Monthly Chair's Newsletter

August 2022


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Dear Colleagues,

 

August has arrived and we are beginning to look forward to a busy fall with the academic year just around the corner! We have several events coming up with a new year of Grand Rounds and Research Seminars being planned, the DoM Town Hall Meeting on September 26th, and a DoM Research Faculty Meeting on September 27th. Be sure to watch for more information about those events in the DOMCOMM and other DoM communications, and mark your calendars!

 

Before we transition to the fall, I would like to highlight many of the wonderful accomplishments of our faculty from over the summer months. The UMass Center for Clinical & Translational Science (UMCCTS) announced the Summer 2022 Pilot Projects Program awardees, of which we had multiple winners from the DoM. Additionally, scientists in the Program in Digital Medicine published research that has contributed to the FDA's guidance on the use of rapid COVID-19 tests. Dr. Kate Fitzgerald was awarded BRIDGE Funding by the UMass Chan BRIDGE Innovation and Business Development office for two projects with commercialization potential, and Dr. Stuart Levitz was awarded NIH funding to for his project, “A subunit Cryptococcus vaccine.” In other news, Dr. Richard Ellison was interviewed on CBS Boston, where he discussed COVID-19 and tips on how to stay safe this summer.

 

In leadership updates, we offer our congratulations to Dr. Mark Madison, who began his tenure as the new DPAC Chair on July 1st. We offer our sincere gratitude to the outgoing chair, Dr. Peter Rice, who served in this role since 2008. We are also excited to welcome Dr. Alan Mullen to the DoM as the Mary C. DeFeudis Chair in Biomedical Research, Academic Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, and Professor of Medicine. 

 

Finally, please be sure to check out this month’s Chair’s Spotlight which highlights the work of Dr. Alvaro Alonso. Dr. Alonso specializes in vascular and endovascular medicine, and interventional cardiology, and this month, we recognize him for his dedication to his patients and many contributions in Cardiovascular Medicine.

 

All of these stories, faculty honors, awards, grants, links to recent Grand Rounds recordings, and more are highlighted below.

 

Sincerely, 

Dave

 

Don’t miss next month’s Chair’s Newsletter, which will feature a preview of our fantastic 2022-23 Medicine Grand Rounds line-up and other DoM events, along with our monthly Chair’s Spotlight and faculty accomplishments!

Chair's Spotlight

Please take a moment to read our recent Chair's Spotlight, featuring Alvaro Alonso, MD, MSCR, RPVI, FSVM, Medical Director of the Anticoagulation Center of Excellence, Associate Director of the Cardiovascular Interventions Fellowship Program, Associate Professor of Medicine, and Clinician in Cardiovascular Medicine in the Department of Medicine.  He joined the faculty at UMass Chan in 2016.

 

Dr. Alonso specializes in vascular and endovascular medicine, and interventional cardiology. His dedication to his work and patients, along with his collaborative efforts with other care teams, is evident from the recognitions that have been bestowed upon him. Most recently, he was honored at the May Medical Center Leadership Meeting with the UMass Memorial May 2022 Safety Award, for helping to prevent an unnecessary procedure for a patient and going above and beyond to provide exceptional patient care.

 

We are grateful for Dr. Alonso’s contributions to the Department of Medicine and for his ongoing commitment to excellence in the care of his patients.

Chair's Spotlight

News

Congratulations to the Summer 2022 Pilot Project Program (PPP)

Awardees! 

Drs. Atukorale, Kapoor, Patel, Gerber, and Soni

Not pictured: Dr. Co

The UMass Center for Clinical & Translational Science (UMCCTS) recently announced the 2022 Pilot Projects Program (PPP) awardees. The goal of the PPP program is to accelerate the translation of basic discoveries into practical, cost-effective solutions that improve human health. This competitive award grants PPP project teams up to $50,000 for 1 year to accelerate the translation of innovative discoveries. 


Department of Medicine awardees include:


Prabhani Atukorale, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Program in Innate Immunity, Co-PI, for "Developing a Targeted mRNA-Encapsulated Lipid Nanoparticle for Restoring Ciliogenesis & Treatment of Polycystic Kidney Disease."


Alok Kapoor, MD, Associate Professor in the Division of Hospital Medicine, PI, for "Storytelling to Reduce Gap in Anticoagulation Use in African Americans with Atrial Fibrillation."


Shyam Patel, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, PI, and Jonathan Gerber, MD, Professor and Chief in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, Co-PI/Mentor, for "Clinical Translation of an Innovative Leukemia Stem Cell Assay for Detection, Prognostication, and Precision Management of Blood Cancers."


Apurv Soni, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor and Director in the Program in Digital Medicine, PI, for "Healthy at Home: Feasibility Trial of Home-Based Management of Patients with COPD Using Digital Technology."


Mary Dawn Co, MD, Assistant Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, part of the team led by Lawrence Stern, PhD, for "Cross-Reactive T Cell Epitopes for Development of Pan-Coronavirus Subunit Vaccines."


Learn more.

Carly Herbert's COVID-19 Rapid Testing Research Guides FDA

Carly Herbert, an MD/PhD student at UMass Chan and the RADx Tech Clinical Studies Core Logistics Team, led by Nathaniel Hafer, PhD, Assistant Professor of Molecular Medicine, and Herbert’s mentor, Apurv Soni, MD, PhD ’21, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Co-Chair of the Program in Digital Medicine, recently published research that contributed to the FDA's guidance on the use of rapid COVID-19 tests.

 

Using data from large population health studies, Herbert and her team were able to use this research to learn more about how communities use rapid antigen COVID-19 tests and the factors that play a role in what keeps a community healthy versus sick. National publications such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have reported on the team’s research. Well done!


Learn more.

Kate Fitzgerald Among Awardees for 2022 BRIDGE Funding 


Kate Fitzgerald, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Vice Chair for Research, Chief of the Division of Innate Immunity, and Director of the Program in Innate Immunity has been awarded BRIDGE Funding by the UMass Chan BRIDGE Innovation and Business Development office, for two projects with commercialization potential. Dr. Fitzgerald was one of a dozen project finalists who presented to an external advisory board comprised of biomedical industry leaders, investors, and venture capitalists in June. Awardees were selected by the BRIDGE Innovation & Business Development New Ventures team and the external advisory board based on scientific merit, market opportunity, and commercial viability. 

 

Dr. Fitzgerald’s first project, Development of inhibitors of ASC-dependent Inflammasomes for the treatment of inflammatory diseases”, is with collaborator Paul Thompson, PhD, Director of the Program in Chemical Biology in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology. Here, they seek to improve the potency and selectivity of inhibitors of ASC-dependent inflammasomes, which may provide greater therapeutic benefit to patients suffering from both rare and more common diseases including, Cryopyrinopathies, Familial Mediterranean Fever, Gout, Alzheimer's Disease, Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), and Chronic Kidney Disease.  

 

Her second, Development of STING inhibitors for the treatment of inflammatory diseases is a multi-PI project also developed with Dr. Thompson. Additionally, Fiachra Humphries, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Innate Immunity will be a contributor on this project. Here, they seek to improve the potency and selectivity of existing STING inhibitors, which may provide greater therapeutic benefit to patients suffering from inflammatory diseases such as Aicardi-Goutieres syndrome, STING-associated vasculopathy with onset in infancy, COPA Syndrome, Lupus, macular degeneration, CVD, COPD, and IBD.  

 

Learn more about this year's awardees.

Stuart Levitz Awarded Funding for “A subunit Cryptococcus vaccine


Stuart Levitz, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology has been awarded R01 funding to for his project, “A subunit Cryptococcus vaccine”. Cryptococcosis is the most common cause of culture-positive meningitis worldwide.


Here, Dr. Levitz’s studies seek to address a major global health need for the development of cryptococcal vaccines, provide insights into the immunopathogenesis of cryptococcosis, and establish proofs of principle which may be applicable to other vaccine-preventable diseases. The goal of his project is to advance a preclinical candidate subunit vaccine to protect at-risk populations from cryptococcosis.  

 

Congratulations, Dr. Levitz!

Richard Ellison Warns Against Current COVID-19 Variants


Richard Ellison, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, was recently featured by CBS Boston, discussing the new COVID variants and tips on how to stay safe this summer.

 

Dr. Ellison describes the current variants of COVID-19 as the “daughters of the Omicron” and although most infections appear to be not as severe as ones in the past, there are still many unanswered questions about long-COVID.

 

"That's the unknown we have. And because it's an unknown factor, I encourage people to take protection to avoid getting COVID," Dr. Ellison said.


Learn more from Dr. Ellison about how to stay safe this summer.


Honors

Mark Madison to Serve as New DPAC Chair

Left to Right: Drs. Madison and Rice

Congratulations to Mark Madison, MD, Chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, and Professor of Medicine, who was recently appointed as the new Chair for the Department Personnel Action Committee (DPAC) for the Department of Medicine. This will be a seamless transition for Dr. Madison as he has served for many years as a member of this committee. In this role, he will oversee the monthly DPAC meetings and evaluate the criteria for faculty members, as they are being considered for an appointment or promotion.

 

We would also like to extend our gratitude to the outgoing chair, Peter Rice, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, for his many years of service and dedication to the DPAC. Dr. Rice has been a faculty member at UMass Chan since 2005 and served as DPAC Chair from 2008 to June 2022. The Department of Medicine is grateful that he will continue to contribute his experience and wisdom, serving as an important member of the committee. Thank you, Dr. Rice! 

Grants

Congratulations to the following faculty on their recent grant awards:

Left to Right: Drs. Trivedi and Daly

Chinmay Trivedi, MD, PhD, to study "Epigenetic regulation of lymphatic development" and Jennifer Daly, MD, who will be continuing her work on the Ryan White Part C Outpatient EIS Program grantwhich works to provide outpatient early intervention services with respect to HIV Disease. 

Recruitment and Promotions

Welcome Alan Mullen!

On August 1st, Alan Mullen, MD, PhD, joined UMass Chan as Professor of Medicine and Academic Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology. He will also hold the Mary C. DeFeudis Chair in Biomedical Research. As a nationally recognized physician-scientist, Dr. Mullen cares for patients with liver disease in his clinical practice while his scientific investigations have helped to elucidate therapeutic targets that might prevent the development or slow the progression of liver cancer and liver fibrosis. 


Learn more about Dr. Mullen.

Congratulations to our new faculty appointments and promotions:

Promotions:


Innate Immunity

Fiachra Humphries, PhD, Assistant Professor

Appointments:


Clinical Informatics and Health Systems Science

Honghuang Lin, PhD, FAHA, Professor


Hospital Medicine

Sandhya Tagaram, MD, Assistant Professor

Prakash Paudel, MD, Assistant Professor

Constantinos Michaelidis, MD, Assistant Professor

Bibek Koirala, MD, Assistant Professor

Conor Grogan, MD, Assistant Professor

Shameen Wijesundara, MD, Assistant Professor


Endocrinology and Diabetes

Vrushali Shah, MD, Assistant Professor


Infectious Diseases and Immunology

Alina Adeel, MD, Assistant Professor

Grand Rounds

Interested in watching our Grand Rounds presentations? Click on the links below.

June 23 - Grand Rounds: If You're Not at the Table, You Will be on the Menu

June 9 - Grand Rounds: Clinical Aspects of Sarcoidosis

June 8 - Special Seminar: Facilitated Ablation Biophysics and Facilitating Arrhythmia Research

June 2 - Grander Rounds: "Development for the Clinician Educator" 

June 1 - Special Seminar: Sex Differences in Atrial Fibrillation

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