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2019 Distinguished Research Trainees Show Character and Creativity
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute recognizes the unique and remarkable trainees who have been nominated by their mentors across CHOP through the Distinguished Research Trainee Awards. This year, the Research Trainee Advisory Committee selected four scientists across different disciplines and divisions who are positioned to drive bigger breakthroughs in their fields. Learn more about these researchers’ achievements and accolades:
Sarah Sheppard, MD, PhD, Pediatrics/Medical Genetics Resident
Mentor: Elizabeth Bhoj, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Pediatrics
“If our fellowship program had a ‘good citizen’ award, there would be no question that Sarah would be the clear winner,” said Dr. Bhoj, adding that Dr. Sheppard is both dedicated to her research and always making time for the needs of patients and colleagues.
With an impressive number of manuscripts and national presentations already on her resume, Dr. Sheppard leads an international collaborative research project on the mechanistic delineation of a neurodevelopmental syndrome caused by SUV420H1 mutations, a poorly understood syndromic form of autism. Previously, Dr. Sheppard published a paper in Genetics in Medicine on the use of exome sequencing in hearing loss with key implications for clinicians, and she presented this work at CHOP Pediatrics Grand Rounds.
Among other accolades, Dr. Sheppard won the CHOP Senior Resident Research Award (2018), and the best platform presentation by a trainee at the David W. Smith Workshop and the highly competitive Manchester Dysmorphology Conference in England. Dr. Sheppard is a resident in the combined pediatrics-genetics residency/fellowship program,
David Hill, MD, PhD, Physician Fellow
Mentors: Jonathan Spergel, MD, PhD, Chief of the Division of Allergy, and Mitchell Lazar, MD, PhD, Willard and Rhoda Ware Professor in Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases
A “wonderful physician,” a “catalyst for scientific discovery,” and a researcher willing to adopt new methods to address important and medically relevant questions, Dr. Hill’s work in the allergy field has garnered great interest and impact to both clinicians and scientists alike. As a first-year fellow at CHOP, Dr. Hill began to study the allergic march, a concept that proposes allergic manifestations typically develop during childhood because of genetic, environmental, and immunologic links. This body of work resulted in multiple first-author publications, national awards, and presentations.
Dr. Hill’s recent study, which provides the first evidence that eosinophilic esophagitis is a late manifestation of the allergic march, gained significant media attention and positioned Dr. Hill as a “rising star in our field,” according to Dr. Spergel. Dr. Hill also pursued rigorous research under the guidance of Dr. Lazar in metabolism and epigenetics to further understanding of the mechanisms by which inflammation contributes to human disease.
“While continuing to perform his clinical responsibilities, David has had great success at the bench, adapting experimental immunologic approaches and incorporating genomic methods used in our laboratory to identify novel adipose immune cells and understand the mechanisms of their gene regulation,” Dr. Lazar said.
Diana Cousminer, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Mentor: Struan F.A. Grant, PhD, Co-director of the Center for Spatial and Functional Genomics
An independent and driven scientist focused on human genetics research, Dr. Cousminer is described by her mentor as “the real deal.” Dr. Cousminer published the definitive genome-wide association study of latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), an insight that helps distinguish this common disorder from type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In other work, she revealed key insights into the relationship between puberty and pediatric bone density and showed that certain variants thought to be causal for hereditary multiple exostoses were incorrect.
Alongside authoring multiple high-impact papers, speaking at international meetings, and bringing in several lines of independent funding, Dr. Cousminer also facilitated CHOP’s continued membership in the Early Growth Genetics (EGG) consortium, an international effort to unravel genetic puzzles related to pediatric health. Within EGG, Dr. Cousminer leads the genetics of puberty effort. Dr. Cousminer also recently received a Young Investigator Award at the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research annual meeting.
“[Diana] is a highly valued colleague, by me and a myriad of other collaborators, and is a clear asset to CHOP,” Dr. Grant said.
Jeremy Grevet, MD/Phd Candidate
Mentor: Gerd Blobel, MD, PhD, Researcher and Holder of the Frank E. Weise III Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology
Described as an “exceptionally talented, courageous, and hard-working combined-degree student” by his mentor, Dr. Grevet’s current research into novel treatments for sickle cell disease carries important clinical implications, including addressing the largely unmet need to improve pharmacologic interventions for the devastating disorder. Dr. Grevet’s work, recently published in the journal Science, identified a new, druggable regulator of fetal hemoglobin expression in human erythroid progenitor cells — a breakthrough that proposes a new therapeutic target for sickle cell disease and other hemoglobin disorders. Such re-activation of fetal hemoglobin expression been a long-standing goal in the field, according to Dr. Blobel.
Alongside Dr. Grevet’s achievements in the lab, Dr. Blobel can also attest to his strong character: “Jeremy has the proverbial hands of gold in the lab, and his experiments are of the absolute highest quality,” Dr. Blobel said. “Despite his admirable talents and accomplishments, Jeremy is humble, incredibly kind, and helpful to others in the laboratory.”
Congratulations to this year’s distinguished trainees! They will be honored at CHOP Research Poster Day May 21 at a 4 p.m. reception and awards ceremony held in the Colket Translational Research Building lobby.