MWAFMR Career Development Workshop

Jessica R. SnowdenJessica R. Snowden, MD
Chief of Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Jessica Snowden, MD, MS, MHPTT, is Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Pediatrics and Associate Director of Clinical and Translational Research at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute. She is the Principal Investigator of the IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trial Network’s Data Coordinating and Operations Center, directing clinical operations for trial implementation and professional development across an 18-state NIH funded research group. She holds the Horace C. Cabe Endowed Chair in Pediatric Infectious Disease. In addition to her clinical research, she has a long history of active involvement in NIH-funded basic science research; medical student, resident, and, fellow education; and multiple awards for her excellence in teaching, research, and hospital quality. She has been recognized as a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP), Fellow of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society (FPIDS), and Fellow of the Infectious Disease Society of America (FIDSA) and is a member of several national committees focused on medical research.

Robert McCullumsmithRobert McCullumsmith, MD, PhD
Professor, Chair, University of Toledo

Dr Robert McCullumsmith completed his BS degree with highest distinction and Honors in biochemistry in 1990. He completed his MD and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan in 1997, and he completed a research track residency in Psychiatry in 2002. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious ACNP travel award, the ACP Laughlin Fellowship, the ECNP Rafaelsen Scholar, as well as the Kempf Fund award from the APA. He has been continuously funded for the past 15 years by NIMH, with work focusing on the pathophysiology of complex brain disorders, including schizophrenia. His recent work includes using bioinformatics approaches to test hypotheses using large publicly available databases, with the goal of repurposing or first-purposing FDA approved drugs or library-sourced compounds, respectively. Dr. McCullumsmith is currently the Chair of the Neurosciences Department in the University of Toledo College of Medicine and the Research Director of the ProMedica Neurosciences Center, Toledo, OH, USA.

Janice H. UrganJanice H. Urban, PhD
Professor and Director of Neurobiology of Stress Resilience and Psychiatric Disorders, Rosalind Franklin University

Janice Urban, PhD is director of the Center for Neurobiology of Stress Resilience and Psychiatric Disorders and professor of Physiology and Biophysics at The Chicago Medical School, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Dr. Urban received her degree in Pharmacology from Loyola University Chicago and completed postdoctoral work at the Univeristy of Washington and Northwestern University. Dr. Urban has an active research program elucidating the role of amygdala circuitry underlying the development of stress resilience and vulnerability in males and females. Her research has been funded by NIMH and American Heart Association. She is active in graduate and medical teaching and served as Discipline Chair of Physiology and Biophysics. She is a Fellow of the American Physiological Society (FAPS) and contributes her time to various national committees focused on the support and mentoring of junior scientists.

Suthat LiangpunsakulSuthat Liangpunsakul, MD, MPH
Professor of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine

Dr. Liangpunsakul is a Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Dean’s Scholar for Medical Research, at Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN. He is also an Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the Roudebush VAMC His research focuses on the identification of non-invasive biomarkers to screen for excessive alcohol use and the molecular mechanism, risk factors, and treatment for alcohol-induced liver injury. He is currently the principal investigator of the research projects funded by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (Merit Review) as well as the National Institute of Health. He currently serves as the President-elect of the Central Society for Clinical and Translational Research (CSCTR).

Attaya SuvannasankhaAttaya Suvannasankha, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine

Attaya Suvannasankha, MD is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Division of Hematology and nOcology, Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, and a staff physician, Division of Hematology, Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indianapolis, IN. Her research focuses on the pathology of multiple myeloma bone disease and novel therapy to decrease morbidity and improve cancer control. She has recently extended her work to other cancer bone metastases. In addition to laboratory research, Dr. Suvannasankha leads multiple clinical studies of particularly in relapsed myeloma, to understand the mechanisms of drug resistance. Dr. Suvannasankha was the 2021 President of the Midwest chapter of the American Federation of Medical Research (AFMR), and the 2022 AFMR President. She is excited to share her journey as a proud VA physician-researcher, whose career has been boosted by the VA research support starting from the career development award to merit awards, and the investigator-initiated multi-site VA clinical trials.

New Investigator Session

Christen VagtsChristen Vagts, MD
Pulmonary & Critical Care Fellow, University of Illinois at Chicago



Naveen Kumar PerumalNaveen Kumar Perumal, PhD
Instructor, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Naveen Kumar Perumal, PhD, works as an Instructor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), Omaha, USA. He completed his graduation (PhD-Biochemistry) in 2016 and joined Prof. Surinder K. Batra and Dr. Sidharth Mahapatra's lab, UNMC, for his post-doctoral training in cancer biology. Dr. Perumal's long-term goal is to pursue his research targeting cancer stem cells (CSCs) and delineating the transcription factors that help in their self-renewal and maintenance.

Jenny PanJenny S. Pan, MD, FASN
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine; MEDVAMC

Jenny S. Pan, MD, FASN Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Pan is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology/Selzman Institute for Kidney Health at Baylor College of Medicine. She also has a joint appointment at the Houston Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center where she serves as Director of the MEDVAMC Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program. Dr. Pan's research is supported by a VA Career Development Award, and focuses on studying mitochondrial dysfunction in acute kidney injury and mechanisms underlying sex/gender differences in kidney disease.

Andrew Malone, MD
Assistant Professor, Washington University School of Medicine

Alana BiggersAlana Biggers, MD, MPH, FACP
Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Illinois-Chicago

Alana Biggers, MD, MPH, FACP is an internist and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine where she received her MD degree. She also has a Master of Public Health in chronic disease epidemiology from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and completed a public health fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Biggers has interests in health disparity research and currently has a career development award for research in type 2 diabetes mellitus and sleep in African Americans in underserved communities. Dr. Biggers also aims to improve diversity and inclusion in medicine. Since her time at UIC, she has served as a mentor to many underrepresented minority medical students to help them navigate through personal and career goals. She also serves as the faculty advisor to the UIC Chapter of SNMA for the past 4 years to help advise them in executing their yearly community service and school events. Additionally, Dr. Biggers serves in the Department of Medicine (DOM) as the co-chair of the DOM Inclusion Council (DOMIC) and was a previous consultant for the Bias Reduction in Internal Medicine (BRIM) Initiative, another NIH funded grant to address bias in academic medicine. Dr. Biggers continues to expand her role in the Chicago community by providing tips on healthy living through research, patient care and media outlets.

Department Chair Session

Gwenn SkarGwenn I. Skar, MD
Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Gwenn Skar, MD is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She has an active basic science laboratory studying the immune response and neurologic outcomes following device related infections in the brain, so that we might design improved prevention and treatment strategies for these infections. In addition to her basic science research, Dr. Skar has been involved in clinical studies of central nervous system infection and authored numerous book chapters on the subject. She has received several peer-reviewed grants to support her research and won several local and national research awards.

Eric PeeplesEric Peeples, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Dr. Eric Peeples, MD, PhD is a neonatologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. Dr. Peeples obtained his undergraduate and medical degrees from Creighton University in Omaha. He completed his pediatric residency and stayed on as chief resident at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, followed by a fellowship in neonatal-perinatal medicine at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Washington. After joining as a member of the faculty, Dr. Peeples completed his Ph.D. in Clinical & Translational Research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Peeples’s primary research program revolves around understanding and modulating the genetic and metabolic expression of the brain during and after hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. In addition, Dr. Peeples has been leading clinical programs to standardize brain-focused neonatal care throughout the region, including developing and leading a regional registry for infants at risk for neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

Sidharth MahapatraSidharth Mahapatra, MD, PhD, FAAP
Pediatric Intensivist, University of Nebraska Medical Center

As a pediatric intensivist with burgeoning expertise in neurocritical care working in an area with high incidence of pediatric brain tumors, I am concentrating my strengths in molecular neurobiology and translational science to investigate pediatric medulloblastomas (MB), the most common malignant brain tumor of childhood. I hope to significantly impact the long term survivorship of patients with high-risk medulloblastomas, who suffer high relapse rates and mortality. I am also an active member of the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury & Sepsis Investigators (PALISI). We recently participated in a multi-center study on Pediatric Acute Respiratory Distress Incidence and Epidemiology (PARDIE) whose purpose was to evaluate how the new PALICC recommendations of mild, moderate, and severe classification of PARDS perform in discriminating ICU and hospital mortality. We are now engaged in the Prone and Oscillator in Pediatrics Clinical Trial (PROSpect) that is aimed at studying the efficacy of prone positioning and high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) on severe PARDS. Taking advantage of my dual roles as a clinician and scientist, I hope these projects help me shape my career in the investigation of the inflammatory process in conditions associated with high mortality with an eventual goal of not only understanding the complex interplay between different responses but also of trying to attenuate their deleterious effects.

Cardiology/Pulmonary Lecture

G.R. Scott Budinger, MD
Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care in the Department of Medicine, Northwestern Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine

Max Miller Lecture in Diabetes Research

Charles BurantCharles F. Burant, MD, PhD
Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan

Dr. Burant is Professor of Internal Medicine and holds the Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Professor of Metabolism, Section of Metabolism Endocrinology and Diabetes. He also has appointments in Integrative Physiology and Computational Medicine and Biology in the U-M Medical School and Human Nutrition, School of Public Health. He is the Director of the Taubman Research Institute which support physician-scientists and projects working to accelerate the translation of basic science to clinical practice. Dr. Burant’s research program centers on the interaction between genetics and environmental factors in the development of obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes with a specific interest in understanding how cardiorespiratory fitness modulates the risk of metabolic diseases. His preclinical and clinical studies integrate ‘omics technologies to understand responses to diet, exercise and weight loss with the goal to individualize interventions to improve metabolic health.

Adam Konopka, PhD, MS
Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Clara B. Peek, PhD
Assistant Professor, Northwestern University

Clara Peek is an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and Medicine-Endocrinology. Dr. Peek received her B.S. degree in Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ph.D. in Biochemistry at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She completed her K01-funded postdoctoral training in the Department of Medicine-Endocrinology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. In 2018, Dr. Peek established her research group which focuses on how molecular circadian clocks control responses to nutrient stress in skeletal muscle fibers and stem cells. The overarching goal of the laboratory is to advance our understanding of circadian timing in metabolic physiology and disease.

Inflammation, Immunity, and Transplant Meeting

Catherine BollardCatherine Bollard, MBChB MD
Director, Center for Cancer and Immunology Research, Children's National Hospital

Dr. Bollard received her medical degree at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. She is board certified both in pediatrics and hematology. She worked in New Zealand and London, England, before moving to Houston, Texas, in 2000 where she was a Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine, and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). In August 2013, she was recruited to Washington, DC, to join Children’s National Hospital and George Washington University. She is currently the Bosworth Chair for Cancer Biology, Director of the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research, and Director of the Program for Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy (CETI) at Children’s National Hospital. She is a Professor of Pediatrics and of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine at George Washington University and the Associate Center Director for Translational Research and Innovation at the GW Cancer Center. Dr. Bollard is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, is a past president of the International Society for Cellular Therapy, and the current President of the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy. She was a member of the Cellular, Tissues, and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee of the FDA from 2015 to 2019 and, in 2019, became a member of the Frederick National Laboratory Advisory Committee for the NIH and an ad hoc member of the Pediatric Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee for the FDA. She was an associate editor for the journal Blood from 2014-2021 and is currently Editor in Chief of Blood Advances. She has >200 peer reviewed publications and has been independently NIH funded for over a decade. Her bench and translational research focuses on improving outcomes for patients after transplant and on the development of novel cell therapies for cancer and virus-associated diseases.

Michael G. IsonMichael G. Ison, MD, MS, FIDSA, FAST
Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and Surgery (Organ Transplantation), Northwestern Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine

Dr. Michael Ison completed his Internal Medicine Residency and General Internal Medicine Fellowship at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon. He then obtained his Master of Science in Health Evaluation Sciences and did his Infectious Diseases Fellowship at the University of Virginia. He undertook additional training in Transplant Infectious Diseases at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School under the mentorship of Dr. Jay A. Fishman. He then joined the faculty of the Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Organ Transplantation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in 2005. He is currently the Medical Director of the Transplant & Immunocompromised Host Infectious Diseases Service, Northwestern University Comprehensive Transplant Center and Professor of Medicine and Surgery. He is currently the Director for the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute’s Center for Clinical Research and Editor-in-Chief of Transplant Infectious Disease.

AFMR Keynote Presentation

Curtis Donskey, MD
Professor of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University

Curtis Donskey, MD, is an Infectious Diseases physician and Chair of the Infection Control Committee at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and a Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. His research focuses primarily on epidemiology and control of healthcare-associated pathogens. Specific areas of interest include understanding the impact of antibiotics on pathogen colonization, identifying routes of pathogen transmission, and evaluation of strategies to reduce skin and environmental contamination.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Symposium

Christopher M. Whitt, Sr.Christopher M. Whitt, Sr., PhD
Vice Chancellor, University of Denver

Christopher M. Whitt, Ph.D is the University of Denver’s Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He also is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. Before joining the University of Denver, Dr. Whitt was the Vice Provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Creighton University where he established the school’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and built frameworks and structures for diversity, equity, and inclusion from the ground up. Previously, Dr. Whitt served as founding director of the Center for Inclusive Leadership and Equity at Augustana College. He also served as the chair of Augustana’s Department of Political Science. Dr. Whitt has been recognized nationally for his teaching as a political science professor as well as his leadership and community engagement. At the University of Denver, Dr. Whitt has embarked on refining the structure of DEI across the institution to grow from an Office of DEI to a division serving and supporting the whole university community. Justice is at the core of the renewed focus on prioritization of DEI that Dr. Whitt is working collaboratively to bring to the university. He is bolstering structures to support both the operations of DEI as well as its academic engagement. Along with partners across the university, Dr. Whitt hopes to expand the University of Denver’s footprint nationally as an innovator in DEI and a destination of choice for potential students, faculty, and staff from a wide variety of intersecting backgrounds. Degree(s) Dr. Whitt holds a Ph.D. in government and politics from the University of Maryland, where he also earned an M.A. His dissertation was titled “Unaffordable Outcomes: The Wealth Gap, Black Political Participation and Public Policy Outcomes in the Black Interest.” He earned a B.A. in political science at Salisbury University.

Vineet AroraVineet M. Arora, MD, MAPP
Dean for Medical Education at The University of Chicago Medicine, Pritzker School of Medicine

Dr. Vineet Arora is a Herbert T. Abelson Professor of Medicine and Dean for Medical Education at The University of Chicago Medicine, Pritzker School of Medicine. As Dean, she oversees undergraduate medical education, graduate medical education, continuing medical education and provides key leadership for the simulation-based training programs at University of Chicago. Dr. Arora is also an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine whose work improving care and learning in teaching hospitals has been funded by NIH, AHRQ and the Macy Foundation, has been cited over 10,000 times. Her work on improving sleep, fatigue and handoffs was influential in improving working conditions for residents. As an advocate for improving equity and opportunity in academic medicine, she has been an influential voice for women in medicine and leads NIH-funded programs to improve mentoring for women and minority future physician scientists. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the American Board of Internal Medicine and the Joint Commission.

CSCTR John B. Hickam Endowed Lecture

Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH
Director CEPI-US, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

Nicole Lurie, M.D., M.S.P.H. is Director of CEPI-US and Strategic Advisor to the CEO at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). She is also a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School, a member of the research faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine. She served an 8-year term as Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the US Department of Health and Human Services. In that role she led the HHS response to numerous public health emergencies, ranging from infectious disease to natural and man-made disasters and is responsible for many innovations in emergency preparedness and response. She also chaired the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise, a government wide organization ultimately responsible for the development of medical countermeasures, including vaccines against pandemics and emerging threats. Dr. Lurie has a long history in health services research. Prior to federal service, she was the Paul O'Neill Professor of Policy Analysis at RAND, where she started and led the public health preparedness program and RAND's Center for Population Health and Health Disparities. She has had leadership roles in academia, as Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Minnesota, as Medical Advisor to the Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health, and as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Lurie received her BA and MD degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, and completed her residency and public health training at UCLA. Her work has focused on access to and quality of care, health system redesign, equity, mental health, public health and preparedness. She is recipient of numerous awards and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. She continues to practice clinical medicine in a community clinic in Washington DC.

Research Innovations

David Chambers, DPhil
Deputy Director for Implementation Science, National Cancer Institute

Stephanie Mazzucca, PhD
Washington University

Megha RamaswamyMegha Ramaswamy, PhD, MPH
Professor, University of Kansas School of Medicine/em>

I serve as Professor of Population Health at University of Kansas School of Medicine and in the University of Kansas Cancer Center, an NCI-designated cancer center. For the last decade, my work on cancer prevention among marginalized populations has been continuously supported by NIH/NCI. I develop behavioral and systems-level interventions that address the intersection of sexual health and cancer prevention. I take community health problems, work with stakeholders who are experts of their own lives, and come up with plans for how best to implement solutions at individual, practice, and policy levels. I lead two diverse research teams with 20 faculty, staff, and students. I have mentored over 200 high school, undergraduate, graduate, nursing, medical students, and early stage faculty in my positions co-director of an undergraduate public health program at Hunter College City University of New York, site-director of a master of public health program at University of Kansas School of Medicine, recipient of four NIH diversity supplements to train faculty, primary mentorship of three NIH K awards, role as director of our NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award KL2 program, and in my role as PI of two NIH Science Education and Partnership Awards to train K-12 teachers and link teachers and students with industry and university partners. In the community I have served on the boards of local public health associations, women’s health and violence prevention organizations, and on a council for community HIV prevention. I serve the scientific community currently as Chair of the Community Influences on Health Behavior NIH study section.

Brittany RuddBrittany Rudd, PhD
Instructor of Psychiatry and Assistant Professor of Psychology,University of Illinois at Chicago

Dr. Brittany Rudd is an Instructor of Psychiatry, Assistant Professor of Psychology, and the Director of Implementation Science and Systems-Involved Youth Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Rudd completed her doctoral training in clinical science at Indiana University, pre-doctoral clinical internship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and her postdoctoral training in Implementation Science at the University of Pennsylvania. The central theme of Dr. Rudd’s program of research is accelerating research-to-practice implementation and improving access to quality mental health care. She is currently engaging in working to support the design of clinical interventions with an eye towards implementation, as well as studying the implementation of suicide prevention practices within the juvenile justice system, and the implementation of parent education programs within the family law system.