What's Up Research Newsletter

The Emory Department of Medicine Office of Research distributes a weekly "What's Up" research newsletter filled with useful information to help faculty members, postdoctoral fellows and other researchers in the department stay informed of helpful funding opportunities, events and announcements.

Highlighted Researcher

Frederico Palacio

Federico Palacio Bedoya (Infectious Diseases) 

~ 2017 FAME Grant Awardee ~

What is your professional background?
I completed medical school in Colombia at CES University and came to the United States in 2006. I did my Internal Medicine residency and Infectious Disease fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. I came to Emory as a medical student in 2002, and I am happy to be back.

In what division do you work, and who is your mentor?
I work in the Division of Infectious Diseases; my mentors are Dr. Jesse Jacob and Dr. Dan Hunt.

Briefly describe your research. Why is it important?
My research is focused on improving care delivery in the outpatient parenteral antimicrobial therapy (OPAT) clinic. Our goal is to decrease hospital readmission rates by creating an electronic OPAT checklist using REDCap. This will improve patient care and decrease cost at the same time.

What do you like most about Emory?
I like its diversity and friendly working environment.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?
My favorite movie is The Big Blue by Luc Besson.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy family time with my wife, son, and daughter doing simple things. I also enjoy swimming and mountain biking.

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Russ Price

Russ Price (Renal Medicine)

What is your professional background?
After receiving a PhD in biochemistry from East Carolina University, I spent six years at the NIH as a postdoctoral fellow.

How long have you been at Emory? In what division have you worked?
I joined the Division of Renal Medicine in the Department of Medicine in 1991.

Briefly describe your research. Why is it important?
My group investigates how diseases like kidney failure and diabetes cause muscle loss. These conditions cause major changes in the expression of genes and proteins involved in proteostasis (i.e. protein synthesis and degradation). We are interested in the cellular signaling systems that mediate the shifts in gene expression.

What is the next step in your career? What is the most valuable lesson that you have learned during your time here at Emory that you will take with you?
I am returning to the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University as their next Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is to listen to others and to extend a helping hand.

What has been your most memorable experience while at Emory?
There are so many over 26 years – no one thing sticks out. I will miss the many wonderful people in the Department of Medicine and beyond who strive to make Emory an amazing place to work.

What are you looking forward to the most in your transition?
I plan to apply the many lessons I’ve learned at Emory to strengthen research at my new destination.

What parting thought(s) would you like to leave with us?
Be true to yourself. Keep your head down, and stay focused in your endeavors -- do not seek the limelight; it will find you.


Scott Fridkin

Scott Fridkin (Infectious Diseases) 

What is your professional background?
After medical school, I trained as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer at CDC in the Hospital’s Infectious Disease Program working on hospital outbreaks for 2 years before performing an infectious disease fellowship at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center and Mass General Hospital. After fellowship, I returned to the CDC as a staff epidemiologist developing and promoting programs to better understand and prevent antibiotic resistant infections across the spectrum of healthcare settings.

In what division do you work, and who is your mentor?
I currently split my time between the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Rollins School of Public Health, working closely with Dr. Monica Farley, Jay Steinberg, and Jesse Jacobs.

Briefly describe your research. Why is it important?
I am working towards development of a research platform to test methods aimed to improve antibiotic prescribing practices within and between Emory Healthcare Hospital-based providers. I believe we can identify and test efficient methods to improve prescribing, and to avoid using, unnecessary antibiotics in patients for whom they may no longer be necessary. This research integrates advanced electronic health records with improved decision support systems. In addition, Emory patients move between and through many healthcare settings in and around the Atlanta area. I am poised to investigate how action linked to these patients can help prevent the spread of antibiotic resistant infections across the region.

What do you like most about Emory?
I enjoy the incredible freedom and interest in collaboration across divisions and schools.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?
Whichever show my kids will watch with me is my current favorite television show at the time.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Swimming and tennis are my personal favorites, and I enjoy playing cribbage with friends.


Jonathan Ho-Youg Kim

Jonathan Ho-Youn Kim (Cardiology)

What is your professional background?
I am an Assistant Professor in the Division of Cardiology with expertise in sports cardiology. Currently, I am developing the first dedicated clinical sports cardiology center at Emory with an additional clinical research arm.

Briefly describe your research. Why is it important?
The number of individuals who place a high premium on exercise and sports performance, both competitive and recreational, is growing in the United States and worldwide. Understanding normal physiology and disease processes in athletes is therefore growing in importance. In addition, the prevention of catastrophic outcomes in athletic individuals is an important public health metric. My research focuses on both of these broad arenas, attempting to advance closing important gaps in knowledge relevant to the cardiovascular health of athletes.

What do you like most about Emory?
I was a former undergraduate at Emory and am thankful for the education I received here. I enjoy all of the resources, academic and professional, that come from the Emory network.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?
Not surprisingly, anything sports related... Before it concluded, I was a huge fan of Lost, probably the only TV show I have watched that wasn't a live sport.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy spending time with my wife and 2 small kids, Ben and Bella, and recreational running.


Lauren Huff

Lauren Huff (Cardiology)

What is your professional background?
I am a Tar Heel, born and bred. I went to the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill for undergraduate and graduate school, before coming to Emory for my postdoc.

In what division do you work, and who is your mentor?
I work in the cardiology division under Dr. Kathy Griendling.

Briefly describe your research. Why is it important? 

What have you accomplished with your research during your time here at Emory? Our research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of atherosclerosis. Specifically, we focus on the mechanisms by which vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) contribute to progression of plaque formation. In a healthy artery, VSMCs make up the second of three layers of cells surrounding the lumen of the artery and are responsible for its constriction and dilation. However, during atherosclerosis, VSMCs aberrantly dedifferentiate, migrate into the lumen, proliferate and secrete matrix, and thus cause plaques to grow. We aim to understand the molecular mechanisms by which the cell controls these processes. We have identified multiple proteins as key regulators of these processes, yet often the same protein will have both pro-atherosclerotic and anti-atherosclerotic functions. I have helped to dissect the interplay of these key regulators and understand how they promote VSMC proliferation.

What are the next steps in your career, and how has Emory prepared you?
I am returning to UNC - Chapel Hill as a research assistant professor. Emory, and specifically Dr. Kathy Griendling's lab, has been an amazing place to work. I have gotten to learn from many brilliant colleagues, become a more independent scientist (while still in a protected environment), and have been given the opportunity to teach a few lab classes.

What valuable lessons are you taking away from your time here?
By her example, Dr. Griendling has shown me how to be an amazing leader and mentor. One of the most important things I have learned from her is the importance of listening and considering everyone's opinions. This creates an environment where everyone thrives and the most thoughtful and creative work can be accomplished.

What has been your most memorable experience at Emory?
Going through the first stages of labor while in the lab will always be one of my most memorable experiences.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?
Maybe this should go under "embarrassing fact" or "confessions" instead of "favorite TV show," but I love watching The Bachelor! They travel to such beautiful places, and I love watching and envisioning future travels!

What do you do in your spare time?
I currently spend all of my spare time playing with my 11-month-old son, Elliott, and love every minute of it!


Lindsay Allen

Lindsay Allen  

4th annual Health Services Research Day 3rd place oral presentation winner

What is your professional background?
I just graduated from Emory with a PhD in health economics and health services research. Prior to attending Emory, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, and as a senior healthcare technology analyst for the ECRI Institute. I received my bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, and my master’s degree from the University of Chicago.

In what division do you work, and who is your mentor?
I conducted my research in Emory's Department of Health Policy and Management, and my mentor was Dr. Jason Hockenberry.

Briefly describe your research. Why it is important?
My research focuses on organizational changes in the health care delivery infrastructure, and how these changes impact health care access and use for medically underserved populations. The U.S. is in a period of major transition when it comes to the health care system, and it is important for policy makers to understand how these changes will impact those who are the most vulnerable.

What do you like most about Emory?
I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked on projects that are of great interest to me. Working on those projects would not have been possible without the mentoring and support that I received from my advisors.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?
I love the Real Housewives shows from several different cities.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
My husband and I just moved to Morgantown, West Virginia. We are having a terrific time getting to know the town.


Katherine Baxter

Katherine Baxter

1st Place Oral Presentation, 4th annual Health Services Research Day 

What is your professional background?
I received my undergraduate degree in Biology and Marine Science at the University of Georgia. I then graduated from Emory University School of Medicine in 2013. During medical school, I also completed a Master of Science in Clinical Research at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. I am currently a General Surgery resident at Emory and am finishing my first year of research sabbatical.

In what division do you work, and who is your mentor?
I work in the division of Pediatric Surgery, based at CHOA - Egleston. My primary mentor is Dr. Mehul Raval (Pediatrics).

Briefly describe your research. Why is it important?
I conduct health services research that focuses on pediatric surgery and common problems within the field, such as appendicitis. I am interested in how children access surgical care and how the quality of that care can be improved through policy and the ground-level efforts of physicians. This research is very relevant given the current state of health care reform in the U.S.

What do you like most about Emory?
I love how people from different disciplines are able to easily collaborate. It's great to be around so many smart and enthusiastic minds.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?
My favorite TV show is Outlander.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
My spare time is spent running, hiking, attending live music, and chasing my 2-year-old daughter.


Byron AuYeung

Byron AuYeung

What is your professional background?
I am an Assistant Professor in the Division of Rheumatology and the Lowance Center for Human Immunology. I received a PhD in Immunology from the University of Rochester and completed my postdoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Arthur Weiss at the University of California, San Francisco.

In what division do you work, and who is your mentor?
I work in the Division of Rheumatology, and my mentor is Dr. Inaki Sanz (Rheumatology/Immunology).

Briefly describe your research. Why it is important?
I am a cellular immunologist by training, and my interests include the complicated signals that activate T cells. We know most of the proteins involved in the process but know less about when or how much signaling is required for certain types of T cell immune responses. I have been working on methods to modulate T cell receptor signals and read out signal accumulation for T cells – processes similar to the brakes and odometer on a car. Ultimately, we want to better understand the signaling requirements for T cells, so we can design more targeted therapies for T cell response-driven autoimmune diseases.

What do you like most about Emory?
I like being surrounded by the many smart people here!

What is your favorite movie or TV show?
I love the Simpsons.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I grew up in Canada, so I enjoy watching or playing hockey when I can.


Raymond Lynch
Raymond Lynch (Renal Medicine)
~ 4th annual Health Services Research Day 3rd place poster presentation winner
What is your professional background?
I am a liver transplant surgeon. I chose transplant because of the many unanswered questions regarding how patients become ill, are diagnosed, are screened and selected, and are managed after transplant. Health services research has the potential to shape patient care immediately and directly, and allows me to channel clinical dilemmas and frustrations into a productive means of assessing and improving outcomes.
In what division do you work, and who is your mentor?
I work in the Division of Transplant Surgery. My mentor is Dr. Rachel Patzer (Transplant Surgery/Renal Medicine). Briefly describe your research.
Why it is important?
We are studying how patient level factors, other than the biological severity of their disease and the regional supply of organ donors, shape the mortality risk of end stage liver disease patients on the waitlist. These data are important because access to transplant has become synonymous with organ availability. Our findings suggest that both locally – at the level of the transplant center – and nationally, we should consider vulnerable populations for enhanced priority in organ access to minimize preventable deaths.
What do you like most about Emory?
We have a broad range of clinical and academic experience, and an institutional culture that supports asking questions and working together. We used to have a Dunkin Donuts, and we may again.
What is your favorite movie or TV show?
Silicon Valley is my favorite TV show.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I don’t have much spare time.

Taylor MelansonTaylor Melanson

2nd place poster presentation, 4th annual Health Services Research Day

What is your professional background?
I am a 4th-year PhD student in health services research and health policy with a concentration in health economics (Laney Graduate School). Before coming to Emory, I received a BA in economics and German from Washington & Lee University.

In which division do you work, and who is your mentor?
Since August of 2015, I have been working in the Emory Division of Transplantation with Dr. Rachel Patzer (Surgery/Renal Medicine).

Briefly describe your research. Why it is important?
My research focuses on access to care for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. ESRD affects almost 700,000 Americans, and, unfortunately, disparities can be seen at most, if not all, stages of care provision for these patients. I am particularly interested in the effect that policy can have in addressing disparities and improving access for disadvantaged patients. This work is important because so many people suffer from this disease and sub-optimal care decreases their quality of life and simultaneously creates a large financial burden on our health care system.

What do you like most about Emory?
Emory is an incredibly welcoming place, and I have found no shortage of talented and collaborative individuals who are interested in mentoring junior researchers. As someone who grew up outside of Boston, I am also a big fan of the weather here.

What is your favorite movie or TV show? 
Game of Thrones is definitely my favorite TV show, and it's based on my favorite book series.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I try to take advantage of Atlanta's great weather and run or hike whenever I have the chance. I am also really into baking bread.


Wen LiuWen Liu
4th Annual Health Services Research Day 1st place poster presentation winner 
What is your professional background?
I am currently pursuing an MD/MPH (Epidemiology) and will be applying to Urology residency programs this fall. Before starting medical school, I worked as a Global Academic Fellow in Biology at NYU Abu Dhabi. I received my BA in Neuroscience and Behavior from Columbia University.
In what division do you work, and who is your mentor?
My mentor is Dr. Christopher Filson in the Department of Urology.
Briefly describe your research. Why it is important?
My research interests lie within health services in urologic oncology, specifically with respect to use of MRI-guided biopsies in prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment and outcomes, as well as the effect of state-level Medicaid expansion on access to and disparities in prostate cancer care. Prostate cancer is the only solid organ tumor not traditionally diagnosed with targeted biopsy, and recent reports have found increased cancer detection using MRI-guided prostate biopsies compared to transrectal ultrasound-guided biopsies. Understanding utilization patterns of this newly developed MRI approach is important for identifying potentially disparate care and effects on cancer outcomes and health policy/economics. Additionally, assessing health policy decisions on access to cancer care is critical, especially in more vulnerable populations that may be disproportionately affected.
What do you like most about Emory?
I am impressed by the accessibility of the faculty and the level of mentorship I have received, which has greatly impacted my personal and professional development.
What is your favorite movie or TV show?
I am eagerly awaiting the return of Game of Thrones and Stranger Things!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love traveling, running, playing with my dog (Teddy), cooking, and hanging out with friends.

Ceclie Lahiri

Cecile Lahiri, MD, MSc (Infectious Diseases) 

What is your professional background? 

I am an assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, working with Dr. Igho Ofotokun. I received my MD from the University of North Carolina and completed my internal medicine and infectious diseases fellowship training at Emory. In 2013, I received a master of science in clinical research at Emory.

Briefly describe your research. Why it is important?
Despite combination antiretroviral therapy, HIV has not been eradicated, and emerging evidence suggests that multiple sites in the body act as reservoirs and play critical roles in viral persistence. My research focuses on evaluating barriers to HIV reservoir eradication, including pharmacologic barriers as well as host factors that may impact our ability to eliminate the virus. I am particularly interested in evaluating sex differences within these reservoir sites and how sex impacts the size and viral dynamics of reservoirs over time. Sex differences may influence reservoir characteristics and the host response to therapeutic interventions. Despite this, women continue to be largely underrepresented in HIV clinical cure studies despite accounting for more than 50% of HIV-infected persons worldwide. I plan to help fill this knowledge gap by prioritizing the enrollment of women in clinical studies so that curative interventions can have maximal impact on both sexes.

What do you like most about Emory?
Emory’s collegial environment and the enthusiastic approach to multidisciplinary collaboration is impressive.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?
I am fascinated by any show that involves spies, so “Homeland” and “The Americans” are two of my favorites!

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to run, cook with my husband, explore hiking trails in North Georgia, and spend time with my 10-month-old daughter.


Wesley OnealWesley O’Neal, MD, MPH (Cardiology)

What is your professional background?
I am a fellow in the Division of Cardiology working with Viola Vaccarino. I also  completed an MPH while in medical school.

Briefly describe your research. Why it is important?
My research focuses on the identification of novel risk factors for atrial fibrillation and examines the outcomes of those who have an arrhythmia. This work will help to better identify patients who are likely to develop atrial fibrillation and patients who will develop events related to the arrhythmia. Overall, my goal is to improve the care of patients with atrial fibrillation.

What do you like most about Emory?
Emory provides a very supportive environment to pursue my research interests.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I enjoy playing golf and running.


sheldon-kelKel Sheldon, PhD (Cardiology)
 
What is your professional background? 
I received my BS in Biology from Clemson University and my PhD in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology from Johns Hopkins. Before coming to Emory, I studied the role of the mitochondrial channel VDAC in cellular energetics.
Briefly describe your research. Why it is important?
I currently study the mitochondrial protein, polymerase-delta interacting protein 2, or Poldip2. The San Martin lab has shown that this protein plays an important role in the regulation of mitochondria and more recently, cellular energetics. My work is aimed at elucidating the mechanism(s) by which Poldip2 alters cell metabolism. Our findings provide new insights about how cellular energetics may be altered in human disease pathology.
What do you like most about Emory?
Emory’s campus is absolutely stunning.
What is your favorite movie or TV show?
My favorite movie is Coherence.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am a postdoc, so my spare time is limited. When I do get a free second, I enjoy traveling.
 Wesley O’Neal, MD, MPH (Cardiology)

What is your professional background?
I am a fellow in the Division of Cardiology working with Viola Vaccarino. I also  completed an MPH while in medical school.

Briefly describe your research. Why it is important?
My research focuses on the identification of novel risk factors for atrial fibrillation and examines the outcomes of those who have an arrhythmia. This work will help to better identify patients who are likely to develop atrial fibrillation and patients who will develop events related to the arrhythmia. Overall, my goal is to improve the care of patients with atrial fibrillation.

What do you like most about Emory?
Emory provides a very supportive environment to pursue my research interests.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I enjoy playing golf and running.


Christina ShumanChristina Shuman

Christina is the new program coordinator supporting Kathy Griendling, PhD, vice chair of research and faculty development for the Department of Medicine. Most recently, she worked at Emory Law supporting the vice dean, associate dean of academic affairs, and the executive assistant to the dean. Along with supporting Dr. Griendling and other initiatives in the Division of Cardiology, Christina will
support various faculty development and research efforts, including the Clinical Distinctions Program, Research Resources 101 workshops, and the career conference and performance review process. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with her husband and two children.



rahmberg-andrew

Andrew Rahmberg

Andrew is a postdoctoral fellow working in Paul Johnson's lab at Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He moved to Emory after completing a PhD in virology at Harvard University in 2016. His research focuses on using gene expression to differentiate cells that can be infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a close relative of HIV. He has identified characteristics that differ between individual cells that are either infected or uninfected, and he is now seeking to better define these novel cell populations. In his free time, Andrew enjoys managing fantasy sports teams, reading science fiction, and backpacking with his wife.


Highlighted-Researcher
Renita Wiley (Department of Medicine RAS)
Renita is the new Pre-award Lead in our Department of Medicine’s Research Administration Service (RAS) Unit. She has 20 years of research administration experience. Renita comes to the Department of Medicine’s RAS from the Yerkes RAS and before that, she worked in the Office of Sponsored Programs. She has also worked in research administration at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University. In her free time she loves to watch UNC basketball and Carolina Panthers & San Francisco 49ers football.

JWJinhu Wang, Ph.D. (Cardiology)

Dr. Wang is an assistant professor in the Division of Cardiology. He received his PhD in Developmental Biology at the Chinese Academy of Science and completed his postdoctoral research training with Dr. Kenneth Poss at Duke University. His broad research goal is to understand how regenerative responses to injury have been optimized in non-mammalian vertebrates like zebrafish in order to identify potential targets that are responsible for regenerative deficiencies in mammals. The coronary vasculature supplies oxygen and nutrients to a large region of myocardium, and re-vascularization is considered an important step for heart recovery. Adult zebrafish have a dense coronary vasculature, and regenerated myofibers become re-vascularized in a few weeks. Using this model, Dr. Wang investigates the molecular mechanisms of coronary re-vascularization during heart regeneration by utilizing genetic manipulation and live imaging techniques. His results will provide insights into the cardiac repair process in mammals. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, hiking, tennis, fishing and swimming.


KTKiyoko Takemiya, MD, PhD (Cardiology)

Dr. Takemiya joined Emory from Kurume University in Japan. She recently received an American Heart Association Scientist Development grant to support her research on the detection of bacterial infections associated with medical devices. Currently, the diagnosis of device infection is made based on symptoms or clinical signs, and when it is diagnosed, the infection has already expanded and damaged the surrounding tissue. Dr. Takemiya’s work aims to detect infection in the very early stages with no clinical signs or symptoms, which will help to improve the prognosis of patients and to reduce unnecessary surgeries.

To detect small amount of bacteria, Dr. Takemiya’s team focused on the differences in sugar metabolism between bacteria and mammalian cells. Maltodextrin, a kind of sugar, is used by bacteria as a major energy source through the “maltodextrin transporter,” but cannot be internalized by mammalian cells. The maltodextrin transporter is large enough to pass an imaging probe conjugated with maltodextrin or its analogue, leading to accumulation in bacteria, and allowing sensitive and specific detection of bacteria. Dr. Takemiya uses rat models to test these maltodextrin and maltodextrin analogue-based imaging probes for near infrared imaging and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to detect the existence of bacteria. In her free time, Dr. Takemiya enjoys cooking, reading, playing with jigsaw puzzles, and crafting.


elsieQian “Elsie” Xu (Cardiology)

Qian (Elsie) Xu is a visiting Chinese medical student who came to Emory to conduct biomedical research as part of Emory’s partnership with Xiangya School of Medicine, one of China’s leading medical programs. She decided to work in Dr. Kathy Griendling‘s research group because they investigate the role of reactive oxygen species in smooth muscle function and the role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of vascular disease. Elsie is studying the redox-regulation of actin cytoskeleton in vascular smooth muscle cell attachment while also exploring the underlying redox signaling pathway during cell adhesion. After completing her research project at Emory, Elsie will return to China to complete her MD. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, her favorite activity; she also enjoys cooking, watching movies, and playing the ukulele. 


BTBoghuma Titanji (MD, MSc, DTM&H, PhD)
Boghuma K. Titanji is a first-year research-track resident in the J. Willis Hurst Internal Medicine Residency Program. Prior to starting her training at Emory, Dr. Titanji completed a PhD in infectious diseases at University College London in the United Kingdom. Her research focused on cell- to-cell spread of HIV-1 across a virological synapse and how antiretroviral agents can be used to target this unique mode of spread. She plans to continue her research on HIV pathogenesis and how to more effectively target the virus within the host, with the aim of eliminating the viral reservoir. Dr. Titanji is also very passionate about how clinical research can be translated into policies that impact the lives of vulnerable patient populations, especially in Africa. As she continues to mature as a clinician and scientist, Dr. Titanji hopes to combine translational research with clinical practice to influence health policy from a global health perspective, especially in the field of infectious diseases. In her free time Dr. Titanji enjoys playing board games, spending time with family and friends, exploring the beautiful city of Atlanta, cooking, and traveling.

abenderAlexis Bender, PhD (General Medicine and Geriatrics)
Alexis Bender, PhD is an assistant professor in the Emory Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics. Her research highlights the ways health trajectories impact relationships as well how interactions with healthcare providers influence perceptions of life events. Additionally, Dr. Bender’s research focuses on relationships over the life course, including patient-provider interactions, social and intimate relationships following spinal cord injury, and issues of sexuality among older adults. Her future research will continue to explore the psychosocial aspects of injury and recovery across patients, health professionals, and families over time. Dr. Bender received her PhD in sociology and a gerontology certificate from Georgia State University. After completing her PhD, Dr. Bender had a unique opportunity to work with the Army Public Health Center in Maryland conducting mixed methods research and evaluation of social and behavioral health concerns (e.g., behavioral health access, suicide, violence) among active-duty soldiers.
Dr. Bender enjoys spending her free time with friends and family. She also loves baking, running, and traveling whenever possible.

BWBrandi Wynne, PhD (Renal Medicine)

Dr. Brandi M. Wynne is an instructor of medicine in the Division of Renal Medicine with a background in cardio-renal physiology and pharmacology. Previously, Dr. Wynne was a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Robert Hoover, where she focused on the hormonal regulation of the sodium chloride cotransporter (NCC) and the epithelial sodium channel. Her current research investigates the role of inflammation in the etiology of salt-sensitive hypertension. Hypertensive patients frequently have a normal level of aldosterone, the main ligand for the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), which regulates sodium transport proteins in the distal nephron. However, these patients often have indices of aldosterone excess and respond positively to MR antagonists, suggesting that there are alternative mechanisms of MR activation. Dr. Wynne’s research has shown that interleukin-6 (IL-6) plays a role in this process. She recently discovered that IL-6 transactivates the MR, leading to activation of the NCC. Understanding how renal-specific immune cells and cytokines regulate sodium homeostasis is the focus of her NIH NIDDK K01 application. In her spare time, Dr. Wynne enjoys the arts, politics, and traveling as much as possible.


SYSamantha M. Yeligar, MS, PhD (Pulmonary)
Dr. Samantha M. Yeligar is an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. She was recently awarded a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism R00 grant to study the “Effect of Peroxisome Proliferator Activated-Receptor Gamma (PPARγ) Ligands on Alcohol-Induced Alveolar Macrophage Oxidative Stress.” The project focuses on alcohol-mediated down-regulation of NADPH oxidase-related microRNAs that contribute to alveolar macrophage dysfunction, which can be reversed by treatment with PPARγ ligands. The considerable translational impact of these investigations on the management of alcoholic patients to mitigate their susceptibility to developing respiratory infections will set the stage for future clinical studies. In her free time, Samantha loves to paint with acrylics, draw with charcoal, travel, and concoct interesting culinary experiments for which her friends volunteer as study subjects (not to worry, everyone remains friends).

CKColleen Kelley, MD, MPH (Infectious Diseases)
Dr. Kelley is a faculty member at Emory University School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases with a multi-disciplinary background and previous experience in clinical HIV medicine, HIV epidemiology and clinical outcomes research, and laboratory-based HIV research. For the last several years, the focus of Dr. Kelley’s research has been translational immunology studies of HIV susceptibility in men who have sex with men (MSM), with a particular interest in biomedical prevention interventions. Dr. Kelley aims to optimize the efficacy of HIV biomedical prevention interventions, such as an HIV vaccine, pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, and microbicides for populations at high risk of infection. For this work, she has developed a successful translational immunology program at Emory focused on rectal HIV transmission in MSM. In addition, Dr. Kelley is the associate director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research Clinical Core and serves as a faculty member in the Rollins School of Public Health’s PRISM Health Group, which conducts various large research studies focused on HIV prevention in MSM. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Jeremy, and their three kids, Jane (8), Kiernan (6), and Ronan (4).

mhernandesMarina Hernandes, PhD (Cardiology)
Dr. Hernandes is a cardiovascular researcher in the Division of Cardiology in the lab of Dr. Kathy Griendling. Her research focus is on vascular permeability associated with cerebral ischemia. She is specifically interested in understanding how different signaling pathways in astrocytes contribute to disruption of the blood-brain-barrier in cerebral ischemia. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and daughter; exploring the outdoors; and enjoying time with friends. Recently, Dr. Hernandes won the “Best Basic Science Poster Award” at the Department of Medicine’s 9th annual Research Day.

image

Yang Xie (Renal Medicine)

Yang Xie is a visiting medical student in her 8th year from Xiangya School of Medicine, Changsha, China; her school is the second oldest medical school in China. She is conducting research in the Renal Division under the guidance of Dr. Russ Price. Her interest in nephrology and the consequences of chronic kidney disease (CKD) began during her 5th year of clinical medicine. Muscle atrophy is a common problem in CKD patients and diabetic patients who frequently develop nephropathy. While at Emory, Yang is investigating a new signaling pathway that contributes to the expression of myostatin, a myokine that contributes to skeletal muscle loss by altering insulin signaling and increasing the expression of proteins that disrupt muscle proteostasis. Outside of the lab, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and painting.

 



imageMelissa Stevens, MD (Hospital Medicine)

Dr. Stevens won the 2016 Top Overall Research Prize for her abstract and oral presentation, entitled “EQUiPPED Expansion: Results from a multi-site quality improvement initiative to change prescribing practices in VA Medical Center Emergency Departments (EDs).” Out of 141 abstracts submitted to the 9th annual Department of Medicine Research Day, Dr. Stevens’ abstract and oral presentation scores ranked the highest. As the prize recipient, she will receive $1,000 to be used toward research costs. Read more about the EQUiPPED project on the Department of Medicine’s blog, Emory Daily Pulse


imageClintoria Williams, PhD (Renal Medicine)

Dr. Williams is a renal physiologist in the Division of Renal Medicine. Her research interest focuses on the pathophysiology of kidney disease. Her work has identified a key functional difference in the isoforms of calcineurin, a family of ubiquitous calcium-dependent phosphatases. These enzymes contribute to the regulation of sodium channels in the distal nephron of the kidney and subsequently blood pressure homeostasis. Notably, patients that take calcineurin inhibitors for immunosuppression frequently develop hypertension. Since current drugs that inhibit calcineurin do not discriminate between the isoforms of the enzyme, there is an opportunity to refine pharmacological interventions to selectively target calcineurin isoform(s) implicated in the immune system versus isoform(s) involved in sodium regulation by the kidney. Recently, Dr. Williams received American Heart Association funding on her project, entitled “Selective regulation of distal nephron sodium handling by calcineurin isoforms.” In her free time, she serves as a motivational speaker, life coach, personal chef, and chauffeur to her children.
Learn more about Dr. Williams’ work at the 9th annual Department of Medicine Research Day on Friday, 10/28 in the Cox Hall Ballroom, where she will present "NADPH oxidase-2 mediates zinc deficiency-induced oxidative stress and kidney damage."


pokala-kusumaS. Kusuma Pokala (Medical Student)
Kusuma Pokala is a student at Emory University School of Medicine with an expected graduation date of May, 2017. Her interest in the field of gastroenterology began during her first year of medical school and has deepened over the years. Under the guidance of Dr. Field F. Willingham, she is investigating the incidence, survival, and markers of regional lymph node metastasis in different types of gastric tumors. With increasing advances in endoscopy, this information helps determine which patients are good candidates for endoscopic resection. This fall, she is applying to internal medicine residency programs with the goal of completing a Gastroenterology fellowship after residency. Outside of research, she enjoys trying new recipes, traveling, and hiking.
Learn more about Kusuma’s work at the 9th annual Department of Medicine Research Day on Friday, 10/28 in the Cox Hall Ballroom, where she will present “Predictors of lymph node involvement in early stage gastric adenocarcinoma in the United States." View schedule | RSVP 

johnson-brandonBrandon Johnson (Cardiology)
Brandon Johnson is a PhD student working under Dr. Young-sup Yoon. His research interests involve the investigation of novel cell and biomaterial therapies for cardiovascular disease. Presently, Brandon is working to develop an autologous cell therapy for patients suffering from critical limb ischemia. Brandon likes to spend his free time following trends in physics and astrology and eating with friends and family.
Learn more about Brandon’s work at the 9th annual Department of Medicine Research Day on Friday, 10/28 in the Cox Hall Ballroom, where he will present "Isolation of a highly angiogenic subpopulation of CD31+ cells." View schedule |RSVP

Highlighted-Researcher

Amit Shah, MD, MSCR (Cardiology)
Dr. Shah is an epidemiologist and cardiologist who focuses his research on understanding the mechanisms through which psychological stress may impact the cardiovascular system. He recently received NIH K23 funding for a project entitled “Emotional stress as a risk factor for arrhythmia ischemia and genetic mechanisms.” He will study the ischemic and genetic mechanisms by which emotional stress leads to increased arrhythmia risk. Additionally, he is interested in general preventive cardiology, with a focus on mobile health technologies and risk-prediction analytics. In his free time, Dr. Shah enjoys running around with his two energetic sons and playing and watching basketball.
Learn more about Dr. Shah’s work at the 9th annual Department of Medicine Research Day on Friday, 10/28 in the Cox Hall Ballroom, where he will give a talk entitled, "An electrocardiogram-based risk equation for incident cardiovascular disease from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey." View schedule... 

Highlighted-Researcher

Madeleine Hackney, PhD (General Medicine and Geriatrics)

Dr. Hackney’s DREAMS (Developing a Research Participation Enhancement and Advocacy Training Program for Diverse Seniors) project grew out of an ongoing problem in clinical research. Older adults with low socioeconomic status and/or from racial or ethnic minority populations are historically underrepresented in research because of multiple barriers, including distrust of the research community, difficulties with access, ageism, health literacy challenges, and strict trial inclusion criteria. To help break down the existing barriers and build relationships with these underrepresented populations, Dr. Hackney decided to use the tango to treat mobility problems in people with Parkinson’s disease. While some of the participants danced, those assigned to the control group attended educational sessions on various health issues. The interactive educational sessions were so popular, both with learners and the teachers, that Dr. Hackney suspected they could serve to bring together a group of diverse seniors for the DREAMS project. Funding from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) gave her the chance to empirically demonstrate her theory. Read more on the Department of Medicine's blog, Emory Daily Pulse, and in a recent feature inAtlanta Magazine.  (Photo credit: Kaylinn Gilstrap, Atlanta Magazine.)


Highlighted-ResearcherRobert Hoover Jr., MD (Renal Medicine)

Dr. Hoover is an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Renal Medicine who studies the regulation of thiazide-sensitive sodium chloride (rNCC) cotransporters in various models of hypertension. His lab currently examines the intracellular mechanisms by which aldosterone and angiotensin regulate rNCC with the goal of increasing our understanding of the mechanisms that cause hypertension. This knowledge will hopefully lead to improved treatment and quality of life for patients affected by kidney disorders. Read more…