For additional information about the LEAD program, please contact:

Dr. Jessica Merlin
LEAD Program Director
Associate Program Director for Research

Dr. Georgios Kitsios
Director, Basic and Translational Research Track

Dr. Jessica Bon
LEAD Associate Program Director for Research,
LEAD Executive Committee

Research Mentors and Projects

Our website has a wide variety of research opportunities within internal medicine and its subspecialties, as seen below. However, we realize that there are wonderful opportunities that do not strictly fall within the department of medicine. For residents that are interested in exploring other opportunities, we encourage you to check out the Pitt research website which displays a wider variety of mentors and projects: https://upsomtraineeresearch.pitt.edu/.

Cardiology
Fellowship Director:Katie Berlacher, MD
Research Point Person:Stephen Chan, MD, PhD
Endocrinology and Metabolism
Fellowship Director:Maja Stefanovic-Racic, MD, PhD
Research Point Person:Maja Stefanovic-Racic, MD, PhD
Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
Fellowship Director:Kenneth Fasanella, MD
Research Point Person:Dhiraj Yadav, MD, MPH / Gavin Arteel, PhD
General Internal Medicine
Fellowship Director:Carla Spagnoletti, MD, MS
Meded Projects: Carla Spagnoletti, MD, MS
GIM Research Projects:Jessica Merlin, MD, PhD, MBA
Quality Improvement:Allison DeKosky, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Fellowship Director:Karen Scandrett, MD, MPH
Research Point Person:Debra Weiner, MD
Hematology/Oncology
Fellowship Director:Annie Im, MD
Research Point Person:Annie Im, MD / Tim Burns, MD, PhD
Infectious Diseases
Fellowship Director:Rima Abdel-Massih, MD
Research Point Person:Beej Macatangay, MD
Palliative Care
Fellowship Director:Rebecca Sands, DO
Research Point Person:Yael Schenker, MD, MAS
Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine
Fellowship Director:Jessica Bon Field, MD, MS
Research Point Person:Georgios Kitsios, MD, PhD
Renal-Electrolyte
Fellowship Director:Helbert Rondon Berrios, MD, MS
Research Point Person:Cary Boyd-Shiwarski, MD, PhD
Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology
Fellowship Director:Niveditha Mohan, MD
Research Point Person:Jeremy Tilstra, MD, PhD

Cardiology

PIKey words describing research programTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Interventional:
John J. Pacella, MD, MS
  • Microcirculation
  • Microvascular obstruction
  • Ultrasound
  • Microbubbles
  • Venous compliance
  • Optimization of sonoreperfusion for microvascularobstruction
Flordeliza Villanueva, MD
Lab website
  • Ultrasound imaging
  • Contrast agents
  • Drug and gene delivery
  • Molecular imaging
  • Treatment of myocardial fibrosis using ultrasound-targeted miRNA delivery
Electrophysiology:
Samir Saba, MD
  • Sudden Cardiac death
  • Defibrillator therapy
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy
  • Disparities
  • Arrhythmias
  • Is cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) using a defibrillator (CRT-D) rather than a pacemaker (CRT-P) superior for the endpoint of all-cause mortality in older heart failure patients?
  • Are patients with sudden arrhythmic cardiac death in the context of a reversible and correctable cause at risk of recurrent life-threatening arrhythmias?
  • What is the impact of a best practice alert through the electronic medical records on the rates of ICD implantation in patients with severe cardiomyopathy (LVEF<36%)?
  • How often is there real shared-decision making around defibrillator therapy for primary prevention of sudden cardiac death?
Sandeep Jain, MD
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Ablation
  • Clinical pathways
  • AF ablation outcomes in different patient groups
  • Efficacy of different techniques in re-do AF ablation procedures
  • Outcomes and guideline adherence in patients treated through a specialized AF Center
Guy Salama, MD
  • Optical mapping of action potentials and Calcium transients
  • How to improve diastolic dysfunction in HF with preserved EF
  • Mechanisms of action of the hormone Relaxin
  • Neuromodulation of the heart in health and disease
  • Changes in voltage-gated sodium channels in human ventricular tissue slices from normal, failing and aged hearts
  • Reversal of fibrosis in human ventricular tissue slices
Heart Failure:
John J. Pacella, MD, MS
  • Microcirculation
  • Microvascular obstruction
  • Ultrasound
  • Microbubbles
  • Venous compliance
  • Optimization of sonoreperfusion for microvascularobstruction
Timothy Wong, MD, MS
  • Novel cardiac imaging biomarkers
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Imaging:
Erik Schelbert, MD, MS
  • Myocardial fibrosis
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Outcomes (e.g., heart failure hospitalization, mortality, ICD shock)
  • Comparative effectiveness
See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=schelbert+e
Prem Soman, MD, PhD
Lab website
  • Nuclear cardiology
  • Amyloidosis
  • RV function
  • Appropriate use criteria
  • Nuclear cardiology database
  • Amyloid database
  • Cath FFR and SPECT ischemia correlation
Thrombosis:
Sruti Shiva, PhD
  • Mitochondria
  • Nitrite
  • Platelets
  • Myoglobin
  • Platelet bioenergetics as a biomarker of scleroderma pathogenesis
  • Nitrite regulates platelet and skeletal muscle mitochondrial function
Public Health:
Jared Magnani, MD, MSc
  • Cardiovascular disease risk
  • Cardiovascular outcomes
  • Social determinants of health
  • Adherence
  • Conduct analyses of administrative data to examine SES and CVD risk, medication adherence, and outcomes
  • Examine relation of neighborhood-social factors to health outcomes in individuals receiving care at UPMC
  • Participate in implementation of interventional studies to assist disadvantaged individuals with mobile health interventions
Matthew Muldoon, MD, MPH
  • Hypertension
  • E-health
  • Home BPmonitoring
  • Chronic disease self-management
  • Adoption and effectiveness of a mHealth intervention for hypertension in older adults: a pilot clinical trial
  • Controlling Hypertension: Implementation of MyBP at Birmingham Free Clinic and UPMC practices
Suresh Mulukutla, MD
  • Outcomes
  • Real-world data
  • Coronary revascularization
  • Heart failure
  • Readmission
  • Characterizing a contemporary heart failure population
  • Impact of prior CHF admissions upon future CHF readmissions
  • Impact of outcomes following cardiac catheterization
Pulmonary Hypertension:
Imad Al Ghouleh, PhD
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Right heart
  • Cell signaling
  • Cardiomyocyte
  • Endothelial cells
  • The role of Aqp1 in RV cardiomyocyte hypertrophic responses
  • The role of NHERF1 in cardiac fibroblast activation under various stimuli
  • The role of NHERF1 in pulmonary vascular cells in pulmonary hypertensionThe role of NHERF1 in pulmonary vascular cells in pulmonary hypertension
Stephen Chan, MD, PhD
Lab website
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Retrospective clinical database analysis
  • Molecular mechanisms of disease
  • Endothelial biology
  • Metabolism
  • Hypoxia
  • Non-coding RNAs
  • Because of their limited time, most residents have focused on retrospective clinical database analysis of ~20K UPMC patients who have undergone right heart catheterization. This registry allows us to answer questions about associations of pulmonary hypertension outcomes across a wide range of clinical variables.
  • For trainees with interests in basic science, my lab has several ongoing projects studying mechanisms of endothelial dysfunction in pulmonary hypertension.
Vessels and MI Pathophysiology:
Partha Dutta, DVM, PhD
Lab website
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophages
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Insulin resistance
  • The role of macrophages of different origins in post-MI healing of the myocardium and diabetes
  • Mechanisms of insulin resistance after MI
  • Molecular cues for inflammatory myeloid cell production in pulmonary hypertension
  • The role of SerpinB2 in the disappearance of beneficial tissue resident macrophages in diabetes
  • Exacerbation of atherosclerosis by VCAM-1+ macrophages
Toren Finkel, MD, PhD
Lab website
  • Aging
  • Mitochondria
  • Autophagy
  • Calcium uniporter
  • Mouse models
  • Role of MCU in ischemia reperfusion injury
  • Mitophagy in doxorubicin-induced heart failure
  • The role of autophagy in progeria
Delphine Gomez, PhD
Brett Kaufman, PhD
Lab website
  • Mitochondrial damage
  • Mitochondrial genetics
  • Small-molecule screening
  • Helicases and G-quadraplex structures
  • CRISPR-Cas9 and transgenic animal models
  • Protecting mitochondria in age-related cardiopulmonary diseases: COPD, ischemic heart disease, heart failure, and vascular aging
  • Evaluation of novel tool to remove mutated mitochondrial DNA
  • Forward mouse genetics for the unbiased identification of tissue-specific factors controlling
  • Study of mtDNA structures in vivo
Iain Scott, PhD
  • Mitochondria
  • Acetylation
  • Fatty Acid Oxidation
  • Heart Failure
  • Bioenergetics
  • Do fatty acid oxidation inhibitors impact cardiac lysine acetylation?
  • Can Sirt3 activation rescue high-fat diet induced cardiomyopathy?
Cynthia St. Hilaire, PhD
Lab website
  • Rare disease discovery; in vitro & in vivo disease modeling
  • Vascular calcification; valvular calcification
  • Cell phenotype transitions and the role of epigenetic and transcriptional influences
  • Extracellular matrix remodeling
  • Do neutrophil extracellular traps promote calcification and extracellular matrix degradation?
  • Using the UPMC database, do individuals with chronic inflammation exhibit higher rates of aortic stenosis or vascular calcification
Adam Straub, PhD
Lab website
  • Hypertension
  • Microcirculation
  • Endothelial and smooth muscle cell dysfunction
  • Heart Failure
  • Nitric oxide
  • Role of cytochrome b5 reductase in smooth muscle function
  • Mechanisms regulating of nitric oxide diffusion in the microcirculation
  • Identifying genetic variants that modify clinical responsiveness to soluble guanylate cyclase stimulators
  • cGMP signaling and heart failure
  • Determinants of cGMP signaling in platelets

Endocrinology and Metabolism

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Pouneh K Fazeli, MD, MPH
  • Undernutrition, starvation, anorexia nervosa
  • Hormonal adaptations to starvation, low bone mass, bone marrow adipose tissue (BMAT)
  • Growth hormone resistance, IGF-1, FGF21
  • Neuroendocrine mediators of infertility and amenorrhea
  • Prolactin, pituitary tumors
  • Transdermal estrogen for the treatment of low bone mass in women with anorexia nervosa
  • The role of bone marrow adipose tissue in the bone marrow microenvironment
  • Metabolic effects of starvation
  • Understanding hormonal mediators of unexplained infertility
  • Optimizing the longitudinal management of pituitary adenoma patients
Hussain Mahmud, MD
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Perioperative Management
  • Standardize the perioperative management of Cushing’s disease patients
Jagdeesh Ullal, MD, MS, FACE, FACP, ECNU
  • Kidney transplant related hyperglycemia and diabetes
  • Post-transplant insulin therapy
  • Effects of Customized insulin treatment plan for management of hyperglycemia in kidney transplant patients
  • Effect of hyperglycemia management in prevention of readmissions
Diabetes and Metabolism:
Archana Bandi, MD
  • Telehealth
  • Access to care
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic disease management
  • Primary care inertia
  • Collaborative care processes for chronic care management
  • Study and compare interdisciplinary collaborative care processes with traditional care models
  • Impact assessment study of the use of software based diabetes management platform
  • Real world experience with new adjunct therapies for diabetes type-2 in high risk Veteran population
Ronald Codario, MD
  • Diabetes
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bromocriptine
  • Obesity
  • Optifast
  • Transgender
  • Adding to the Therapeutic Toolbox for Veterans with Obesity: A Medically Supervised Very Low-Calorie Weight Loss Program
Michael Jurczak, PhD
  • Obesity, type 2 diabetesand non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Mitochondrial metabolism
  • Physiology of insulin action, glucose homeostasis and type 2 diabetes
  • Cardio-protective effects of SGLT2 inhibitors
  • In vivo assessment of metabolism using stable and radioactive isotopes
  • Liver-specific inhibition of PARKIN-mediated mitophagy is associated with mitochondrial dysfunctionand increased rates of hepatic glucose production
  • Changes in gastrointestinal motility due to loss of enteric nervous system signaling contribute toprotection from diet-induced obesity in Park2KO mice
  • Treating obesity by inhibiting ATP synthesis and promoting ATP hydrolysis via ATPIF1 deletion
  • SGLT2 inhibitors reduce death from cardiovascular disease by restoring cardiac metabolic flexibility
  • Assessment of postprandial glucose metabolism –appearance of ingested glucose, rates of hepaticglucose production and peripheral glucose disposal - using a dual-isotope approach in mice
Erin Kershaw, MD
  • Obesity and its complications –pathophysiology, prevention, and treatment
  • Diabetes
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Adipose tissue
  • Glucose and fat metabolism
  • Understanding a novel human obesity-risk variant and its role in obesity and diabetes pathogenesis
  • Understanding how tissue-specific fat metabolism contributes to the metabolic syndrome, lipodystrophy, and adipose tissue function
  • Improving the prevention and treatment of human with severe hypertriglyceridemia who are at risk for acute/recurrent pancreatitis
  • Understanding the role of a novel human obesity-risk variant in energy homeostasis, adipose tissue biology, and/or behavior
  • Using clinical informatics to improve prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes, and dyslipidemia
Mary Korytkowski, MD
  • Diabetes
  • Inpatient
  • Hospital Readmission
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hyperglycemia
  • GluCOVID Study
Jason Ng, MD
  • Diabetes Medical Home
  • Diabetes Technology
  • Diabetes Self-Management
  • Diabetes High Risk Initiative (Diabetes Medical Home Model): Comparisons of Models of Care
  • Diabetes Technology Applications, improving glycemic control?
  • Clinical and Predictive Analysis in Diabetes
Robert O'Doherty, PhD
  • Inflammation (Immune System)
  • Lipids and carbohydrates (Nutrition)
  • Liver (NAFLD, Steatosis, Obesity)
David Rometo, MD
  • Diabetes remission
  • Insulin dose titration
  • Very low calorie diet
  • Shared medical appointments
  • Microbiome
  • Remission through Early Monitored Insulin Therapy, Duration Month (REMIT-DM)
  • MEDBIO: Comparing the gut microbiome before, during, and after 6 month OPTIFAST program
  • Effects of instituting a Shared Medical Appointment model of care in an academic endocrinology-run OPTIFAST program
Linda Siminerio, RN, PhD
  • Health care delivery models
  • Technology in diabetes care
  • Self-management
  • Telehealth
  • Mobile applications in diabetes care
  • Examining approaches to improve access and quality in an integrated system
  • Implementation and evaluation of self-management education in primary care
  • Diabetes telehealth approaches
Fred Toledo, MD
  • Diabetes research in humans: etiology and treatment
  • Pathophysiology of insulin resistance
  • Glucose and lipid metabolism in vivo
  • Mitochondria
  • Skeletal muscle
  • The effect of hydroxychloroquine on glucose metabolism in humans
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction in aging and metabolic disorders
Vijay Yechoor, MD
  • Pancreatic beta cells
  • Diabetes
  • Circadian clock
  • Stem Cells
  • Cellular Stress Responses
  • Role of E4BP4 in beta cells
  • Mechanisms underlying Circadian Clock control of ER stress in beta cells
  • Mitochondria on a Timer, clock control of mitochondrial function
Thyroid Disease:
Pooja Manroa, MD
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Thyroid Nodules
  • ATA
  • Molecular Markers
  • Has the use of molecular markers changed the treatment paradigm of cytologic indeterminatethyroid nodules?
  • Prognosis of ATA Low risk Thyroid Cancer Patients over prolonged follow up
Hypogonadism:
Alexandra Clark, MD
  • Hypogonadism
  • Testosterone
  • Thromboelastography
  • Obesity
  • Optifast
  • Adding to the Therapeutic Toolbox for Veterans with Obesity: A Medically Supervised Very Low-Calorie Weight Loss Program
Metabolic Immunology:
Alison Kohan, PhD
  • Regulatory T cells (Tregs)
  • Intestinal inflammation
  • Chylomicrons
  • Apolipoproteins
  • Intestinalstem cells
  • How do triglyceride-rich lipoproteins regulate Tregs in the intestine?
  • Does inhibition of lipid uptake in Tregs therapeutically protects mice against T cell driven colitis?
  • Are intestinal Tregs the drivers of IL-10 and colitis protection in apoC-IIITg mice?
  • Does Treg cellular metabolism and reliance on lipids change during CVD, and is this pathway stimulated during immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy?
  • Is the chylomicron synthesis and secretion pathway active in the CF intestine, and is this pathway responsive to CFTR modulator therapy?
Cellular Mechanics:
Sadeesh Ramakrishnan, PhD
  • Hypoxia signaling
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Intestinal barrier dysfunction
  • Role of hepatic hypoxia signaling in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Role of hepatic hypoxia signaling in Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Intestinal barrier dysfunction in obesity-associated systemic inflammation and beyond
  • Role of intestinal hypoxia signaling in systemic glucose homeostasis
Yusuke Sekine, PhD
  • Molecular biology
  • Cellular stress response
  • Acetyl-CoA
  • Acetylation
  • Organelles
  • Role of protein acetylation in nucleolar phase separation
  • Role of organelle communications in metabolic stress responses
Biorhythms:
Bokai Zhu, PhD
Lab website
  • Xbp1
  • Unfolded protein response
  • Ultradian rhythms
  • 12h-clock
  • Protein quality control
  • Metabolic regulation of biorhythms
  • Mitochondria
  • Developing sensitive and robust 12h-clock reporter
  • To determine the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory network of12h-clock control
  • To determine how the 12h-clock regulates the metabolism flux and how cellular metabolism feeds back to influence the 12h rhythms of gene expression
  • To identify non-cell autonomous regulators/factors of 12h clock and protein quality control
  • To establish the causal relationships between the disruption of a 12h-clock with progression to aging-related metabolic diseases and the aging process as awhole, with the ultimate goal to successfully translate these knowledge intochronotherapy-based medicine and disease prevention

Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Neurogastroenterology:
Kathryn M Albers, PhD
Brian M. Davis, PhD
David Levinthal, MD, PhD
Hepatology:
Gavin Arteel, PhD
  • The liver/lung axis in alcohol-induced organ injury
  • The role of transient changes to the ECM in hepatic injury and inflammation
  • Using changes to the ECM as predictors of liver disease
  • Developing minimally-invasive biomarkers of liver disease based on the ECM
  • The degradome as a predictive tool for alcoholic hepatitis
  • Predicting long-term outcome in post SVR HCV patients
  • The liver/lung axis in alcohol-induced organ pathology
Ramon Bataller, MD, PhD
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Complications of liver cirrhosis
  • Translational research
  • Public health
  • Alcohol use disorder and Alcohol liver disease post bariatric surgery
  • Impact of pre-liver transplant renal failure among NAFLD and ALD patient outcomes
  • Effect of weather in regards to alcohol intake patterns and alcohol consumption and ALD
  • Non-invasive assessment of therapy response in AH
  • Early ALD detection and follow-up programs
  • Molecular phenotyping (multiOMICs)
  • Alcohol policies in the US: impact on alcoholic liver disease prevalence
  • Impact of inequality on alcoholism and alcoholic liver disease-related mortality
  • Mechanism of liver fibrosis in alcoholic hepatitis
Jaideep Behari, MD, PhD
  • Nonalcoholic (metabolic dysfunction associated) fatty liver disease (NAFLD/MAFLD)
  • Obesity
  • Dynamics of hepatic steatosis resolution with weight loss in NAFLD
  • Impact of multidisciplinary care on NAFLD/obesity
  • Using patient reported outcome measures in NAFLD/obesity care
Juliane I. Beier, PhD
Andres Duarte-Rojo, MD, PhD, FACP
Satdarshan (Paul) Monga, MD
Shari S. Rogal, MD, MPH
  • Liver pain
Inflammatory Bowel Disease:
David Binion, MD
  • Big Data and Precision Medicine
  • Predictive analytics
  • Metadata
  • Phenotyping
  • Trajectory analysis
  • Identifying biomarkers of severity in IBD
  • Predicting dysplasia/cancer in IBD patients with multiyear serum biomarkers
  • Dietary patterns of IBD patients in prolonged remission
  • Association of endoscopic findings with clinical trajectories in IBD
  • Identifying clinical factors contributing to high cost IBD patients
Rhonda Brand, PhD
Jeffrey M Dueker, MD, MPH
  • QI
Richard H. Duerr, MD
  • IBD genetics
Elyse Johnston, MD
  • QI
Pancreaticobiliary:
Randall E. Brand, MD
Kenneth E. Fasanella, MD
  • Advanced endoscopy
Jing Hu, PhD
Asif Khalid, MD
Yang Liu, PhD
Kevin McGrath, MD
  • Advanced endoscopy
Anna Evans Phillips, MD, MS
  • Medical pancreatology
Jami L. Saloman, PhD
  • Neuro-immune interactions
  • pain
  • peripheral nervous system
  • pancreatitis
  • cancer
  • Characterization of tumor inflitrating lymphocytes with respect to proximity to nerves. Technique involve multi-spectral immunohistochemical staining and analysis of patient and/or mouse pancreas tumors. Project would be completed under co-mentorship with Dr. Dario Vignali.
David C. Whitcomb, MD, PhD
  • Pancreas genetics
Dhiraj Yadav, MD, MPH
  • Epidemiology of pancreatitis
  • Relationship of diabetes and pancreatitis
  • Characterize disease progression/evolutionin pancreatitis
  • Randomized Clinical Trial in Pancreatitis
  • word
  • Systematic reviews of current interest in Pancreatitis
  • Develop project(s) on topics above based on interest of the resident
Colon Cancer:
Robert Schoen, MD, MPH
  • Prevention of colon cancer
  • Early detection of colon cancer
  • Quality of colonoscopy
  • Implementation of screening
  • To be developed based on interests of resident
Miscellaneous:
J. B. McGee, MD
  • Medical education technology
Eva M Szigethy, MD, PhD
  • Cognitive behavioral approaches to disease management

General Internal Medicine

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Quality Improvement and Hospital Operations:
Allison DeKosky, MD
Benjamin Sprague, MD, MS
Kristian Feterik, MD, MBA
  • Health IT
  • CPOE
  • Interoperability
  • Clinical decision making
  • Data mining
  • Quality improvement
  • Electronic prescribing at the time of discharge (2018
  • Deployment of EPCS (2019)
  • Improving utilization of cardiac monitoring (in process)
  • Controlled substance use in inpatient rehab (in process)
  • Cerner modernization including just in time EHR education
  • Dynamic documentation and patient handoff (2021)
John Szymusiak, MD, MS
  • Medical education
  • Quality improvement
  • I do not have anything specific going on right now but happy to help a resident with interest in getting a medical education or QI project off the ground. Past projects I have worked on include a QI project to improve mobility at SHY, a patient safety curriculum for pediatric residents, and an interprofessional education project involving nurse shadowing and interdisciplinary didactic sessions for pediatric residents.
Primary Care/Behavioral Health:
Bruce Rollman, MD, MPH
  • Behavioral health
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Primary care
  • Online and digital care
  • Impact of mood and/or anxiety and its treatment on health care utilization, quality of life, sleep, physical activity, and other clinical outcomes.
  • Predictors of recovery from depression and/or anxiety (including social determinants of health, personal and medical characteristics, social support, pain, ejection fraction, handgrip strength, optimism, physical activity, physical activity, etc.)
Ann-Marie Rosland, MD, MS
  • Complex chronic disease
  • Primary care organization
  • Intervention research
  • Care coordination
  • Health behavior change and self-management support
  • Membership in latent subgroupings of primary care patients with multiple chronic conditions and future health utilization and health outcomes
  • Patterns of clinical quality improvement across the VA after 4 years of PCMH implementation. Differences in patterns of quality gains with PCMH implementation for VA clinics serving high numbers of vulnerable patients
  • Roles family members play in helping patients with high-risk diabetes engage in medical care
  • Is day-to-day social support from family and friends correlated with patient activation and engagement in medical care?
General Medicine/General Determinants of Health:
Anna Donovan, MD, MS
  • Curriculum Development
  • Involving Graduate Medical Trainees in Improving Patient Communication
  • Gender Bias in Academic Evaluation, Promotion, and Retention
  • Teaching to teach in the inpatient setting (for students, residents, fellows, and faculty)
  • Patient-physician communicationas a tool to improve the patient experience
Utibe Essien, MD, MPH
  • Health disparities
  • Health equity
  • Social determinants of health
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Race, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic and Novel Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease
  • Race, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic and Novel Chronic Disease Management
  • Race, Ethnicity andthe Opioid Epidemic
Michael Fine, MD, MSc
  • Health equity
  • Health disparities
  • Prognosis and medical outcomes
  • Quality and equity of health care
  • Health services research
  • A revised pneumonia severity index (PSI) to identify high-risk patients
Leslie Hausmann, PhD
  • Perceived discrimination
  • Health and healthcare disparities
  • Patient experiences/satisfaction with care
  • Pain management
  • Are there racial or sex differences in perceived discrimination in a diverse sample of Veterans cared for in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System?
  • Is race-based or sex-based perceived discrimination associated with patient satisfaction, trust, or healthcare utilization in a diverse sample of Veterans cared for in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System?
  • Is perceived discrimination associated with self-reported pain or psychological well-being in a sample of African American and White Veterans with knee arthritis?
Tom Radomski, MD, MS
  • Health Services Research
  • Low Value Care
  • Low Value Prescribing
  • Health Service Utilization and Outcomes
  • Integrated Delivery and Financing Healthcare Systems
  • Observational and Quasi-Experimental Methods
  • A QI intervention to reduce redundant morning lab testing –Residents will have the opportunity to work in conjunction with UPMC and use real-time administrative data to champion a QI intervention to decrease redundant morning lab testing on the general medicine teaching teams within UPMC Montefiore Hospital. Residents may present their findings in the form of an abstract at national meetings and serve as an author on any paper resulting from this work.
Ken Smith, MD, MS
  • Cost-effectiveness analysis
  • Decision analysis
  • Adult pneumococcal vaccination
  • Influenza vaccination
  • Health disparities in underserved minorities
Galen Switzer, PhD
  • Organ/tissue donation
  • Organ/tissue transplantation
  • Health services research
  • Culture/ethnicity
  • Intimate partnerships and sexual function post stem cell transplant
  • Predictors of longer-term symptoms post stem cell donation
Women's Health:
Sonya Borrero, MD, MS
  • Reproductive health
  • Family planning
  • Women Veterans
  • Contraceptive service delivery
  • Reasons for contraceptive non-use at last sex
  • How does dual care (both in and outside of VA) compared to VA care alone impact contraceptive method selection
Holly Thomas, MD, MS
  • Female sexual function and dysfunction
  • Women’s health
  • Menopause
  • Aging
  • Sexual health
  • What is the role of race in women’s experiences of changes in sexual function during midlife?
  • What role does body image play in women’s experiences of sexual function during midlife?
  • What are the reasons that midlife women choose to be sexually active?
  • What is the cross-sectional relationship between psychosocial factors (i.e., social support) and sexual satisfaction in older women?
Patient Safety:
Gregory Bump, MD
  • Patient safety
  • Quality improvement
Michael Fine, MD, MSc
  • Health equity
  • Health disparities
  • Prognosis and medical outcomes
  • Quality and equity of health care
  • Health services research
  • A revised pneumonia severity index (PSI) to identify high-risk patients
Walid Gellad, MD, MPH
  • Pharmaceutical Policy
  • Health Policy
  • Pharmacoepidemiology
  • Opioids
Substance Use:
Esa Davis, MD, MPH
  • Tobacco use disorder and cessation
  • Tobacco Pharmacotherapy
  • Women’s Health
  • Maternal obesity and related health disparities
  • Comparative effectiveness studies
  • What patient and physician factors increase tobacco pharmacotherapy use during hospitalization
  • Can an electronic alert improve tobacco pharmacotherapy prescriptions at the time of discharge
  • What is the association of maternal stress and perinatal weight change
  • Reactive hypoglycemia in pregnant women
  • How weight affects glycemic levels in pregnant women at risk for gestational diabetes
Walid Gellad, MD, MPH
  • Pharmaceutical Policy
  • Health Policy
  • Pharmacoepidemiology
  • Opioids
Kevin Kraemer, MD, MSc
  • Substance use disorders
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Health services research
  • Assess the impact of alcohol and substance use disorders behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy on HIV outcomes, virologic control, quality of HIV care, and the HIV care continuum
  • Assess predictors of initiation, engagement, and retention in behavioral and pharmacotherapy for alcohol and substance use disorders
  • Mixed-methods assessment of impact of the Affordable Care Act on alcohol/drug treatment in HIV- infected Veteran
  • Assess provider-targeted behavioral interventions to prevent unsafe opioid prescribing
Jane Liebschutz, MD, MPH, MBA
  • Substance use disorder
  • Primary care
  • Chronic pain
  • Physician wellness
  • Health services research
  • Do PCPs with nurse support start patients on opioids more frequently compared to PCPs without nurse supports?
Jessica Merlin, MD, PhD, MBA
  • Chronic pain
  • HIV
  • Opioids
  • Behavioral science
  • Epidemiology
  • Medical marijuana
  • A resident could join the team of any of the projects described above and carve out their own niche.
Medical Education:
D. Michael Elnicki, MD
  • Medical student education
  • International medical education
  • Learning environment
  • Medical student well being
  • Do students learn about opioid prescribing better from VP SIM modules or from traditional teaching materials?
Melissa McNeil, MD, MPH
Carla Spagnoletti, MD, MS

Geriatric Medicine

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Huai Cheng, MD, MPH, MS
  • Curriculum development and systematic review in geriatric education and value- and preference-based prescribing and de-prescribing among older adults
Becky Clarkson, PhD
  • Understanding the brain-bladder connection and developing treatments for urgency incontinence
Daniel Forman, MD
  • Optimizing physical function in older cardiovascular patients, including clinical and translational initiatives
Susan Greenspan, MD
  • Healthy Aging
  • Healthy Aging Index
  • Osteoporosis
  • Falls
  • Fractures
  • Is the Index of Healthy Aging associated with Early Agers vs. Healthy Agers
Aditi Gurkar, PhD
Lab website
  • Understanding the biology of aging and age-related diseases
Steven Handler, MD, PhD
  • Telemedicine
  • Clinical decision support
  • Nursing homes
  • Post-acute care
  • Impact ofan on-demand acute care model usingtelemedicine to provide in-home care
  • Adoption, Use, and Impact of Telemedicine for Reducing Potentially AvoidableHospitalizations in Nursing Homes
  • Perceived utility of telemedicine for the provision of specialty service provider consultations in the nursing home setting
Mary Kotlarczyk, PhD
  • Sarcopenia
  • Osteoporosis
Lena K. Makaroun, MD, MS
  • Health services research
  • Elder abuse
  • Social determinants of aging health and violence in older adults
David Nace, MD, MPH
  • COVID-19 Policy and Response
  • Antimicrobial Stewardship
  • Influenza Prevention & Management
  • Infectious Diseases in Older Adults
Neelesh Nadkarni, MD, PhD
  • Preclinical Alzheimer's disease
  • the influence of Alzheimer's disease pathology and cerebral small-vessel disease on the interactions cognitive and motor functions in older adults
Subashan Perera, PhD
  • Aging
  • Clinical trials
  • Time series analysis
  • Item response theory
  • Classification and regression trees
Neil Resnick, MD
  • Incontinence and osteoporosis
    in older adults
Eric G. Rodriguez, MD, MPH
  • Alzheimer's Disease in older adults
Michelle Rossi, MD, MPH
  • Evaluation of new models of care in older adults
Karen Scandrett, MD, MPH
  • Culture of safety
  • Nursing home practice
  • Curriculum developmentfor patient safety
  • Call chat: Using a structured debrief to teach quality improvement
  • Call chat: Using a structure debrief to push practice forward
Leslie Scheunemann, MD, MPH
  • Post-Intensive Care Syndrome
  • Geriatrics
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Health Services Research
  • How intensivists and palliative care physicians talk with a simulated ICU family member about an incapacitated patient’s values and preferences. They can look at things like self-rated skill versus demonstration of skills, how skilled physicians engage in deliberative work, etc. They would need a palliative co-mentor.
Stasa D. Tadic, MD, MS
  • Geriatric urinary incontinence
Shachi Tyagi, MD, MS
  • worGeriatric nocturia and insomnia, their treatment, and their impactd
Debra Weiner, MD
  • Pain evaluation, dementia
  • Decompressive laminectomy outcomes, lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Chronic pain management, web app
  • Efficacy of an E-learning Module onEvaluation and Management of Pain in a Patient with Chronic Knee Pain and Dementia in Improving Medical Student Knowledge, Attitudes and Confidence
  • Toward Optimizing Decompressive Laminectomy Outcomes: Looking Outside the Spine
  • Building and Conducting Usability Testing of a Chronic Pain Management Web App

Hematology/Oncology

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Adam Brufsky, MD, PhD
  • Breast cancer applied immunology and molecular biology
  • Clinical trials
Diwakar Davar, MD
  • Translational immunooncology
  • Microbiome
  • Data driven decision making
  • Predicting relapse in high-risk LN negative melanoma - an integrative data analysis
  • Integration EHR-derived and genomic data to predict immunotherapy toxicity in cancer patients
Leisha Emens, MD, PhD
  • Breast cancer immunotherapy
Ellen Ormond, PhD
  • Advance Care Planning
  • Health Services Delivery
  • Financial Toxicity
Warren Shlomchik, MD
  • Allogeneic stem cell transplantation
  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • Adoptive cell therapy
Antoinette Wozniak, MD, FACP, FASCO
  • Lung Cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Supportive care
Solid Tumors:
Tim Burns, MD, PhD
  • Lung Cancer
  • Targeted therapy
  • Therapeutic resistance
  • Brain metastases
  • EMT
  • Role of EMT phenotype in oncogene driver defined NSCLC and outcome
  • Development of next generation TWIST1 inhibitors for NSCLC
  • Characterization of alterations enriched in lung cancer brain metastases
  • Novel ERK inhibitors combinations to overcome resistance in oncogene driver dependent NSCLC
  • Clinical characteristics and prognostic significance of molecular subsets in lung cancer
Lan Coffman, MD, PhD
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Tumor microenvironment
  • Carcinoma-associated mesenchymal stem cells
  • Mechanisms of metastasis
  • Epigenetic regulation of tumor stroma
  • Targeting ovarian cancer metastasis by disruption of cell surface protein interactions between ovarian cancer cells and CA-MSCs
  • Define the tumor induced epigenetic regulation of CA-MSCs
  • Determine if CA-MSCs co-migrate with tumor cells duringovarian cancer metastasis
  • Define the impact of hypoxia signaling on the function of CA-MSCs through investigation of HIF1a and HIF2a signaling
  • Define the role of GADD45a on the conversion of a MSC into a CA-MSC
John Kirkwood, MD
  • Melanoma and its precursors
  • Immune checkpoint blockade and immunotherapy with cytokines, interferons, toll- like receptor agonists (TLR-9), and antitumor antibodies
  • Tumor immune response analysis
  • Combined third generation checkpoint blockade (anti-LAG3) in combination with second-generation checkpoint blockade (anti-PD1) for metastatic melanoma
  • Combined second generation checkpoint blockade with TLR 9 agonists for treatment of metastatic melanoma and for adjuvant therapy
  • Neoadjuvant combinations with anti-PD1 for preoperative therapy of stage III (nodal) metastatic Melanoma: (a) oncolytic viruses; (b) TLR 9 agonists and other pro-inflammatory agents; (c) metabolic modulators of the tumor micro-environment
  • BRAF inhibitor/MEK inhibitor combinations with anti-PD1 in metastatic melanoma, and in neoadjuvant treatment of operable melanoma
Immune Therapy:
John Kirkwood, MD
  • Melanoma and its precursors
  • Immune checkpoint blockade and immunotherapy with cytokines and interferons and antitumor antibody
  • Tumor immune response analysis
  • Combined third generation checkpoint blockade (anti-LAG3) in combination with second-generation checkpoint blockade (anti-PD1) for metastatic melanoma
  • Combined second generation checkpoint blockade with TLR 9 agonists for treatment of metastatic melanoma and for adjuvant therapy
  • Neoadjuvant combinations with anti-PD1 for preoperative therapy of stage III (nodal) metastatic Melanoma: (a) oncolytic viruses; (b) TLR 9 agonists and other pro-inflammatory agents; (c) metabolic modulators of the tumor micro-environment
  • BRAF inhibitor/MEK inhibitor combinations with anti-PD1 in metastatic melanoma, and in neoadjuvant treatment of operable melanoma
Cancer Survivorship/Quality of Life:
G van Londen, MD, MS
  • Cancer Survivorship
  • Geriatric Oncology
  • Quality of Life
  • Health care utilization
  • Small projects that are easily doable after hours to produce abstract/poster/paper.
Hematology:
Laura M. De Castro, MD
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Drug therapy
  • Neurocognitive issues
  • Medical marijuana
  • Advance directives
Enrico Novelli, MD, MS
  • Sickle cell disease
Maggie Ragni MD, MPH
  • Clinical translational studies in hemophilia
  • von Willebrand disease
  • Novel non-factor therapies
  • Gene therapy in hemophilia
  • What is the role of joint bleed-elaborated cytokines in inhibitor formation?
  • Are lymphomas increasing in well-controlled HIV/HCV coinfection in hemophilia?
  • Are hepatocellular cancers increasing in HCV treated hemophilia ?
  • Does emicizumab provide bleed control in VWD and hemophilia carriers?

Infectious Diseases

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Transplant ID:
Rima Abdel-Massih, MD
  • Telemedicine
  • Fungal infections
  • Immunosuppression
  • Viral infections
  • Outcome analysis of infectious diseases consultations via telemedicine
  • Patient and provider satisfaction with Tele-Infectious Diseases services
  • Curbside and e-consultation in Infectious diseases:practice review and applications
  • Aspergillus calidoustus infections in solid organ transplant recipients
  • Adenovirus infection in solid organ transplant recipients
Tatiana Bogdanovich, MD, PhD, MSc
  • FMT
  • Fecal donor screening
  • Fecal shedding of latent viruses
  • FMT donor recruitment
  • Epidemiology of latent virus serostatus among volunteer vs patient-directed FMT donors
  • Descriptive epidemiology of FMT recipients and prospective FMT candidates
Ghady Haidar, MD
  • Solid organ transplant infections
  • Multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria
  • HIV-to-HIV SOT
  • Invasive mold disease
  • Clinical
  • Clofazimine for Mycobacterium abscessus in SOT
  • Outcomes data for patients with MSSA LVAD infections
  • Infectious complications of belatacept in lung transplant recipients
Eun Jeong Kwak, MD
  • Infections in solid organ transplant recipients
  • Non tuberculosis mycobacteria
  • Antibiotic stewardship in solid organ transplant recipients
  • Case report of Rhodococcus pneumonia in a renal transplant recipient
General ID:
Karin Byers, MD, MS
  • Improving education and follow up for patients with HCV infection
Carolyn Fernandes, MD
  • Case report
  • Case series
  • Granulomatous pneumocystis jirovechii lung infection
  • Spectrum of Lyme disease presenting to an urban ID Clinic
Neel Shah, MD
  • Total knee arthroplasty
  • Debridement and prosthesis retention
  • Infection
  • Clinical risk factors and outcomes of patients who undergo retention of infected total knee arthroplasties
Kathleen Sheridan, DO
  • OPAT
  • Telemedicine
  • IVDA
  • Use of telemedicine in monitoring patients on OPAT
  • Outcomes for patients seen by a general ID consult service via telemedicine
  • Outcomes for IVDA patients discharged on PO antibiotics vs maintained in house for IV antibiotics
Giraldina Trevejo-Nunez, MD
J. Alex Vieman, MD
  • Antibiotic stewardship
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Drug adverse events
  • Duration of therapy in gram negative infections
  • Antibiotics for VRE bacteremia
Epidemiology:
Lee Harrison, MD
Lab website
  • Bacterial genomics
  • Genomic epidemiology
  • Outbreak detection
  • Microbiome
  • Public health surveillance
  • Enhanced detection system for hospital-acquired transmission of bacteria(EDS-HAT)
  • Examining the utility of the peri-rectal microbiome to identify hospitalized patients at high risk of developing serious bacterial infection
  • Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs)inMaryland
Fungal Infections:
Neil Clancy, MD
Lab website
  • Candida
  • Invasive candidiasis
  • Carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae
  • Antimicrobial resistant bacteria and fungi
  • Legionella
  • Invasive fungal infections, including studies on epidemiology, emerging mold infections among the non-traditional non-immunocompromised hosts, diagnostics, antifungal resistance, and molecular mechanisms and animal models of pathogenesis
  • Non-cultural diagnostics for mold infection
  • In vitro antifungal susceptibility testing of isavuconazole against yeast and molds
  • Extensively-drug resistant Gram negative infections, including studies on epidemiology, devising and implementing optimal treatment strategies, molecular mechanisms and evolution of resistance, animal models of infection, and association between resistance and virulence
  • Evaluation of novel antibiotics (currently in Phase 2-3 clinical trials) against carbepenem-resistant Gram negative. Drugs in the pipeline include imipenem-relabactam, meropenem-vaborbactam, etc.
  • Induction of resistance to novel antibiotics in vitro against CRE, and evaluation of mechanisms of resistanceInduction of resistance to novel antibiotics in vitro against CRE, and evaluation of mechanisms of resistance
Minh-Hong Nguyen, MD
Lab website
  • Non-culture diagnosis for invasive fungal infections
  • Novel antibiotics for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriacea
HIV:
Malak Bokhari, MD, MPH
  • HPV in women who are HIV positive
  • HPV in anal canal in women with cervical HPV
  • HPV and anal dysplasia in transplanted patients
  • Prevalence of anal HPV in HIV positive women who have cervical HPV
Ken Ho, MD, MPH
  • PrEP
  • Microbicides
  • Implementation Science
  • Clinical trials
  • Investigating pre-exposure prophylaxis in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (demographic characteristics, assessing risk of compensation, changes in STI rates and condom use pre and post PREP)
Beej Macatangay, MD
Lab website
  • adenosine, CD39, CD73, inflammation, immune activation
  • regulatory T cells, myeloid derived suppressor cells, exosomes
  • HIV-specific responses, dendritic cells, therapeutic vaccines, innate immunity
Deborah McMahon, MD
  • HIV-infected adults
  • Smoking history
  • History of pulmonary disease
  • Develop/Implement Lung Cancer Screening Program in HIV+ Patients
John Mellors, MD
Lab website
  • HIV infection
  • HIV cure
  • Therapies to cure HIV infection
  • HIV clinical trials
  • Quantification and molecular characterization of persistent HIV
  • Identifying cellular and anatomic sites of HIV persistence in vivo
  • Targeting sites of HIV persistence ex vivo and in vivo through clinical trials with monoclonal antibodies, TLR agonists, immune checkpoint inhibitors, and therapeutic vaccines
Nicolas Sluis-Cremer, PhD
Lab website
  • HIV
  • resistance
  • persistence
  • latency
  • antibiotics
  • Resistance and cross-resistance to the nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) drug class in low and middle income countries
  • Structure-function-activity relationships in HIV reverse transcriptase
  • Mechanisms by which HIV-1 latency is established and reversed in resting CD4+ T cells
  • Identification and development of novel antimicrobial agents
  • Discovery and characterization of small molecules that antagonize fosfomycin resistance in Gram-negative bacteria
Antobiotic Resistance:
Yohei Doi, MD
Lab website
Daria Van Tyne, PhD
Lab website
Medical Education/QI:
Peter Veldkamp, MD, MS
  • Education
  • QI
  • HIV, HCV, HBV
  • ACP
  • Organ donation

Palliative Care

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Palliative Care:
Bob Arnold, MD
  • Symptom Management
  • Palliative Care
  • Doctor - Patient Communication
  • Sleep interruptions in the hospital
  • Conflicting Information in the ICU
Kong Chen, PhD (PACCM)
  • Mucosal immunology
  • Vaccine and Host defense
  • Epigenetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Vaccine development for MDR gram-negative bacteria
  • Defining the cellular sources of IL-17 by unbiased single-cell RNA-seq and ATAC-seq
  • Dysregulation of chemokine productions in Cystic Fibrosisand transplant rejectionlungs
Jessica Merlin, MD, PhD, MBA
  • Chronic pain
  • HIV
  • Opioids
  • Behavioral science
  • Epidemiology
  • Medical marijuana
  • A resident could join the team of any of the projects described above and carve out their own niche.
Yael Schenker, MD, MAS
  • Primary palliative care
  • Advance care planning
  • Surrogate decision making
  • Health care advertising

Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
COPD:
Jessica Bon Field, MD, MS
  • COPD
  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Inflammation
  • Autoimmunity
  • Impact of incident vertebral fractures on pulmonary physiology in COPD
  • Impact of adiposity on COPD outcomes
  • Determinants of muscle function in COPD
Toru Nyunoya, MD
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • DNA damage
  • Cellular senescence
  • Protein turnover
  • Gene Expression Analysis to Identify Common Pathways Between Cigarette Smoke Exposure and Replicative Senescence
  • A novel modulator for cigarette smoke-induced COPD
Divay Chandra, MD, MSc
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • COPD
  • HIV
  • HSP60 auto-antibodies and atherosclerosis in smokers
  • Determinants of progression of carotid and coronary atherosclerosis in smokers
  • Second-hand smoke exposure and autoimmunity
Corrine R. Kliment, MD, PhD
Asthma:
Sally Wenzel, MD
  • Airway epithelium
  • Environment
  • Mast cells
  • Ferroptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Relationship of autoimmunity to severe asthma
  • Longterm outcomes in asthmatic granulomatosis
  • Enviornmental issues in asthma
Marc C. Gauthier, MD
Acute Lung Injury:
Janet Lee, MD
  • Host defense
  • Lung injury
  • Pneumonia
  • Sepsis
  • Kinetics of complement activity and host factors in the ICU
  • Transcriptomic profiling of macrophage Acod1-mediated signaling during K. pneumoniae infection
  • Screening P. aeruginosa ICU respiratory isolates for proteolytic activity and biofilm growth
  • word
  • Investigating P. aeruginosa Type 2 secretion system exoproducts in lung epithelial cell death
Nate Weathington, MD, PhD
  • Translational
  • Inflammation
  • Cellular Signaling
  • Diverse Techniques
  • Drug effects on metabolism in human alveolar macrophages impacts polarization
  • Modulation of the human Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane regulator CFTR abundance by a novel small molecule inhibitor of ubiquitination
  • Opioid effects on macrophage metabolism
Bill Chen, PhD
Lab website
  • Drug discovery
  • E3 ligase
  • Ubiquitination
  • Innate immunity
  • Inflammation
  • Lung injury
  • Fibrosis
  • Cancer
  • Anti-neoplastic effects of DCUN1D1 inhibitor in lung cancer
  • Regulation of lung inflammation by CRBN/IDO1 axis
  • Regulation of CXCR4 protein stability in lung injury
John Evankovich, MD
Will Bain, MD
Tobacco Use:
Divay Chandra, MD, MSc
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • COPD
  • HIV
  • HSP60 auto-antibodies and atherosclerosis in smokers
  • Determinants of progression of carotid and coronary atherosclerosis in smokers
  • Second-hand smoke exposure and autoimmunity
Bill Chen, PhD
Lab website
  • Drug discovery
  • E3 ligase
  • Ubiquitination
  • Innate immunity
  • Inflammation
  • Lung injury
  • Fibrosis
  • Cancer
  • Anti-neoplastic effects of DCUN1D1 inhibitor in lung cancer
  • Regulation of lung inflammation by CRBN/IDO1 axis
  • Regulation of CXCR4 protein stability in lung injury
Toru Nyunoya, MD
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • DNA damage
  • Cellular senescence
  • Protein turnover
  • Gene Expression Analysis to Identify Common Pathways Between Cigarette Smoke Exposure and Replicative Senescence
  • A novel modulator for cigarette smoke-induced COPD
Lung Cancer:
Bill Chen, PhD
Lab website
  • Drug discovery
  • E3 ligase
  • Ubiquitination
  • Innate immunity
  • Inflammation
  • Lung injury
  • Fibrosis
  • Cancer
  • Anti-neoplastic effects of DCUN1D1 inhibitor in lung cancer
  • Regulation of lung inflammation by CRBN/IDO1 axis
  • Regulation of CXCR4 protein stability in lung injury
David O. Wilson, MD, MPH
Pulmonary Hypertension:
Mark Gladwin, MD
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Hemolysis
  • Nitrite
Michael G. Risbano, MD, MA
Belinda N Rivera-Lebron, MD, MSCE
  • Pulmonary Embolism Outcomes
  • Pulmonary Embolism Response Team
Interstitial Lung Disease:
Daniel Kass, MD
  • Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD)
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF)
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Systemic Sclerosis (SSc)
  • Chronic Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis
  • Simmons Center ILD Comorbidity Index
  • Simmons Center experience with methotrexate, leflunomide, and infliximab in sarcoid
  • Sarcoid biomarkers of disease severity and extrapulmonary manifestations
Jonathan Alder, PhD
Pulmonary Infectious Disease/Microbiome:
Alison Morris, MD, MS
  • Microbiome
  • COPD
  • HIV
  • Translational
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • How does cardiac function change over time in HIV?
  • What predicts development of emphysema on CT in HIV?
  • Is fungal translocation related to the oral or lung microbiome?
Keven Robinson, MD
  • Host defense
  • Lung injury
  • Pneumonia
  • Influenza
  • Type 2 immunity during influenza and secondary bacterial pneumonia
  • Influenza complicated by secondary invasive pulmonary aspergillosis
Georgios Kitsios, MD, PhD
  • Critical illness microbiome
  • Severe pneumonia and ARDS
  • Next-generation sequencing diagnostics
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplant
  • Etiologic pathogen diagnosis in severe pneumonia based on plasma cell-free bacterial DNA sequencing
  • Prediction of ventilator-associated pneumonia based on lung microbiome profiles
  • Inflammatory subphenotypes of ARDS and relationship to lung microbiota
Critical Care:
Bryan McVerry, MD
  • Sepsis
  • ARDS
  • Microbiome
  • Metabolic dysfunction
  • Nutrition in critical illness
  • Metabolic dysfunction in critical illness – how does it happen and how can we prevent it
  • The microbiome – another organ system to consider in the ICU
  • Phenotypes and therapies for ARDS
  • MICU Quality Improvement
Leslie Scheunemann, MD, MPH
  • Post-Intensive Care Syndrome
  • Geriatrics
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Health Services Research
  • How intensivists and palliative care physicians talk with a simulated ICU family member about an incapacitated patient’s values and preferences. They can look at things like self-rated skill versus demonstration of skills, how skilled physicians engage in deliberative work, etc. They would need a palliative co-mentor.
Faraaz Ali Shah, MD, MPH
Ian J. Barbash, MD, MS
  • Critical care health services research
  • Changes in antibiotic prescribing in association with sepsis policy
  • Changes in treatment and outcomes in association with sepsis policy
Sleep:
Sanjay Patel MD, MS
  • Sleep apnea
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Epidemiology
  • Disparities
  • Racial disparities in presentation for sleep apnea evaluation
  • Patient preference for how CPAP therapy is initiated
  • Does sleep apnea increase risk of incident cancer?
Christopher O'Donnell, PhD
  • Sleep
  • Metabolism
  • Integrative physiology
  • Control of breathing
  • Cardiovascular
Cystic Fibrosis:
Nate Weathington, MD, PhD
  • Translational
  • Inflammation
  • Cellular Signaling
  • Diverse Techniques
  • Drug effects on metabolism in human alveolar macrophages impacts polarization
  • Modulation of the human Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane regulator CFTR abundance by a novel small molecule inhibitor of ubiquitination
  • Opioid effects on macrophage metabolism
Michael Myerburg, MD
Keven Robinson, MD
  • Host defense
  • Lung injury
  • Pneumonia
  • Influenza
  • Type 2 immunity during influenza and secondary bacterial pneumonia
  • Influenza complicated by secondary invasive pulmonary aspergillosis
Medical Education:
Jared Chiarchiaro, MD
  • Communication
  • Feedback delivery and receipt
  • Curriculum development and assessment
  • Procedures
  • Simulation
  • Assessment of housestaff competency in family meetings for seriously ill patients
  • Measuring the effects of novel, competency-based fellow and faculty evaluation forms
  • Further development of housestaff CXR curriculum
  • Development and assessment of a curriculum for lung point of care ultrasound
  • Development and assessment of outpatient pulmonary curriculum
Stephanie Maximous, MD
Phil Lamberty, MD
Megan Acho, MD
Lung Transplant:
Kong Chen, PhD (PACCM) 
  • Mucosal immunology
  • Vaccine and Host defense
  • Epigenetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Vaccine development for MDR gram-negative bacteria
  • Defining the cellular sources of IL-17 by unbiased single-cell RNA-seq and ATAC-seq
  • Dysregulation of chemokine productions in Cystic Fibrosisand transplant rejectionlungs
John F. McDyer, MD
Matthew R. Morrell, MD
Mark E. Snyder, MD
  • Lung Transplant
  • Lung Immunology
  • Translational Immunology
  • Impact of recipient age on the risk of acute cellular rejection after lung transplantation (epidemiological study with plans to do more translational analysis on T cell function)
  • Role of CD101 in promoting immune tolerance
  • Impact of lung resident macrophages on lung T cell function

Renal-Electrolyte

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Basic Science:
Gerard Apodaca, PhD
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Epithelial biology
  • Urothelium
  • Bladder
  • Membrane traffic
  • Role of Piezo1 in bladder function
  • UPK3a function during urinary tract development
  • Localization of proteins in human urothelium
Cary Boyd-Shiwarski, MD, PhD
  • Potassium Homeostasis
  • WNK kinases
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney Transplant
  • Timecourse of WNK1 puncta formation and dissipation in mice after varying dietary potassium
  • Tacrolimus induced WNK body formation in human kidney transplant recipients
  • Effect of dietary potassium on ion transporters in the nephron
  • Creation and characterization of L-WNK1-GFP cell line using CRISPR
Marcelo Carattino, PhD
  • Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs)
  • Urothelial barrier
  • Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome
  • Mechanoreception and nociception
  • Sensory neurons
  • Contribution of urinary K to the generation of interstitial cystitis symptoms (study in animal model of interstitial cystitis)
  • Contribution of claudin-2 to interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (analysis of human samples)
  • Characterization of a novel mouse model of interstitial cystitis (transgenic animal generated in our lab)
  • Role of ASIC3 in the modulation of pain in a cyclophosphamide model of cystitis (study with ASIC3 knockout mice)
  • Expression of ASIC3 in urinary bladder afferents
Rebecca P Hughey, PhD
Ossama B. Kashlan, PhD
Thomas Kleyman, MD
  • Renal Na transporters
  • Renal K transporters
  • Salt-sensitive hypertension
  • Renal mechanosensors
  • Functional studies of human epithelial Na channel variants
  • Functional studies of renal mechanosensors
  • Contributions of transporter variants to blood pressure control in humans
Evan Ray, MD, PhD
  • Nephrology
  • Renal
  • Electrolyte
  • Minerals
  • Bone
  • Lactation
  • Nursing
  • Hypertension
  • Mechanisms of electrolyte homeostasis and systemic effects of electrolyte depletion, both in adults and in offspring of animals / children born to electrolyte-depleted mothers. These studies may include work with animals and/or processing tissue samples to measure electrolyte levels or gene expression levels (e.g. Western blot/qPCR).
  • We also have projects that include review of human data - either chart review or collected prospectively.
Arohan Subramanya, MD
  • Potassium Homeostasis
  • Hypokalemic Nephropathy
  • Cell Signaling
  • Ion Transport
  • Analyzing potassium balance in renal transplant patients
  • Immunostaining of tissues from protocol biopsies from renal transplant patients
  • Quantification of intracellular kinases that are activated in the kidney tubule during potassium imbalance
Roderick Tan, MD, PhD
Lab website
  • Acute kidney Injury
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Kidney Ultrasound (super-resolution)
  • Bedside ultrasound evaluation of renal vasculature (recruitment, scanning, or data analysis are all needed)

  • Basic science projects in AKI and CKD
Ora Weisz, PhD
  • Lowe syndrome/Dent disease
  • Sickle cell disease/hemoglobin
  • Megalin/cubilin
  • Impact of hemolysis and rhabdomyolysis on proximal tubule uptake of normally filtered ligands
  • Transcriptional control of proximal tubule endocytic pathway capacity
  • Etiology of Dent disease in mice models and CRISPR/Cas9 edited proximal tubule cell lines
  • Using human stem cell organoids to study genetic diseases of the kidney
Clinical and Translational Research:
Amar Bansal, MD FASN
  • Nephrology
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Palliative care
  • Advance care planning
  • Conservative care
  • A medical resident continues to work on a retrospective chart review of the patients seen in our renal supportive care clinic. This work resulted in a first-author abstract at our national meeting and a research manuscript is in the drafting process as of late 2020.
Aravind Cherukuri, MBBS, PhD, MRCP
Ranil DeSilva, MD
Sundaram Hariharan, MD
Manisha Jhamb, MD, MPH
  • Health related quality of life
  • Symptom management (pain, sleep, depression)
  • Health-related quality of life in kidney disease
  • EHR based research
  • Characteristics of advanced CKD patients referred to vs not referred to nephrology
  • Characteristics of patients prescribed vs not prescribed SGLT2i for CKD mng
  • Pain management in ESRD
Paul Palevsky, MD
  • Acute Kidney Injury
  • Renal Replacement Therapy
  • Unfortunately, current projects do not have a time frame appropriate for a resident.
Chethan Puttarajappa, MD
  • Kidney transplantation
  • HLA crossmatch
  • Medication adherence
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Self-reported adherence and transplant outcomes
  • Risk factors modifying transplant outcomes for obese recipients
Helbert Rondon, MD, MS
  • Hyponatremia
  • POCUS assessment of extracellular fluid volume in hyponatremia
David Rothstein, MD
Steven Weisborg, MD, MSc
  • Contrast nephropathy
  • Acute kidney injury
Jane Schell, MD
Shujie Shi, PhD
  • ENaC
  • Paraoxonase 2
  • CCD cells
  • Aldosterone
  • ENaC regulation by paraoxonase 2 in mousse CCD cells

Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology

PIKey WordsTitle(s) for Shovel-Ready Research Projects
Dana Ascherman, MD
  • Myositis & Autoimmune Interstitial Lung Dis-ease. Research focus: Determinants of tis-sue tropism; Biomarker discovery & pathway analysis; Epitope spreading in human and mouse samples. Correlation of CD4/CD8 DP T cell activity with therapeutic response; Autoantibodies associated with checkpoint inhibitors.
Amr Sawalha, MD
  • Evaluates the genetic & epigenetics causa-tion of complex autoimmune diseases. Spe-cial focus on lupus & lupus nephritis, vascu-litis (Bechet’s disesase, Takayasu arteritis), antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. Develops genetic & epigenetic biomarkers of disease severity, activity, re-sponse to treatment, phenotypic progression. Participates in a number of International collaborations.
Kathryn Torok, MD
  • Uses human and mouse models to study disease pathogenesis and treatment re-sponse in pediatric scleroderma. Partici-pates in multi-center studies & clinical tri-als. Performs cytokine analyses, evaluates for cellular sig-nals in the skin & peripheral blood. Developing a compo-site indicator for disease activity. Works with RNA se-quencing. Assesses histology inflammatory scores to evalu-ate how gene regulation correlates with biopsy findings.
Jeremy Tilstra, MD, PhD
  • Research focus: T cell activation, exhaus-tion, and infiltration into tissue. RNA sequencing; Tissue changes in inflamma-tion; T cell specificity in tissue; Toll-like receptor signaling in lupus. Antigen speci-ficity or clonality & role of T cells in renal diseases. Meta-bolic reprogramming of the kidney in lupus nephritis.
Amanda C. Poholek, PhD
  • Cell differentiation and transcriptional specificity and epigenetics. Studies envi-ronmental signals that control transcrip-tion factor expression; Metabolic environ-ment and T cell expression.
Scott W. Canna, MD
  • Innate immunity and autoinflammation. Us-es observational data from pediatric sam-ples to study host susceptibility to systemic inflammation. Other projects: Evaluating inflammatory pathways in COVID-19; Map-ping protein-protein interactomes in mono-genic human immune dysregulation disorders; In vivo as-sessment of responses to intestinal wound healing; Model-ing effects of type 1 immunity on macrophage function.
Abbe de Vallejo, PhD
  • Metabolic environment and T cell expres-sion in rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idio-pathic arthritis, and lupus. Interested in premature aging and senescence in the immune system, including measures of frailty & successful aging. Studies lipid me-tabolism disorders in the context of pediatric metabolic syndrome.
Clinical Rheumatology:
Rohit Aggarwal, MD, MS
  • Myositis and Autoimmune Interstitial Lung Disease research. Has developed a myo-sitis tele-research focus (My PACER study). Research focus: Develop objective measures of patient physical functioning, patient-centered outcomes.
  • Clinical epidemiological research in Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis as well as myositis associated interstitial lung diseasea)clinical phenotype and prognosis of various different myositis specific autoantibody,b)efficacy and safety of medications used in myositis, c)predictors and outcomes of interstitial lung disease in myositis
  • Patient reported outcomes and functional outcomes in myositis. We have 50 patient longitudinal study databasewhich evaluated various outcome measures on patients with myositis including PROs, functional measures, physical activity measures and traditional myositis disease activity assessments
Mehret Birru-Talabi, MD, PhD
  • Women’s health in rheumatology. Qualita-tive and epidemiologic methodologies. Re-search focus: Reproductive health care, re-productive outcomes, pre-pregnancy plan-ning, medication adherence, patient-centered outcomes research, assessment of cervical cancer screening & mam-mography, patient registry development.
Robyn Domsic, MD, MPH
  • Scleroderma and Raynaud’s research. Pro-jects include: Assessing occupational expo-sure data using the 30-year Scleroderma pa-tient registry; creating risk stratification strategies for patients with scleroderma; describing Incidence/prevalence of sclero-derma in Allegheny County; conducting investigator-initiated observational trials for Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Assessing occupational exposure data using the 30-year Scleroderma patient registry
  • Creating risk stratification strategies for patients with scleroderma
  • Describing Incidence/prevalence of scleroderma in Allegheny County
  • Conducting investigator-initiated observational trials for Raynaud’s phenomenon
Kim Liang, MD
  • CV risk factors
  • Biomarkers
  • Atherosclerosis
  • RA
  • Large Vessel Vasculitis –Disease Activity vs. Damage
  • Cardiovascular (CV) Disease in Rheumatoid Arthritis
Chet Oddis, MD
  • Myositis research. Studies epidemiology, clinical features, autoantibody correla-tions , and treatment of myositis; multi-site clinical trials; registry development.
  • Scholarly project in Myositis: Clinical epidemiological research in Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis as well as myositis associated interstitial lung disease research projects include looking at clinical phenotype and prognosis of myositis specific autoantibody, efficacy and safety of medications used in myositis, predictors and outcomes of interstitial lung disease in myositis, patient reported outcomes and functional outcomes in myositis, etc.
J. Steuart Richards, MBBS
  • Epidemiology. Multiple VA data sets: VA Rheumatoid Arthritis Registry (VARA; 14 centers, >3000 patients enrolled). Gout Database. PULSAR (Program to Under-stand Spondyloarthritis Registry). Prospec-tive clinical & administrative data (labs, comorbid disease, medications, pharmacy refills). Longitudinal measures of disease activity, biologic measures, and assessment of metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, CVD among patients with rheumatic diseases.
  • We are establishing the Pittsburgh VA as a site for the VARA (Veterans Affairs Rheumatoid Arthritis Registry) and PULSAR (Program to Understand the Long-term Outcomes of Spondylarthritis), the latter is similar to VARA but for spondyloarthopathy related diseases. Once established these may serve as a database for research questions for both Fellows and Residents or Medical Students
  • Longitudinal measures of disease activity, biologic measures, and assessment of metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, CVD among patients with rheumatic diseases
Immunology:
Partha Biswas, DVM, PhD
  • Studies mechanisms of breakdown of im-munological tolerance. Mechanisms of end-organ damage from immunologic break-down. Autoimmune glomerulonephritis. Immune abnormalities & susceptibility to infection in patients with kidney disease. Fungal infections in kidney disease. Understand mecha-nisms of neutrophil dysfunction in patients with ESRD un-dergoing dialysis. Identify uremic toxins that causes neu-trophil dysfunction in patients with kidney disease.
  • Chronic inflammatory kidney disease – basic and translational research.The project will focus on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of chronic kidney diseases including lupus nephritis. More specifically, we will define the role of inflammatory cytokines such as IL-17 in the pathogenesis of renal inflammation and its progression to end-stage renal diseases
Patrizia Fuschiotti, PhD
  • IL-13; Cutaneous T cell lymphoma & SSc. Evaluating the role of IL-13 and its recep-tors in fibrosis, autoimmunity (systemic sclerosis), cancer. Developing strategies aimed at IL-13 and its molecular pathways to create novel therapeutics.
  • Functional studies of immune cells in the skin of patients with scleroderma. Primary cells purified from skin and ex vivo skin explant assays will be employed
  • Identify the signaling pathways activated in immune cells in the blood and skin of scleroderma patients using biochemical and biophysical techniques.
  • Preclinical studies testing novel therapeutics for scleroderma in human skin and lung explants.
  • Discovery of altered immune cell phenotypes in scleroderma skin using single cell RNA-seq.
  • Identify and block the IL-13 signaling pathways involved in proliferation of CTCL tumor cells
  • Transcriptome profiling by single cell RNA-seq of malignant lymphocytes and cells of the tumor microenvironment in CTCL skin tumors
Sarah Gaffen, PhD
Lab website
  • Studies the role of IL-17 in candidiasis, psori-asis. Research focus: Evaluating fungal im-munity & autoimmunity; Understanding the feedback inhibitors of RNA; Studying IL-17 molecular signaling & role of RNA regulating proteins; IL-17 signaling- transcription factors. IL-17 auto-immune-mediated glomerulonephritis (collaboration with Dr. Biswas).
  • Basic Research on the cytokine IL-17. The Gaffen lab focuses on the biology of Th17 cells and their signature cytokine IL-17. Potential projects include mouse-based or tissue culture-based studies of IL-17 signaling. Techniques include mouse models of disease, flow cytometry, ELISA, qPCR, RNA-based molecular biology.
Robert Lafyatis, MD
  • Studies the role of myofibroblasts in path-ogenesis of scleroderma. Understanding how various cell types interact & contrib-ute to skin changes of SSc. Transciptome-phenotype of the cell in its normal state, how the cell types are interrelated, & how this relates to skin fibrosis. Understanding role of macrophages & myofi-broblasts in scleroderma interstitial lung disease.
  • Bioinformaticanalyses of skin mRNA and serum biomarkers in therapeutic trials of patients with systemic sclerosis
  • Examine a marker of altered immune or vascular cell phenotype in affected skin or lungs of patients with systemic sclerosis based on data from single cell RNA-seq
  • Preclinical studies testing novel therapeutics for systemic sclerosis in human skin and lung explant, and murine models
  • Developing a new model for systemic sclerosis in immunodeficient mice
  • Discovery of altered immune cell and vascular cell phenotypes in scleroderma skin using single cell RNA-seq
Mandy McGeachy, PhD
Lab website
  • Studies how inflammatory TH17 cells are generated, regulated, and mediate effects through IL-17 in CNS, gut, and lymphoid tis-sues. Evaluates how to modulate TH-17 pa-thology while conserving protective effects of TH-17 cells. Uses models of autoimmune diseases and infection.
  • Basic research on th17 cells –The McGeachy lab aims to understand the mechanisms through which inflammatory th17 cells are activated and regulated; potential projects would involve in vitro culture of mouse and/or human T cells under varying stimulation conditions, analysis by flow cytometry, qPCR and ELISA.

For additional information about the LEAD program, please contact:

Dr. Jessica Merlin
LEAD Program Director

Dr. Alison Morris
LEAD Program Associate Director

Dr. Jessica Bon
LEAD Associate Program Director for Research,
LEAD Executive Committee