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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
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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