- ELISpot assays and flow cytometry to determine the function and phenotype of antigen specific T cells to cryptococcus in those with and without evidence of disease reactivation.
Javier Irazoqui, PhD Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School Associate Immunologist, Department of Medicine
Dr. Javier Irazoqui earned his bachelor's degree at Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina. He attended graduate school at Duke University Medical Center, where he obtained his PhD in Cell Biology in 2003 for his work on molecular mechanisms of cytoskeletal regulation. He joined the MGH the same year as a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow and later a Charles King Trust Fellow, in the laboratory of Dr. Fred Ausubel in the Department of Molecular Biology. In Dr. Ausubel's laboratory, Dr. Irazoqui investigated fundamental mechanisms of innate immunity and of MRSA virulence using C. elegans genetics and genomics. In 2009, Dr. Irazoqui joined the Faculty of MassGeneral Hospital for Children as Associate Immunologist, and in 2010 the Department of Pediatrics of Harvard Medical School as Assistant Professor. In 2014 he joined the Center for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Dr. Irazoqui's research focuses on fundamental mechanisms of host defense against infection and on host-microbiota interactions, with the ultimate goal to develop better diagnostics and treatments for bacterial infections, chronic inflammation, and metabolic syndrome.
Cesar M. Castro, MD, MMSc Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School Attending Physician in Medical Gynecology Oncology
Cesar M. Castro, MD, MMSc, is an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Attending Physician in Medical Gynecology/Oncology and Adult Oncology at the MGH Canter Center. Dr. Castro is a translational oncologist with experience leveraging nanotechnology and molecular imaging for solid tumor detection and serial profiling. He has served as chair of the In Vitro Diagnostics Working Group within the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. He currently directs the Cancer Program within the MGH Center for Systems Biology. Dr. Castro graduated from the University of California, Berkeley where he received both a BA in Psychology and MSc in Health and Medical Sciences. He received his medical degree from USCF School of Medicine where he also completed his Internal Medicine residency training. Dr. Castro completed an adult oncology fellowship from the Dana-Farber/Partners Center Care program. During this period, he also received a MMSc from Harvard Medical School.
Rhonda Bentley-Lewis, MD, MPH, MMSc Diabetes Massachusetts General Hospital
Dr. Rhonda Bentley-Lewis earned her Bachelor’s degree at Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges. She went on to the University of Pennsylvania where she earned her Doctorate in Medicine at the School of Medicine and a Master’s in Business Administration at the Wharton School in healthcare management. She completed both her Internal Medicine residency and Endocrinology fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. During this time, she earned a Master’s in Medical Science from Harvard Medical School focusing on clinical investigation. She joined the Massachusetts General Hospital in 2010 in order to focus her clinical practice and clinical research on diabetes in pregnancy and adverse maternal outcomes subsequent to pregnancy. She is currently an Assistant in Medicine in the Diabetes Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Oluwaseun Johnson-Akeju, MD, MMSc Department of Anesthesia Critical Critical Care and Pain Medicine Massachusetts General Hospital
Dr. Oluwaseun Johnson-Akeju is a neuro-anesthesiologist and an instructor in anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. He received his B.S in biology from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and his M.D. from the New Jersey Medical School. During medical school he spent a year at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke as an Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Scholar. He completed his residency in anesthesia at the Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by post doctoral research training in regenerative biology at Harvard University. Dr. Johnson-Akeju also holds an M.M.Sc. degree in clinical investigation from Harvard Medical School. His research interests are focused on using systems neuroscience to study the mechanisms of anesthesia.
Richelle Charles, MD Assistant Physician in Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases Instructor of Medicine, Harvard medical School
Dr. Richelle Charles received her BS degree from the University of Maryland, College Park and her MD degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in internal medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 2006, and in 2009 completed the clinical infectious disease fellowship in the Infectious Disease Fellowship Training Program of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Brigham and Women's Hospital. During fellowship, Dr. Charles entered an extended period of basic and translational research training under the dual mentorship of D. Edward Ryan and Dr. Stephen Calderwood. Her research has focused on evaluating host-pathogen interactions during human infection by V. cholerae (the cause of cholera) and Slamonella enterica serovar Typhi (the cause of typhoid fever) using high throughput proteomic and genomic technologies. She is currently an instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and on faculty in the Division of Infectious Diseases, MGH.
Abner Louissaint, Jr, MD, PhD Assistant in Pathology Instructor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School
Dr. Louissaint completed his residency in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at MGH in 2009, followed by his fellowship in Hematopathology at MGH in 2010. While training at MGH, Dr. Louissaint served as chief resident in Anatomic Pathology, and received a number of awards, including the 2008 AMA Foundation Seed Grant Research Award for work on infectious mononucleosis. Following completion of residency and fellowship, Dr. Louissaint joined the Pathology staff at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2010. His clinical and research interests focus on hematopathology and on efforts to identify molecular mechanisms and markers that may help characterize and define hematological malignancies.
Dr. Louissaint was born in New York and studied Biology and English literature as an undergraduate at the John B. Ervin Scholarship, a four-year full tuition undergraduate scholarship based on academic achievement, leadership and community service. he graduated in 2005 with an MD and PhD from Weill Medical College of Cornell University (Tri-Institutinal MD-PhD Program).
He received the PSDA for his research project entitled: Identification of Prognostically Significant Biomarkers in Follicular Lymphoma.
Read about our previous recipients
For more information, please contact:
Elena Olson, J.D.Executive Director, Center for Diversity and InclusionMassachusetts General Hospital55 Fruit Street, BUL 123Boston, MA 02114Phone (617) 724-3831
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