Lisa Karstens, PhD
Departments of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology and Obstetrics & Gynecology
Primary mentor: Shannon McWeeney, PhD
Mentors: Thomas Gregory, MD; Damien Fair, PhD; Jim Rosenbaum, MD; Jonathan Braun, MD; Alan Wolfe, PhD
Dr. Lisa Karstens has a unique background in bioinformatics, chemistry, and computational biology and is dually appointed in the departments of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology and Obstetrics & Gynecology. Dr. Karstens' project involves investigating gender differences in the role of the urinary microbiome and disease, with specific regards to Overactive Bladder Syndrome (OAB) and its underlying pathophysiology. Dr. Karstens' long-term goals focus on understanding the heterogeneity of OAB and how bacteria and the brain may contribute to OAB. In June 2018, Dr. Karstens received her 4-year K01 award, titled "Functional Considerations of the Urinary Microbiome in Overactive Bladder", based on her BIRCWH work.
Project title: The urinary microbiome in health and disease
Laura Villasana, PhD
Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine (APOM)
Primary mentor: Nabil Alkayed, MD, PhD
Mentors: Eric Schnell, MD, PhD; Julie Saugstad, PhD, Holly Hinson, MD
Dr. Laura Villasana is a neuroscientist investigating gender differences in neural recovery following Traumatic Brain Injury. Dr. Villasana's BIRCWH project investigated whether an accelerated loss of stem cells in females and subsequent reductions in neurogenesis contributes to the development of cognitive impairments long after brain injury and whether these impairments can be prevented or mitigated.
Project title: The
role of sex on long-term changes in hippocampal neurogenesis after traumatic
Katie Schenning, MD, MPH
Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine (APOM), Oregon Health & Science University
Primary mentor: Joseph Quinn, MD
Mentors: Nabil Alkayed, MD, PhD; Ansgar Brambrink, MD, PhD; Jacob Raber, PhD; Miriam Treggiari, MD, PhD
Dr. Katie Schenning is an anesthesiologist investigating the interaction between general anesthesia and surgery, sex, genetic variables, and dementia in the aged. Dr. Schenning's goal is to develop a translational research program by using her clinical knowledge to optimize preclinical models to best address sex differences in postoperative outcomes, and to use these laboratory studies to inform clinical investigations.
Project title: Influence of sex and genetics on postoperative cognitive and functional decline
Laura Newell, MD
Assistant Professor, Knight Cancer Institute
Division of Hematology/Medical Oncology, Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Mentor: Grover Bagby, M.D.
Mentors: Leonardo Pereira, M.D., M.C.R.; Jeffrey Tyner, Ph.D.; Irina Burd, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Newell is a hematologist and hematopoietic stem cell transplant physician interested in responses of the innate immune system and inflammatory cytokine signaling pathways. She is currently investigating the role of the innate immune system in driving pathologic inflammatory responses to viral infections during pregnancy that may contribute to excessive fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality. Her goal is to pursue clinical investigation of novel, targeted therapies specifically for women with viral infections and post-viral inflammatory complications during pregnancy. Dr. Newell's BIRCWH research supported her successful K23 application, titled "Infectious Events in Pregnancy: PlGF Contributes to Maternal Morbidity", which was awarded in September 2017.
Project title: PIGF enhances viral-induced innate immune inflammatory responses in human mononuclear phagocytes; a potential mechanism for virus related morbidity and mortality in pregnancy.
Janne Boone-Heinonen, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Department of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Mentor: Stephen Fortmann, M.D.
Mentors: Kent Thornburg, Ph.D.; Jackilen Shannon, Ph.D.; Dawn Peters, Ph.D.
Dr. Boone-Heinonen is an epidemiologist with an overarching interest in social, environmental, and biological factors drivers of obesity in diverse populations. In ongoing research, she investigates modifiable environmental and behavioral determinants of diet, physical activity, and obesity using complex analytic methods. She is currently developing expertise in biological drivers of obesity that arise in early life, with the goal of developing future research on the extent to which maternal effects on offspring health can be mitigated by healthy diet and physical activity. This research supported her successful K01 application in September 2015, which focuses on understanding processes that can ameliorate the impacts of perinatal exposures on health later in the offspring's life.
Project title: Life course impacts on obesity: mitigating maternal effects on offspring health
Jing Xu, PhD
Primary Mentor: Richard Stouffer, Ph.D.
Mentors: Mary Zelinski, Ph.D.; Betsy Ferguson, Ph.D.; Tanja Pejovic, M.D.
Dr. Xu is interested in studying the mechanisms and regulation of ovarian folliculogenesis, as well as endocrine/paracrine pathways that influence follicular development and oocyte maturation in primates. While performing basic research, translational efforts will be made on human in vitro follicle maturation that may offer a means to enhance fertility options for women, including female cancer patients. Dr. Xu's long-term goal is to build an independent program in biomedical research which can be translated to clinical use to improve or control fertility, and hence women's health. In July 2015, Dr. Xu was awarded an R01 grant titled “AMH Actions to Control Primate Folliculogenesis” based on her BIRCWH research.
Project Title: Anti-Müllerian and fertility preservation
Ganesh Cherala, PhD
OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy
Primary Mentor: Kent Thornburg, PhD
Mentors: Mitchell Turker, PhD; Alison Edelman, MD, MPH; George Firaud, MD, PhD
One of the keys to develop successful personalized medicine lies with better understanding of various sources of inter-individual variability in pharmacokinetics. Dr. Cherala has been undertaking multidisciplinary research to understand the contribution of intrauterine growth restriction twoards inter-individual variability of drug response. The current grant application is a continuation of those efforts, which integrates intrauterine growth restriction and adulthood obesity, and their combined effect on failure of oral contraception.
Project Title: Prenatal growth programs oral contraceptive metabolism and effectiveness
Shernan Holtan, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation
University of Minnesota
Primary Mentor: Grover Bagby, MD
Mentors: Richard Maziarz, MD; Leonardo Pereira, MD, MCR; Svetomir Markovic, MD, PhD
Research Interests: Identifying key factors in the longitudinal maternal immune response to pregnancy and applying the effects of angiogenic hormones to be involved maternal immune responses to the hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) setting. Dr. Holtan completed longitudinal analyses of the maternal immune response to pregnancy in two Mayo Clinic cohorts - the second cohort she enrolled herself as a fellow prior to her time as a BIRCWH scholar. Through these analyses, she identified the maternal immune response to pregnancy as at least a biphasic phenomenon, with the onset of pregnancy associated with tolerance induction, and later pregnancy associated with immune reconstitution/inflammation. In studying direct effects of angiogenic hormones on immune cells, she co-discovered a synergistic inflammatory relationship of placental growth factor with certain pathogen-associated molecular patterns, during her time as a BIRCWH scholar.
Project Title: Regulation of tolerance in pregnancy and graft-versus-host disease
Christine Lee, MD, MS
Assistant Professor Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition,
Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Mentor: Eric Orwoll, MD
Mentors: Marcia Stefanick, PhD
Research Interests: Causes and consequences of body composition changes with aging and her current focus is the role of insulin resistance in the development of sarcopenia. Dr. Lee is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition and a Co-Investigator with the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study (MrOS). Her work with the MrOS Study has focused on investigating the relationships between insulin resistance and changes in lean mass and physical performance in older men. Currently, she is extending her studies to cohorts that include older women. Dr. Lee was awarded an over $1 million Veterans Administration career development award in March 2013.
Project Title: Metabolism and Muscle in Older Men and Women This project determined if the association between insulin resistance and muscle loss differs between older men and olden women and whether insulin-sensitizer use may prevent sarcopenia.
Christopher Lee, PhD, RN
Carrie Nielson, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Mentor: Eric Orwoll, MD
Mentors: Robert Klein, MD; William Lambert, PhD; Bruce Weir, PhD; Joseph Zmuda, PhD
Research Interest: Dr. Nielson's main interests are in the patterns of change in musculoskeletal phenotypes over the course of normal aging and the genetic determinants of these changes. Dr. Nielson is an epidemiologist with a strong background in quantitative methods and experience with osteoporosis epidemiology and genetic association studies. Since arriving at OHSU, she has become an investigator in Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (MrOS), a longitudinal cohort study of men ages 65 and older in the U.S. Her recent work with Drs. Eric Orwoll and Robert Klein has focused on understanding how discoveries of genetic associations with BMD in mouse models can be translated to fill gaps in knowledge of the genetic regulation of bone phenotypes in human populations. In April 2012, Dr. Nielson was awarded a 5-year K01 award from the National Institute of Athritis and Muskuloskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).
Rebecca Block, PhD, MSW
Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Mentor: Lillian Nail, RN, PhD
Mentors: Patty Carney, PhD; Brandon Hayes-Latin, MD; Karen Eden, PhD; David Lee, MD
Research Interest: Social and mental health and development in adolescents and young adults with cancer. Dr. Block is a psychosocial researcher working in adolescent and young adult oncology. She is one of a few clinical social workers in oncology with a traditional research doctorate and one of the only oncology social work researchers addressing the needs of adolescents and young adults (AYA) women with cancer. Dr. Block is the co-chair of the Standards of Care Task Force of the LiveStrong Young Adult Alliance, co-chair and mental health director for the Camp Starlight Planning Commission, and a member of the Board of Directors for Oncology Youth Connection.Project Title: Fertility Decisional among Adolescent and Young Adult Women with Cancer
Terry Morgan, MD, PhD
Department of Pathology, Oregon Health & Science University
Sonnet Jonker, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Mentor: George Giraud, MD, PhD
Mentors: Kent Thornburg, PhD; Lowell Davis, MD; Jeffrey Segar, MD
Research Interest: Cardiovascular adaptations in health and disease in the fetus and mother, and long-term outcomes. Dr. Jonker is developing a productive independent research career focusing on maternal-fetal physiology. Dr. Jonker is going about this by pursuing interdisciplinary collaborations, allowing her to focus on exciting and relevant scientific hypotheses rather than on methodology-driven research. Dr. Jonker was awarded an approximately $1.5 million, 5-year R01 from the NICHD to study mechanisms of myocardial and coronary growth sychrony.
Project Title: Transfusion During Pregnancy: Fetal Cardiovascular Recovery Following Chronic Anemia
Beth Darnall, PhD
Wendy Wu, PhD
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Mentor: James Maylie, PhD
Mentors: John Adelman, PhD
Dr. Wu has a PhD in Neuroscience from Northwestern University Institute for Neuroscience and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at OHSU prior to joining the Oregon BIRCWH program. As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Wu studied how sex hormones affect cellular processes in the brain and behavior. Her specific focus during the BIRCWH was investigating how premature and uncompensated loss of ovarian hormones following surgical menopause compromises cognitive function and increases a woman's risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia. With oophorectomy being performed on more than 400,000 women in the United States annually, her research is timely and important. She received a private grant during her tenure as a BIRCWH scholar to focus on the surgical menopausal model. She credits the BIRCWH program for stimulating her interest in women's health research and she continues to use interdisciplinary techniques since graduating from the BIRCWH, including electrophysiology, molecular biology, and animal behavior to define the pathophysiology at the cellular level underlying surgical menopause-associated neurological disorders.
Howard Song, MD, PhD
Associate Professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Oregon Health & Science University Department of Surgery
Primary Mentor: Patricia Hurn, PhD
Mentors: Steven Hanson, PhD; Kent Thornburg, PhD
As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Song studied the effects of hormones and gender upon arterial stent restenosis. His current research interests include outcomes of patients undergoing adult cardiac surgery, genetically triggered thoracic aortic aneurysms, recombiant factor replacement following cardiopulmonary bypass to decrease postoperative bleeding, and bioengineering or prosthetic materials and blood pumps to improve biocompatibility. Since his appointment with the BIRCWH, Dr. Song has authored 22 articles in diverse journals including Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Heart Surgery Forum, Circulation, and JAMA. He has also authored 2 book chapters, presented 29 abstracts, and made 13 oral presentations at national meetings all since being appointed a BIRCWH scholar. He has served as Co-I and PI for 5 grants (3 through the NHLBI entitled "Genetically triggered thoracic aneurysms and cardiovascular conditions - Data Coordinating Center", "Interagency registry of mechanically assisted circulatory support", and "Vascular tissue engineering: Rational design using modeling").
Damani Bryant, PhD, MA
Research Assistant Professor
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Mentor: Mentors:
Paco Herson, PhD
Associate Chair for Neuroscience in the Department of Anesthesiology
Director of the Neuronal Injury Program
University of Colorado, Denver
Primary Mentor: James Maylie, PhD
Mentors: John Adelman, PhD; Patricia Hurn, PhD
As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Herson developed a novel in vitro model to investigate sex differences in sensitivity to ischemia-reperfusion of cerebellar Purkinje cells. He hypothesized that one important mechanism of neuroprotection is via progesterone's enhancement of inhibitory GABAA receptor activity, counteracting the high levels of excitatory input to neurons during and immediately following ischemia.
Dr. Herson's laboratory currently uses a variety of techniques, including electrophysiology, molecular biology, virus mediated gene knockdown and whole animal focal (middle cerebral artery occlusion; MCAO) and global (Cardiac arrest and CPR; CA/CPR) cerebral ischemia models. He has established himself as one of the few investigators who routinely performs patch-clamp electrophysiology on neurons after exposure to ischemia, both in vitro and in vivo.
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Philippe Thuillier, PhD
Assistant Professor in Public Health & Preventive Medicine and Scientist in the Center for Research in Occupational and Environmental Health Toxicology (CROET)
Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute
Primary Mentor: Grover Bagby, MD
Mentors: Thomas Becker, MD, PhD
Dr. Thuillier was recruited as an external candidate to OHSU. As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Thuillier began studying dietary conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a dietary fatty acid and its preventive effects on breast and ovarian cancer cell lines by influencing the expression of BRCA 1, thereby reducing cross-link and oxidative stress-induced DNA damage.
He has successfully received funding on 10 grants including as PI or co-PI on two R01s entitled "Skin cancer prevention by dietary fatty acids" and "Inhibition of prostate cancer by sulforophane" and two R21s entitled "A mouse model for dietary effects on epigenetic silencing" and "EGCG and w-3 fatty acids impact on fatty acid synthase activity in the prostate" as well as several private and biotech grants including "Effect of fish oil supplementation on women recently diagnosed with DCIS." He also contributes as study section reviewer for the NIH Chemoprevention study section and for the Congressional Directed Medical Research Programs. Since his appointment with the BIRCWH, Dr. Thuillier has authored 7 articles in journals including PLOS ONE, Journal of Nutrition, Cancer Research, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, and Molecular Carcinogenesis. Deeply committed to the BIRCWH, Dr. Thuillier has been a member of the BIRCWH Internal Advisory Committee since graduating from the program and largely helped to organize the BIRCWH program Grant Workshop Schedule.
Tanja Pejovic, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Division Director of Gynecological Oncology
Director of the Ovarian Cancer Translational Program
Knight Cancer Institute
Primary Mentor: Grover Bagby, MD
Dr. Pejovic was recruited as an external candidate to the BIRCWH program and appointed as a BIRCWH scholar. Dr. Pejovic studied the role of DNA repair proteins in ovarian cancer and ovarian cancer predisposition. Her research suggests that low expression of FANCD2 protein and mRNA is associated with a risk of ovarian cancer, independent of BRCA mutation status. She holds a patent related to her work entitled "Test for ovarian cancer by detecting abnormality in FANCD2 pathway." She has also created a tissue bank of ovarian cancer samples from patients who underwent oophorectomy for benign, high-risk, or malignant ovarian diseases.
Karen Eden, PhD
Professor and Director of Pre- and Post-doctoral training programs
Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Mentor: Jeanne-Marie Guise, MD, MPH
Mentors: Mark Helfand, MD, MPH, MS; Dundar Kocaoglu, PhD
Nancy Glass, PhD, MPH, RN
Associate Professor and Associate Director
Global Health at Johns Hopkins University
Primary Mentor: Lowell Davis, MD
Mentors: Linda McCauley, PhD, RN; Mary Ann Curry, DNSc, RN
Erin LeBlanc, MD, MPH
Kaiser Center for Health Research
Primary Mentor: Jeri Janowsky, PhD
Mentors: Eric Orwoll, MD; Lowell Davis, MD; Jacob Raber, PhD; Lynn Loriaux, MD, PhD