Page 1



Many portals to a science career

Neuromechanics of movement, ancient DNA, and RNA structure — research is one of many paths for women in STEM

Dear Colleagues,

Dean’s Letter


n April, I announced the appointment of our own Vineet Arora, MD, AM’03, as the new Dean for Medical Education of the Biological Sciences Division. As you will learn on Page 2 of this issue, Dr. Arora’s passion for

and pioneering work in improving medical care and training make her exceptionally well-qualified to take on this new role. Moreover, she will be guided through her transition by Halina Brukner, MD, who has held the position since 2018. Dr. Brukner’s commitment to the highest quality medical

Providing the very best care

education for our trainees will provide Dr. Arora with a very strong foundation

for our patients and creating

Dr. Brukner in making this transition a seamless one.

an inclusive environment are strongly linked.

on which to begin her tenure, and I am extremely grateful for the support of Many of Dr. Arora’s efforts in and out of academia focus on increasing representation and improving mentorship of minorities and women in medicine. As her work and the work of others have demonstrated, providing the very best care for our patients and creating an inclusive environment are strongly linked. This year, the BSD’s own commitment to equity has resulted in a number of important initiatives. Residency programs at the University of Chicago Medicine became among the first in the country to stop using U.S. Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 numerical scores when deciding which applicants to interview or rank, and, amid the national reckoning on racism, the Department of Surgery embarked on a sweeping effort to completely restructure efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion. In the cover story, which begins on Page 18, senior science writer Alison Caldwell, PhD, interviews female faculty members, trainees and alumni of the BSD’s basic science departments on their experiences in and out of academia. A follow-up to last year’s Medicine on the Midway cover story on women in surgery and medicine, these interviews provide insight into the challenges women continue to face in their pursuit of knowledge, the support they provide to each other and the positive changes they see taking place at our institution. Altogether, these stories and the others in this issue illustrate the

Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD

commitment of our faculty, staff, trainees and alumni to celebrating and

The Richard T. Crane Distinguished Service Professor

working for diversity across the BSD. These efforts have resulted in appreciable

Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine

progress, such as in the results of this year’s Match Day, on which we recruited

Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs The University of Chicago

one of our most diverse groups of incoming residents, and in the diversity metrics included for the first time in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of top medical schools. The Pritzker School of Medicine achieved the second-highest score for diversity among the top 20 medical schools. Although our work is far from finished, we are encouraged by the progress we are making, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you find the stories in this issue interesting, and that they will provoke additional new ideas on how to promote diversity and a more inclusive environment in the BSD and UChicago Medicine.


Women in science: Challenge and opportunity

Spring 2021 Volume 74, No. 1 A publication of the University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences Division. Medicine on the Midway is published for friends, alumni and faculty of the University of Chicago Medicine, Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine. Email us at momedit@uchospitals.edu Write us at Editor, Medicine on the Midway The University of Chicago Medicine 950 E. 61st St., WSSC 322 Chicago, IL 60637 The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and Biological Sciences Executive Leadership Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, Richard T. Crane Distinguished Service Professor, Dean of the University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine, and Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs for the University of Chicago


Melina Hale, PhD’98 William Rainey Harper Professor, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and the College; Vice Provost, The University of Chicago Maanasa Raghavan, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Human Genetics and the College


Almost 48 percent of biological scientists are women, and women earn 60 percent of undergraduate biology degrees. Biological Sciences Division faculty, trainees and alumni talk about their paths in science, the challenges they face and the rewards of research.

18 Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD’04, MPH

Christina Roman, SM’20 PhD candidate, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

T. Conrad Gilliam, PhD, Marjorie I. and Bernard A. Mitchell Distinguished Service Professor, Dean for Basic Science, Biological Sciences Division

6 Christianah Ogunleye, MS4

Thomas E. Jackiewicz, President of the University of Chicago Medical Center Halina Brukner, MD, Dean for Medical Education, Pritzker School of Medicine Editorial Committee Chair Jeanne Farnan, AB’98, MD’02, MHPE Chris V. Albanis, AB’96, MD’00 Dana Lindsay, MD’92 Robert Mitchum, PhD’07 Coleman R. Seskind, AB’55, SB’56, MD’59, SM’59 (Lifetime Member) Abby Stayart, AB’97, PhD’12 Carol A. Westbrook, AB’72, PhD’77, MD’78 Student Representatives Shira Fishbach, LAB’13, AB’17 (Pritzker) Helen Wei (Pritzker) James Zhang (Pritzker) Jessica Morgan (BSD) Alexandra Smith (BSD) University of Chicago Medicine Marketing and Communications Anna Madrzyk, Editor Editorial Contributors Emily Ayshford Jamie Bartosch Alison Caldwell, PhD Kat Carlton Kate Dohner Ellen McGrew Photo Contributors Anthony Barlich Jimmy Fishbein Robert Kozloff Jean Lachat Michelle Litvin Lynn Margulis Estate Sandro Miller Northern Arizona University Reminisce Photography Eileen Ryan Smithsonian Institution Archives Design Wilkinson Design Cover Photo Nancy Wong

Angela Wells O’Connor Amanda Parker, PhD Sarah Richards Gretchen Rubin Lorna Wong U.S. National Library of Medicine University of Chicago Photographic Archive, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library Nancy Wong Greg Yamamoto John Zich

30 Arjun Raman, MD, PhD, SB’08

45 F E AT U R E S


Alumni profile 6

Inside the DFI 30

Midway News

Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD’04, MPH, makes an impact through advocacy and service.

Duchossois Family Institute researchers focus on the microbiome’s connection to wellness and disease.

UChicago MBSAA honors alumni 4

Confronting COVID-19 8


How a mass shooting in Dallas changed everything for trauma surgeon Brian Williams, MD.

Alumni and postdocs named to list of ‘Inspiring Black Scientists’ 7 BSD News Fossilized fish larvae upend a 150-year-old evolutionary narrative 37

UChicago researchers probe the role of vitamin D, create a computational model of SARS-CoV-2 and study whether llama antibodies can be turned into effective treatments.

On a mission 10

New Dean for Medical Education named 2


Pritzker News Rethinking how medical students are evaluated 40

Brian Williams, MD

AMA recognizes medical students and trainees for COVID-19 projects 42

Your Letters 46 Your News 47 In Memoriam 48

Match Day 2021 44



Midway News

Vineet Arora, MD, AM’03, named Dean for Medical Education BY AMANDA PARKER, PHD

N Vineet Arora, MD, AM’03

“Times are tough, and medical education is no exception. We are in a pandemic, facing structural inequities and racism, and an epidemic of gun violence, including at the hands of those who should protect us. We need future doctors to be ready to not only treat and lead with science, but also lead with and treat with humanity.” Vineet Arora, MD, AM’03


ationally recognized medical educator Vineet Arora, MD, AM’03, has been named Dean for Medical Education of the University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division. Arora is Herbert T. Abelson Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, Assistant Dean for Scholarship and Discovery and Associate Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Learning Environment. She is a Master of the Academy of Distinguished Medical Educators — a lifelong membership that honors University of Chicago faculty for extraordinary contributions to medical education. As Dean for Medical Education, she will oversee all aspects of the medical education continuum, including undergraduate, graduate and continuing medical education, and will be a key leader in the simulation program. In collaboration with faculty, program directors and department chairs, she will ensure active engagement in providing an outstanding educational experience for students and trainees. She will also serve as the leader and voice for medical education both within the institution and with key outside stakeholders, including the Association of American Medical Colleges, Liaison Committee on Medical Education, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and others. Arora’s appointment is effective July 1, 2021 —  20 years ago to the day from when she finished her own medical training. She received her MD from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and completed her residency in internal medicine, a year as chief resident and fellowship in general internal medicine at the University of Chicago. She also received a master’s degree from the University’s Harris School of Public Policy. She joined the UChicago faculty in 2005. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and serves on the board of directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the Joint Commission. Throughout her career, Arora has demonstrated profound personal and academic investment in


the quality of medical education. With a particular focus on the learning environment for medical trainees, she works to simultaneously improve the quality of learning and clinical care delivered by trainees in academic hospitals. Her pioneering work on resident sleep, fatigue and handoffs has informed changes in residency duty hours. She is the principal investigator of an AMA Accelerating Change in Medical Education grant to integrate health systems science into medical education and is a Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation Faculty Scholar for her work improving the interprofessional clinical learning environment at UChicago Medicine. Her academic work, including studies on improving sleep for patients as they transition from hospital to home, has been cited over 10,000 times. “I am humbled by this prospect of working with an amazing team to shape the future of our profession with the ultimate goal of improving the care for the patients they will serve,” Arora said. “Thank you to the amazing professional and personal teams who have supported, coached and mentored me so I can use this opportunity to pay it forward.” Arora’s dedication to the highest standard of medical care and training is deeply connected to her commitment to equal opportunity in medicine. She has received NIH R01 funding to study novel methods for using social media to expose minority youth to medical research careers, and leads an NIH grant funded by the Diversity Program Consortium to improve mentor training for women and minority medical students at eight medical schools. She is a member of many groups working for gender equity in medicine, including Women of Impact, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. She succeeds Halina Brukner, MD, who has held the position of Dean for Medical Education since 2018. The search for a new dean was informed by a faculty search committee, led by Jeffrey Matthews, MD, Dallas B. Phemister Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery.


the Founding Director of the Academy for Distinguished Medical Educators. She has served as Dean for Medical Education Halina Brukner, MD since 2018. “I would personally like to commend Dr. Brukner for her wisdom, commitment to fairness and deep engagement to ensure that our students receive an education of the highest quality,” said Kenneth S. Polonsky, Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine. “She will be greatly missed, but the impact of the positive changes she has initiated and led will be felt for many years to come.”


he story “Pritzker School of Medicine Alumni Confront the Epidemic of Gun Violence in America,” written by Jamie Bartosch, received a Gold Award for Excellence in the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards — General Staff Writing category. “Taking on Gender Inequity —  Women in Medicine” by Nancy Averett —  the magazine’s Spring 2020 cover story — received Taking on gender inequity a Silver Award. The gun violence story also was 40% nominated as one of seven finalists for 33% versus 44% the honor of Best in Show in the 2021 AAMC Group on Institutional Advancement Awards for Excellence competition. The nomination recognizes entries that that exemplify the highest level of professionalism and achievement within the academic medicine community.


Female physicians make 76 cents for every dollar earned by men.

50.5% ~6% <25% Just over half of medical students today are women

but only a quarter in 10 surgical specialties are women

and women make up only 6.5 percent of orthopaedic surgeons

of residents have to plan to have children during residency

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alina Brukner, MD, Professor of Medicine and Dean for Medical Education, is retiring at the end of this academic year after over 35 years of distinguished service as an outstanding clinician, educator and leader. Brukner came to the University of Chicago for her internal medicine residency in 1982. She remained for her entire career, contributing in many major and substantive ways to the education and career development of thousands of medical students, residents and faculty members. Among her many leadership positions, she served as the Director of the Primary Care Group and Vice Chair of the Department of Medicine. In 2004, she became Associate Dean for Medical School Education for the Pritzker School of Medicine, where she spearheaded a major curriculum reform and was

Medicine on the Midway receives AAMC writing honors


Dean Halina Brukner, MD, retires

Medical school

General surgery

Orthopaedic surgery


but there is no standard national parental leave policy

female physicians are able pay off

of their medical school debt

of male physicians






Diversity metrics added to annual USNWR survey The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

maintained its No. 17 ranking among research-intensive schools in the recent U.S. News & World Report ranking of top medical schools. Pritzker tied at this position with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. For primary care training, Pritzker was ranked No. 34, compared to No. 24 last year. U.S. News surveyed 191 accredited medical and osteopathic schools. This year U.S. News also released student diversity metrics for the first time, providing the percentage of students considered underrepresented in medicine within each student body. Although this metric was not considered for rankings, Pritzker achieved No. 11 overall for medical school diversity, second highest among the top 20 schools. Notably, only four of the top 20 schools achieved a top 20 score for diversity: University of California-San Francisco (No. 9), Pritzker (No. 11), and University of Pennsylvania and Duke University (tied for No. 20).


A gun violence researcher whose cousin’s child died at Sandy Hook. An emergency medicine specialist embedded with the Pittsburgh SWAT team. A violence prevention visionary with global impact.

Four Pritzker School of Medicine alumni confront the epidemic of gun violence in America.

5th most selective school (tied with Harvard)

521 median total MCAT

3.92 median undergraduate GPA

4.1% acceptance rate




fter midnight, in the University of Chicago Medicine emergency department, Abdullah Pratt, MD’16, was tending to a gunshot wound on a man’s forearm when the patient’s girlfriend suddenly tapped him on the back. “Hey,” she asked. “Did you use to go to Jesse Owens Park?” Yes, he told her, he used to hang out at the South Side park as a kid. “I knew that was you! We remember you! We used to go to the same programs together!” she shouted, throwing her hands up in the air. “See? I told you that was him!” Scenes like this happen regularly to Pratt, who lived in the Woodlawn neighborhood, near the hospital, for most of his childhood. But geography is just part of his unique, personal connection to the gun violence victims he treats nightly. Pratt owns nearly a dozen T-shirts memorializing friends shot to death on Chicago’s streets. His older brother, Rashad, is among them. Pratt was a student in the Pritzker School of Medicine in 2012 when his beloved 28-year-old brother was gunned down while sitting in a car. Rashad was proud of his little brother’s accomplishments, but he always reminded Pratt never to forget where he came from. Community is everything, he preached. Those words stayed with Pratt. So when local


MD ’16

ma The trau center’s face familiar




A young physician who lost his brother to gun violence on the South Side.

Adult Trauma Center to UChicago Medicine’s Hyde Park campus, Pratt, still in medical school at the time, got involved. He became a prominent figure in the debate. He served as a liaison between the neighborhood and hospital administrators, because he had the unique ability to represent, understand and communicate school to learn the dynamics of the situation, do research, work with the Urban Health Initiative and start the Medical Students for Health Equity group. They celebrated when UChicago Medicine launched adult trauma services in May 2018. The 30-year-old attending physician, whose friends call him “D,” is easily recognizable in the emergency department — and not just because he


Emergency department physician Abdullah Pratt, MD’16, grew up on the South Side. “The root of everything I do,” he said, “is wishing I could change this gun violence.”


FALL 2019


Bartosch’s story profiles four Pritzker alumni and how they are addressing the problem of gun violence as a public health epidemic. One of the judges commented: “Powerful and compelling storytelling on one of the most important issues facing us today. The treatment was nuanced and sophisticated, allowing the reader to discover new ideas from different perspectives. Congratulations on finding these stories and telling them in such a beautiful way.” Read interviews with Bartosch and Averett at: aamc.org.




2 02 1 A L U M N I AWA R D S

Midway News

Alumni receive UChicago MBSAA’s highest honor Distinguished Alumni Awards Susan C. Alberts, SM’92, PhD’92 Robert F. Durden Distinguished Professor, Department of Biology Chair, Department of Evolutionary Anthropology Duke University

Susan C. Alberts, SM’92, PhD’92

Walter J. Koroshetz, MD’79

Susan C. Alberts, SM’92, PhD’92, is an acclaimed biologist, anthropologist and primatologist whose research investigates social evolution in mammals, with a focus on the social behavior, demography, genetics and behavioral endocrinology of wild primates. She is the director of one of the longest-running studies of wild primates in the world — the Amboseli Baboon Research Project — in collaboration with Jeanne Altmann, PhD’79, Eugene Higgins Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, and others. In addition, she is a member of the executive committee of the Duke Global Health Institute, established in 2006 to address important global health issues and reduce health disparities. Until 2015, Alberts was the associate director of science and synthesis at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. In 2019, Alberts was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, which recognizes scientists for achievements in original research and is considered to be one of the highest honors a scientist can receive.

Walter J. Koroshetz, MD’79 Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke National Institutes of Health

Benjamin Kyle Potter, MD’01


Walter J. Koroshetz, MD’79, was named director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in 2015. He joined NINDS in 2007 as deputy director and has held leadership roles in a number of major programs, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative, the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience, and


the Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 Initiative. Before joining NINDS, Koroshetz served as vice chair of the neurology service and director of stroke and neurointensive care services at Massachusetts General Hospital, and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. His early clinical research focused on Huntington’s disease, where he performed the first study of presymptomatic testing in the disease. He pioneered acute endovascular clot removal for acute stroke and these techniques are now commonplace in acute stroke care. In parallel, Koroshetz worked to improve the care of patients with acute stroke and other critical illnesses through neurointensive care.

Benjamin Kyle Potter, MD’01 Colonel, Medical Corps, U.S. Army Director of Surgery, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Benjamin Kyle Potter, MD’01, is an orthopaedic surgeon with research interests in trauma-related amputation techniques and outcomes (including osseo-integration and targeted muscle re-innervation), combat-related heterotopic ossification, and predictive modeling of musculoskeletal trauma and oncologic outcomes. He is chief orthopaedic surgeon for the Amputee Program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, as well as a musculoskeletal oncology consultant at Walter Reed and the National Institutes of Health. Potter was selected as the orthopaedic surgery consultant to the U.S. Army Surgeon General in March 2019. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2016. In 2020, he deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, as the senior theater orthopaedic surgeon embedded with the 411th Hospital Center. He is past president of the Society of Military Orthopaedic Surgeons and serves on the Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee for the Amputee Coalition.

Anne L. Taylor, MD’76 Senior Vice President for Faculty Affairs and Career Development Vice Dean for Academic Affairs John Lindenbaum Professor of Medicine Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University Irving Medical Center Anne L. Taylor, MD’76

Griffin Myers, MD’07, MBA’10

David H. Whitney, MBA’78, MD’80

During her career in academic medicine, Anne L. Taylor, MD’76, has held leadership roles in institutions where she was often one of very few women, and even fewer African American physicians. She joined the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2007 as vice dean of academic affairs, and was promoted in 2014 to senior vice president for faculty affairs and career development. Her research initially focused on laboratory models of heart disease, but refocused on clinical research in patient groups underrepresented in cardiovascular clinical trials. From 2001 to 2005, Taylor chaired the steering committee for the African American Heart Failure Trial. She is a member of the steering committee for a recently completed National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute trial, “Genomic Analysis of Enhanced Response to Heart Failure Therapy in African Americans.” Other work has examined the knowledge gap in understanding the risk for cardiovascular disease in women of different racial and ethnic groups.

Griffin Myers, MD’07, MBA’10 Chief Medical Officer, Oak Street Health

Griffin Myers, MD’07, MBA’10, is a co-founder of Chicago-based Oak Street Health, a growing organization of value-based primary care centers serving adults on Medicare. He led the building of the medical group and helped to develop the innovative care model at Oak Street Health. Myers has successfully

About the MBSAA Alumni Awards


guided the company’s growth into additional markets and explored further partnerships to broaden its reach. He is a frequent speaker and publisher on behalf of the company and a rising voice in the healthcare industry. Myers is a research associate at Harvard Medical School, adjunct lecturer in the Public-Private Interface initiative at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and an adjunct instructor of emergency medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He is a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, a Presidential Leadership Scholar, an Aspen Health Innovators Fellow and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Alumni Service Award David H. Whitney, MBA’78, MD’80 Dermatologist

After completing his residency in dermatology at the University of Chicago in 1984, David H. Whitney, MBA’78, MD’80, served as an assistant clinical professor and director of the outpatient dermatology clinic. He left in 1987 to establish Medical Surgical Dermatology S.C. in the Chicago suburbs. Whitney joined the Alumni Council of the University of Chicago Medical & Biological Sciences Alumni Association in 2002, serving as president from 2004 to 2006 and chairing a variety of committees. He has served on the Division of the Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine Council since 2006, including two terms as chair, ending in June 2019. He is impressed by the unique culture that pervades the campus and supports Dean Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, in his efforts to expand and improve on the execution of the University’s mission.

Since 1952, the University of Chicago Medical & Biological Sciences Alumni Association (UChicago MBSAA) has honored the contributions of alumni of the Pritzker School of Medicine and the Division of the Biological Sciences with its Alumni Awards.

contributions alumni have made to the fields of medicine and science. The Alumni Service Award recognizes contributions alumni have made through philanthropy and volunteer service to the University of Chicago.

The Distinguished Alumni Award, formerly known as the Distinguished Service Award, recognizes the

Read more about the award recipients at mbsaa.uchicago.edu/2021-alumni-awards.





Service to country and community Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD’04, MPH, advocates for impact


Former U.S. Navy Commander Jesse Ehrenfeld during his deployment in Afghanistan.

“Service became an important calling for me,” he said. “I always thought that if our service members are wounded in battle, shouldn’t they have someone trained at the best places in the country caring for them?” Ehrenfeld is grateful for his time overseas, including a deployment in Afghanistan from 2014 to 2015, and the bonds formed with his fellow shipmates. During his time in the Navy, Ehrenfeld also


became an advocate for open transgender military service. “Asking the newly appointed secretary of defense his stance on transgender service was one of the most frightening but important things I’ve probably ever done,” Ehrenfeld said. An avid photographer, Ehrenfeld took nearly 50,000 photos while deployed, including many that captured the lives of LGBTQ service members — work that led to a White House News Photographers Association award and an Emmy nomination. Today, Ehrenfeld divides his time between advocacy work, clinical practice and research. He is the immediate past chair of the American Medical Association and director of Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, a $511 million endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin. In this role, Ehrenfeld serves as a strategic investor in health, allocating grants to support research, education and community initiatives across Wisconsin. “When I accepted the position as director of the endowment, I wasn’t just looking for the next job; I was seeking an opportunity to have an impact,” Ehrenfeld said. Last spring, Ehrenfeld and his team awarded nearly $5 million in grants to support projects tied to Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, including 3D printing of PPE, supplying face shields to nursing homes, and supporting public health messaging for underserved communities and Native American tribes. “While everyone was working from home, trying to juggle all the stress and


Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD’04, MPH, is a senior associate dean, professor of anesthesiology and director of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

uncertainty, we still managed to get these awards out in the span of only a few weeks,” Ehrenfeld said. “I’m grateful to everyone who pulled together to make that happen.” Despite his busy schedule, Ehrenfeld, 42, still finds time to dedicate to what is most important to him: family, including his husband, their 2-year-old son, and two rescue dogs. He also continues to pursue his passion for photography. “I don’t know what roles might lie ahead, but I’m delighted where I am now, and excited for what the future holds,” he said. Ehrenfeld with his husband, Judd Taback, and their son, Ethan. PHOTO BY REMINISCE PHOTOGRAPHY


hen Jesse Ehrenfeld began his education at the Pritzker School of Medicine, he expected he would return to his home state of Delaware to be “your average country doctor.” Yet, he has become much more — and far from “average.” “Pritzker opened my eyes,” said Ehrenfeld, MD’04, MPH. “My mentors went out of their way to make sure that I, a student who had never lived in a city before, felt connected.” After completing his residency in anesthesiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Ehrenfeld joined the U.S. Navy, serving for 10 years.


New director, $10 million grant for Comprehensive Cancer Center A $10 million grant from the AbbVie

Foundation will support scientific and educational activities at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center under the leadership of Adekunle (Kunle) Odunsi, MD, PhD, the newly appointed director. A portion of the grant will also establish a permanent endowment, which will continuously support the work of the center for years to come. Odunsi, who joined UChicago Medicine in March, will be named the AbbVie Foundation Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center. He also serves as Biological Sciences Division Dean for Oncology and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Chicago. A nationally recognized gynecologic oncologist, Odunsi focuses his research

on understanding the mechanisms of immune recognition and tolerance in ovarian cancer and translating these findings to immunotherapy clinical trials. Odunsi pioneered the development of antigen-specific vaccine therapy and next-generation adoptive T cell immunotherapies to prolong remission rates in women with ovarian cancer. “The AbbVie Foundation’s generous grant will provide our Comprehensive Cancer Center leadership with the resources necessary to advance cancer research and care through the ongoing pursuit of innovative investigation and development of novel cancer therapies that have the potential to improve the lives of people affected by cancer,” said Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, Dean and Executive Vice

Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD

President for Medical Affairs for the University of Chicago. By supporting the director’s vision, the AbbVie Foundation’s grant will empower Comprehensive Cancer Center leadership to act strategically in key areas, such as establishing cross-campus collaborations, discovering and advancing novel therapies, recruiting new faculty, retaining exceptional fellows, and promoting community outreach and engagement.


Six University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division alumni and two postdoctoral researchers were named among “1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America” in the Crosstalk Cell Press Blog.

Avery D. Posey, PhD’11


Christopher Schell, PhD’15

Shana Augustin, PhD’13

Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Biology, University of Washington Tacoma

Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience, National Institutes of Health William E. Browne, AB’94, PhD’03

Assistant Professor of Biology, the University of Miami Sunday Francis, PhD’09

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Minnesota



BSD alumni, postdocs among ‘Inspiring Black Scientists’ Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, the University of Pennsylvania Colles Price, SM’03, PhD’15

Research Scientist at Vizgen

P O S T D O C TO R A L RESEARCHERS Tamica Collins, PhD

NIH F32 Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Christopher Schell, PhD’15, studied evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago and is now an assistant professor at the University of Washington Tacoma.

Anthony Williams, PhD

Strunk Family Fellow, Department of Medicine

Read more about Tamica Collins, PhD, on Page 28.




C OV I D - 1 9 R E S P O N S E

Midway News

Targeting SARS-CoV-2 University of Chicago researchers are investigating COVID-19 and the virus that causes it from many angles. Here are several interesting projects. Vitamin D: Reducing COVID-19 risk High vitamin D levels may protect against COVID-19, especially for Black people, UChicago Medicine researchers found. David Meltzer, PhD’92, MD’93, Fanny L. Pritzker Professor of Medicine, led a retrospective study that examined the relationship between vitamin D levels and likelihood of testing positive for

COVID-19. While levels of 30 ng/ml or more are usually considered sufficient, the authors found that Black individuals who had levels of 30 to 40 ng/ml had a 2.64 times higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than people with levels of 40 ng/ml or greater. Statistically significant associations of vitamin D levels with COVID-19 risk were not found in white people. The research team is now recruiting participants for two separate clinical trials testing the efficacy of vitamin D supplements for preventing COVID-19. The research was published in JAMA Network Open in January 2021.

Describing non-symptomatic transmission During the initial wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City, only between one in five and one in seven cases of the virus was symptomatic. A University of Chicago study found that non-symptomatic cases substantially contribute to community transmission, making up at least 50 percent of the driving force of SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is the first peer-reviewed model


to incorporate data about daily testing capacity and changes in testing rates over time to provide a more accurate picture of what proportion of SARS-CoV-2 infections are symptomatic in a large U.S. city. Rahul Subramanian, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, was first author of the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February 2021.


Using ‘organs in a dish’ to test treatments Researchers at the University of Chicago were the first to use organoids — mini organs grown in lab dishes by using human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) capable of becoming any type of tissue —  to quickly identify several drugs capable of preventing infection with SARS-CoV-2. Using organoids derived from human pluripotent stem cells allows scientists to study how actual human cells in an organ-like setting are affected by SARSCoV-2. Huanhuan Joyce Chen, PhD, an assistant professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and Ben May Department for Cancer Research, and team grew lung and colon tissue; SARS-CoV-2 primarily infects the respiratory tract, and 25 percent of COVID-19 patients also experience gastrointestinal symptoms. The team screened a library of FDA-approved medications in organoids and validated the drugs in xenograft lung tissues by implanting the hPSC-lung cells in immunocompromised mice. The research was published in Nature in October 2020.

Isolating antibodies University of Chicago researchers isolated SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies, which have the potential to both treat and diagnose COVID-19. Patrick Wilson, PhD, led an international team that isolated antibodies specific to the spike and internal proteins of SARS-CoV-2 from a unique cohort of COVID-19 patients. The patented product is a panel of more than 100 antibodies that bind various SARS-CoV-2 proteins. The researchers’ focus is on the evolution of the memory B cell response to the virus; specifically, their novel discovery that the B cell response shows substantial evolution toward not only the spike glycoprotein, but the internal antigens as well. Important questions remain and more research is needed, especially with respect to newly emerging variants.

Studying llamas’ unique antibodies

Examining clinical trial disparities Studies examining the effectiveness of treatments for COVID-19 often do not include the very populations hardest hit by the disease, according to a review by University of Chicago Medicine researchers. Associate Professors Neda Laiteerapong, MD, MS’12, and Anna Volerman Beaser, MD, and team examined 303 active U.S. COVID-19 treatment trials involving more than 92,000 patients and used census data to estimate the proportion of Black and Hispanic individuals who could be potentially recruited from the geographic catchment area of each study’s recruitment

hospital. This study did not include vaccine trials. The researchers found the studies were being undertaken at hospitals that less frequently cared for Black and Hispanic patients: Only about 17 percent of these hospitals’ patients were Black and 14 percent were Hispanic. Also often excluded from the trials were people with non-severe comorbidities such as diabetes, and pregnant women. Pritzker School of Medicine student Sukarn Chokkara, MS2, was lead author of the study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in January 2021.

Researchers are using the ultra-bright X-rays of the Advanced Photon Source, an accelerator at Argonne National Laboratory, to help turn naturally generated llama antibodies into potentially effective therapies against COVID-19. Llamas belong to a group of mammals called camelids, a group that also includes camels and alpacas. Thanks to a quirk of nature, camelids produce a unique type of antibody against disease. These antibodies, often referred to as nanobodies, are about half the size of the antibodies produced by humans, remarkably stable and easy for scientists to manipulate. Senior Argonne scientist Andrzej Joachimiak, PhD, and team received more than 50 llama antibodies with several proteins of SARS-CoV-2. These antibodies are part of ongoing collaborations with several partners, including researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Joachimiak said, and will be analyzed to see if they combat the virus’s infectivity.

Modeling the SARS-CoV-2 virus Researchers at the University of Chicago created the first usable computational model of the entire virus responsible for COVID-19 — and they are making this model widely available to help advance research during the pandemic. Gregory Voth, PhD, Haig P. Papazian Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry, and team drew on previous experience to find the most important characteristics of each individual component of the virus — and drop the “less important” information —  to make a computational model that is comprehensive but still feasible to run on a computer. This technique is called uchicagomedicine.org/midway

coarse-graining, which Voth and his students have helped to pioneer. The model also provides a framework into which scientists can integrate additional information about the SARS-CoV-2 virus as soon as new discoveries are made. Voth hopes that the model will prove useful for coronavirus drug design as well as understanding mutations that may arise, such as the one detected in the U.K. The research was published in Biophysical Journal in November 2020. Researchers may download the model at https://github. com/alvinyu33/sars-cov-2-public.




‘It’s not a job. It’s a mission.’ A trauma surgeon takes on the public health crisis of racism



sk Brian Williams, MD, to identify his defining moment as a trauma surgeon, and, without skipping a beat, he will tell you about what happened in Texas on July 7, 2016. That night, during a protest against police shootings, a man ambushed and shot at a group of police officers, killing five and injuring nine others. Seven of the wounded officers were transported to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Williams was the attending on call that night and the only Black trauma surgeon on a team of 12. “At the time of the crisis, I wasn’t giving any thought to the external social political climate,” Williams said. “It was a medical crisis, and I’m a trauma surgeon. This is my job.” After working through the night to save the officers’ lives, Williams had to break the news to three families that their loved ones did not survive. “After talking to the families, I went to a back room and fell to the ground and started bawling,” he recalled. “I do not cry. I had not cried in so long before that, but that night I was crying. It was a perceptible shift in me personally and professionally.” That night and its aftermath led Williams to put down his scalpel for two years to work on police-community relations in Dallas and catapulted him to prominence as a national thought leader on public health and racism. He worked full time as the medical director of a community health institute to address healthcare disparities within Dallas County, and the mayor appointed him chair of the Dallas Community Police Oversight Board. Today he continues his work as a trauma surgeon at the University of Chicago Medicine — and his work to tackle the toll gun violence and now COVID-19 are taking on the Black community. This spring, he’s teaching a course in the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy related to violence and communities of color. “When public policy becomes weaponized,” he said, “people suffer. Policy can affect the lives of millions of people per year. What if I could teach what I know to a bunch of public policy grad students with no end goal other than to say here’s my


experience, you’re all smart folks going into public policy — you’re looking at this outside of a healthcare lens and can help find some really creative solutions.” While that tragic and traumatic moment in Dallas looms large for him as a trauma surgeon, Williams is further defined and motivated by the racism he has experienced his whole life, in and out of the workplace. Racial slurs hurled at him from cars. People asking him outside of a restaurant to park their cars or mistaking him for janitorial staff in the hospital. He and his wife even learned that adopting a baby of color was less expensive than adopting a child who is white. One day as Williams waited for a car to the airport outside of his apartment in Dallas, someone called the police on a “suspicious Black male.” Officers approached him, asking for identification to prove his residence. His wife, who is white and was not yet aware of the rampant racism that would later come to light in the media, was surprised he complied. She asked him why he did so. He replied simply, “I didn’t want to get shot.”

From engineering to medicine Williams, an Air Force brat, moved around every few years as a child and eventually became an aeronautical engineer after attending the Air Force Academy as the first person in his family to go to college. “While on active duty, I got this bug to go into medicine,” Williams said. “My social circle was all nurses and doctors. I was exposed to these folks talking about their day-to-day all the time, and I thought their jobs sounded great.” At 28, he started medical school at the University of South Florida, where he did rotations in trauma surgery and surgical critical care. On the second day of his trauma rotation, Williams said, he knew that’s what he wanted to do with his life. “The pace of the specialty, patients coming in the door near death and the team bringing them back —  trauma surgeons seemed like my kind of people,” Williams said. “I enjoyed operating and the fast pace of the ICU, including the adrenaline.”



“ What are the root causes of gun violence? I see there’s a lot more than the injury. It’s a complicated intersection of inequality of income, of infrastructure, of jobs and more that’s impacting communities where my patients come from. This requires me to go upstream and see what I can do.”

Brian Williams, MD





Brian Williams, MD, studied aeronautical engineering at the Air Force Academy.

Williams at a memorial set up after the Dallas shootings.

Williams did his internship and residency in Boston at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Boston is also where he met his wife, Kathianne Sellers Williams. “One thing about Brian is that he’s very humble,” Kathianne said. “I remember him giving grand rounds as a surgical resident. A lot of the doctors spoke about how they became doctors because of other people in their families who were also doctors. Brian talked about how his father and grandfather were in the military and traced his roots back to the land his family was enslaved on. He’s the opposite of entitled, and I can tell when he’s working on young Black patients, he sees a lot of himself in them.” She said for much of their life together, her husband has been guarded, hiding potential vulnerabilities from others to build trust and respect.

Press conference in Dallas The Monday following the police shootings in Dallas, Williams was called upon to participate in a press conference as the surgeon on call. “I had no desire to relive what happened in front of cameras,” he said, “but my wife told me I had to go.” Kathianne said that before the press conference, her husband was an especially private person who turned down any kind of public attention. He didn’t want to leave any room for people’s outside perceptions to hinder his progress, so he had no social media presence and even asked her not to post photos of him on her own pages. But something changed in him the night of the press conference.

“My wife said, ‘The country needs to see there was a Black surgeon there that night trying to save those white officers. Just show up and sit there,’” Williams said. “That’s a statement on our society. Just to be seen as a Black man in that situation made a statement. “I went and was listening to what people were saying. I felt like — this is not what this is about. I felt there was too much being left unsaid. I 12


don’t remember how, but I came to speak. It was unrehearsed, unscripted, the words just came out. I thought to myself, this has to be said right now or it will never happen:

“I want the officers to see me, a Black man, and understand that I support you, I will defend you and I will care for you,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I do not fear you.” His powerful words went viral. “I still have a way to go in terms of recovering and understanding what that night meant,” Williams said. “I learned that any one of us can make a difference, even if we don’t think we can, for good or bad.” When he announced in 2019 that he was moving to Chicago, the Dallas Morning News wrote that Williams left “an indelible mark on police and community relations in Dallas.”

Back in the trauma bay During Williams’s career, he crossed paths with several members of the team who opened UChicago Medicine’s Level 1 adult trauma center in 2018. While in medical school, he worked with Jeffrey Matthews, MD, Chair of the Department of Surgery at UChicago Medicine. As a resident in Boston, he worked with Selwyn Rogers Jr., MD, MPH, Founding Director of the trauma center. And during a fellowship at Emory University’s Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, he worked with Kenneth Wilson, MD, Professor of Surgery. “Since I’ve known Brian, he’s gone straight up to being a thought leader,” Wilson said. “The social determinants of trauma and structural racism are clearly not something you learn about in a fellowship when you’re putting an artery back together. He’s passionate about his trauma patients, especially in communities of color.” Williams was attracted to the job in Chicago by the opportunities to work on a team with four Black trauma surgeons — rare in the field — and to address healthcare disparities and gun violence. “I was at a point in my career looking at my professional progress and realizing everything that’s happened prepared me for a moment like this,” he said. “It’s not a job, it’s a mission. It’s a life’s purpose.” The victims of gun violence injuries he sees as a trauma surgeon at UChicago Medicine are overwhelmingly Black. He can’t remember the last time he told someone who was not African American about the death of their child due to gun violence. “With the volume of gun violence we’re experiencing, there’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “You

BRIAN WILLIAMS BEYOND THE ED Speaker, writer, thought leader: Williams

Working on: Getting his memoir published

And a bibliophile: Mostly nonfiction and

hosts the podcast Race, Violence and

this year.

science fiction. “I’m a science fiction geek,”

Medicine. His op-eds have appeared in Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune and other publications. High profile: Named one of Medscape’s Top 20 Black Physician Social Media Influencers. Received a 2020 Black Leaders Worth Watching award from Profiles in Diversity Journal.

Family life: Williams and his wife, Kathianne, have been married 16 years and have a 10-year-old daughter, Abeni. Music man: Though his wife says he’s not allowed to listen to heavy metal in the house,

flag high.” A great laugh: “He’s an unexpected person — pensive and serious, but he has a playful side,’’ his wife says. “I love his laugh.”

Williams plays in a band with fellow UChicago Medicine surgeons, though the musicians are on hiatus due to the pandemic.

put me in the trauma center, and I can treat patients, teach residents, do research and easily finish my career that way, but I want to put myself out of a job. “I’m excited to be at a university with so many resources available that may not be available to other trauma centers. We have the business school, the law school and really smart people looking at the same issues of inequality on the South Side. I can call them up for coffee. The possibility to bring all this together for sustainable change that will uplift the community and have transgenerational impact is very exciting. I really believe in what’s happening here. It’s a historic opportunity. There is no place else on the planet that exists like this for a trauma center. We can solve these problems. It’s a matter of looking at the root causes instead of just treating the wounds.”

Focus on social justice Williams said he hopes to make a difference on the South Side, starting with talking to a lot of the individuals and groups already working to fight racism. “The whole goal is to educate, hold a mirror up to ourselves. It’s who we are but it doesn’t have to define us. We can take our shared history of racial injustice and create a more just society,” he said. He recently oversaw a team of graduate students who completed a capstone project regarding gun violence. “Looking at gun violence through different lenses, on a smaller scale, I’m hoping with these students we can tackle one problem and then figure out how to scale the solution,” he said. “But it starts with an idea on a small scale that we can implement, revise, evaluate. My job is not to give them the answers, but to give them my experience and step out of the way and let smart people do their jobs.” Williams is an inspiration to the residents he mentors, said fellow trauma surgeon Kenneth Wilson. “He’s like the Pied Piper for people in this program uchicagomedicine.org/midway

Williams says. “I fly my science fiction

who want to do social outreach stuff,” Wilson said. “When he takes the podium and starts talking, he’s mesmerizing.” Last summer, Williams moderated Facebook Live panels with UChicago Medicine’s House Staff Diversity Committee to help educate communities of color about the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee, made up of residents and fellows, provides a forum to learn about advocacy, self-awareness, social justice and intercultural understanding. “It’s important for members of our community to get important information from messengers who look like them, in addition to seeing how they’re working on fighting this pandemic day to day,” Williams said. On a personal level, the pandemic was challenging for Williams and his family. Working in trauma in 2020 came with a lot of unknowns and the stark possibility that he could contract COVID-19 and die. But the past year also has better illuminated how the effects of racism in a pandemic have left communities of color to die at higher rates and be vaccinated at lower rates than the general population. “Despite all the deaths, economic downturn, problems with our schools — I recognize within all of it that there’s opportunity to somehow be a positive contributor,” Williams said. “Moving forward, I’m thinking about what I can do to contribute to society and uplift these communities that are suffering. I believe if we do that, everyone will benefit.”


Williams is one of four Black trauma surgeons at UChicago Medicine.




Equity, every day The Department of Surgery’s sweeping effort to promote diversity, equity and inclusion BY ANGELA WELLS O’CONNOR


he May 2020 death of George Floyd spurred social unrest as the country grappled with painful evidence of racial inequities, already made stark by COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black and brown communities. University of Chicago Medicine vascular surgeon Chelsea Dorsey, MD ’10, called the moment a “wake-up call” for the Department of Surgery: “I think the leadership realized that we as a department did not have what was needed in terms of support for faculty and trainees who were understandably struggling to make sense of the events of last spring. What we really needed in that moment was an environment that had already been primed to tackle these types of issues.” Her response was to speak up. “Over the summer, I think many of us made a conscious effort to get out of our comfort zone of the status quo,” said Dorsey, Assistant Professor of Surgery. “As a person of color, you grow up feeling like your job is to put your head down, put in the work and not make waves. George Floyd was a call to action for me personally. I tried to lay out that we, quite frankly, didn’t have what we needed in the department, and that this was our opportunity for us to do more. Luckily, I was met with a Chair who was open to listening.” Department Chair Jeffrey Matthews, MD, was definitely listening. While the department already had a strong reputation for its recruitment and outreach efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), Matthews recognized the need to further broaden and better coordinate the work being done across sections and with the Biological Sciences Division — and


accelerate the pace of progress and engagement. And, he wanted to capture the enthusiasm of faculty and staff who care deeply about creating a more equitable work and learning environment. “What really crystallized this past year was the idea that pockets of efforts did not amount to the collective impact that we wanted,” said Matthews, Dallas B. Phemister Professor of Surgery. “We really needed to focus not on what we had done, but on all the space in between to identify the remaining gaps.” While the department was charged with creating a diversity plan in 2019, Dorsey said the events of summer 2020 “created a sense of urgency.” Dorsey was chosen to lead a renewed effort in the newly created role of Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chair of the newly formed DEI Steering Committee. She had already been serving as the department liaison to the BSD Faculty Diversity Committee, which is primarily focused on faculty hiring and retention. Peter Angelos, MD, PhD, Linda Kohler Anderson Professor of Surgery and Chief of Endocrine Surgery, is the committee’s co-chair. The Department of Surgery DEI Steering Committee is composed of 17 faculty, trainee and staff representatives across the department’s 12 subspecialty sections. Six subcommittees staffed by 40 volunteers address clinical care, access and continuity; education; community engagement and activism; recruitment, career development and retention; communications; and wellness initiatives. One of the steering committee’s first actions was to survey the needs, concerns and experiences of the surgery community


and identify the gaps in past efforts. They collaborated with UChicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative, which helped to conduct a similar assessment in 2016 of the entire University community. Survey results were shared throughout the department during town hall meetings last fall. “One of the biggest takeaways was that people have a really hard time talking about DEI-related matters,” Dorsey said. “They didn’t feel that the Department of Surgery was a safe space to be able to have those conversations.” For several months, the steering committee and subcommittees worked to formalize the DEI plan, which they submitted to the BSD Office of Diversity and Inclusion in September. In the meantime, through training and workshops, the department has worked to build understanding around such topics as implicit bias, cultural competence, inclusive language and confronting microaggressions — subtle experiences of bias and racism that can include jokes and inadvertent slurs. DEI discussions are now integrated into quarterly grand rounds and the department’s weekly morbidity and mortality conferences, where discussion of surgical complications may also include DEI considerations: Was implicit bias a factor in this surgical outcome? One of the challenges for the committee is to infuse the values of DEI throughout the department, taking into consideration everything from what’s hanging on the walls to how faculty is promoted. “It’s a conversation that Dr. Dorsey and I have all the time — how to make DEI part of everyday processes,” Matthews said. “How we think about teaching and training, how


Microaggressions at work In fall 2020, the Department of Surgery conducted an environmental scan and needs assessment. The 100 qualitative and quantitative questions explored perceptions and experiences related to microaggressions (subtle real or perceived demeaning experiences relating to race, gender, culture, etc.), macroaggressions (defined as overt acts of racism and sexism, for example), heightened vigilance, experiences specific to the surgical workplace, long-term effects of micro/ macroaggressions on behavior for people of color, white privilege/fragility, and general questions about the climate in the department. The majority of respondents agreed that racism is a problem in America, contributes to poor outcomes and needs Brandon Baird, MD, left, Chelsea Dorsey, MD’10, and Jeffrey Matthews, MD

to be addressed. Also, some female and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of

we develop the careers of our faculty — that’s all deeply related to DEI.” As part of the DEI plan, the communications subcommittee created a diversity webpage within the Department of Surgery website and is planning to change displays on the department’s walls and alcoves to reflect the accomplishments of a more diverse set of surgeons. The subcommittee on recruitment, career development and retention, led by laryngeal surgeon Brandon Baird, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, plans to create a formal mentorship program for faculty — a measure designed to retain top talent. This subcommittee and the newly formed Promotions Committee are also working to create better transparency around open leadership positions and pathways to promotion, particularly for junior and mid-level faculty. The community engagement subcommittee launched a webpage promoting volunteer opportunities at more than 50 organizations, including several on Chicago’s South Side. Other plans include policy advocacy at the


medical center and on the local, state and national levels to address health disparities and improve health outcomes of the medical center’s patient population. “Our department has realized how important these issues are to our work as surgeons and as educators,” said Matthews. “The DEI efforts have created connections between our students, trainees, residents and fellows, and the faculty — within the department, across generations and across specialties.” Dorsey is also encouraged by early signs of progress, noting that during DEI-related Zoom lectures, “the chat window has been lighting up more and more — a sign that people are a bit more comfortable talking about some of these topics.” Still, she acknowledges the incremental nature of cultural change. “I think I’ll know that things have changed when I can walk down the hallway and see more surgeons who look like me. We’re not there yet as a broader surgical community, but I remain hopeful and committed to helping our department be an agent of change.”

color) colleagues reported facing bias regularly — both inside and outside the Department of Surgery — with a high prevalence among Black colleagues. Questions that explored microaggressions in the workplace included: ■ In surgical conferences, when different opinions would be helpful, how often is your opinion not asked for? ■ How often are you watched more closely than others? ■ How often have you been mistaken for someone of the same race? ■ How often do others assume that you are not a surgeon or work in a lower status job than you do, and treat you as such? ■ How often have you felt that there are different evaluation standards for you because of your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation?




Trauma chief Selwyn Rogers Jr., MD, MPH, receives first James E. Bowman Professorship BY JAMIE BARTOSCH


Selwyn O. Rogers Jr., MD, MPH



hortly after the University of Chicago’s inaugural James E. Bowman Professorship in the Biological Sciences was announced, Selwyn O. Rogers Jr., MD, MPH, received a congratulatory note from one of his mentors. David Soybel, AB’78, MD’82, recalled how passionate Bowman was about the University’s responsibility to the South Side community and to increasing faculty diversity. A medical student when Bowman was on the faculty, Soybel later mentored Rogers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, while Rogers was a surgical resident at Harvard Medical School. “I know Dr. Bowman would be incredibly proud to have you as the inaugural Bowman Professor,” Soybel wrote. “It’s such an honor for you to be associated with his name. The passion you have for health equity, addressing social determinants of health and standing up for the trauma center at the University of Chicago — those are the things he stood for.” The gravity of the professorship and Bowman’s contributions to African Americans on the South Side and in the field of medicine are not lost on Rogers. He admires Bowman not only for being a pioneer in genetics and bioethics, including sickle cell anemia research, but also for being the first tenured Black professor in the Biological Sciences Division and an advocate for members of underrepresented groups seeking careers in academic medicine. It’s a legacy Rogers has been building upon in his roles as Director of the Level 1 adult trauma center, Executive Vice President of Community Health Engagement and Professor of Surgery. “I can’t imagine how it felt for Dr. Bowman to


walk the hallways here as literally the only African American professor. There’s no doubt he experienced racism. He pushed through with his sheer excellence,” Rogers said. “Dr. Bowman walking through the James E. Bowman, MD halls of U. of C. made it possible for me to walk through the halls. To be linked with him through this professorship is an incredible honor.” Rogers credits Bowman with being a catalyst that prompted the University of Chicago to embrace diversity and community engagement. “He was ahead of his time thinking about things like health access, healthcare disparities and equity. Things that we talk about now. But he was actively engaged with it 30 years ago,” Rogers said. “The diversity we have at the University of Chicago now is a testament to his legacy.”

“To be linked with him through this professorship is an incredible honor.” Selwyn O. Rogers Jr., MD, MPH

Since joining UChicago Medicine in 2017, Rogers forged ahead with diversity initiatives, recruiting four Black trauma surgeons. Rogers made it a priority because 80 percent of the trauma center patients at UChicago Medicine are Black males. Rogers also encouraged UChicago Medicine to recruit diverse candidates from medical schools across the country to do their residencies at UChicago Medicine. He teamed up Iris Romero, MD, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, and other leaders to make the hospital system more inclusive by recruiting more diverse faculty. This will help to improve the health and well-being of people in communities surrounding the hospital. “I’m doing everything I can to carry Dr. Bowman’s mission forward,” he said.


Attracting young physicians to serve Chicago’s South Side PHOTO BY GREG YAMAMOTO


Anita Blanchard, MD’90, received a 2021 Diversity Leadership Award, which recognizes members of the University of Chicago community who demonstrate leadership and a sustained commitment to justice and equality.

As Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education

(GME), Anita Blanchard, MD’90, helms a team that draws top talent to the resident and fellows programs at the University of Chicago Medicine on the Hyde Park campus, currently 1,000 participants strong. While Blanchard celebrates this success, she laments the small number of graduates who ultimately go on to serve South Side communities like where she grew up. In 2020, of 330 graduates, 55 chose to practice in Chicago. And only eight decided to practice on the South Side, where scarcity of healthcare providers — particularly those of color —  contributes to health disparities and affects health outcomes and life expectancies for predominantly Black and brown communities. In February 2021, GME launched the Community Champions program to strengthen the connection between resident physicians and these underserved communities, providing participants with outreach and service opportunities. Thirty-three Community Champions were selected from 19 residency programs, including 21 people of color and 25 women. The program is structured to leverage the robust community network and partnerships of UChicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative (UHI). Community Champions have mostly been deployed for COVID-19 vaccine outreach efforts organized by the UHI. They have served as panelists on virtual community meetings, guest hosts on a community health radio program, spokespersons for public service announcements, and even participants in a cooking demonstration. Edwin McDonald, MD, and Stephen Estime, MD, Faculty Directors of Diversity for GME, work with UHI to coordinate the efforts. Several Community Champions volunteered to administer vaccines at a pop-up clinic serving the Roseland and Washington Heights communities. UChicago Medicine is working to overcome vaccine hesitancy and promote access and education in these South Side neighborhoods hard hit by the pandemic. “It is rewarding to see the strong interest and participation in the program right from the start,” said Blanchard, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “The Community Champions are


The 2021 UChicago Medicine Main Match was one of the most diverse with 171 residency positions on the Hyde Park campus.


increase in residents with backgrounds underrepresented in medicine

making meaningful and immediate contributions to South Side communities.” Chidimma J. Acholonu, MD, MPH, a second-year pediatric resident, said she appreciates the opportunity to serve and learn beyond the medical campus. “What makes residency at UChicago Medicine unique is the identity of the neighborhoods we serve — not just the need, but the rich history and

“Our hope is that once medical residents get involved in the community, they’ll commit to staying.”

25.7% identify as Asian

16.9% identify as Black


identify as Hispanic

Anita Blanchard, MD’90

unique potential to impact change,” Acholonu said. “The long hours of residency can make it hard to remember the humanity of the work that we do, but the Community Champions program has created a space where community engagement is more intentionally part of my purpose as a physician.”

43.3% identify as White 7% did not self-identify or identified as “other”





Despite decades of messaging that “STEM is for boys,” the proportion of

women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics continues to rise. Today, women earn more than half of all PhDs in the biological sciences in the U.S. Women in STEM juggle career goals, family and social expectations, while navigating the obstacles presented by systemic bias and an increasingly competitive job market. During the past year, they’ve also confronted challenges of conducting research during a global pandemic. But despite these hurdles, many women find careers in STEM highly rewarding. Women at different career levels — from an undergraduate studying computational biology to long-time department chairs — talk about how their experiences at the University of Chicago have shaped and directed their research and perspectives.




LEADING THE WAY IN THE BSD Melina Hale, PhD’98 William Rainey Harper Professor, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and the College Vice Provost, The University of Chicago



Melina Hale, PhD’98, joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2002. “I was grateful to be able to come back to UChicago because I find our integrative approaches so engaging and productive,” she said. “I love to collaborate and UChicago’s valuing of cross-disciplinary work supports collaboration and tackling the sorts of questions I find compelling.” Hale studies how motor behaviors are generated by the nervous system. Her research focuses on the mechanosensation and neuromechanics of movement systems, their development and evolution. When she started her lab at UChicago, she said, “It was exciting to have the opportunity to combine the evolutionary and biomechanics approaches of my PhD research with the neurobiological questions and approaches I had worked on since then.” Her research model of choice is the zebrafish, which allows her to use the advantages of genetic models, including transgenic lines with fluorescent neurons and muscles, to zero in on questions of how hindbrain and spinal cord circuits drive movement and how mechanosensory feedback reports on body movement and is integrated into those circuits. Hale also studies a wide range of other species, including octopuses, to understand specializations in limb function and compare the neuromechanical strategies animals use to behave. Along with her research, Hale has focused on training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows,

and supporting University faculty through various leadership roles. She served as spokesperson of the Committee of the Council of the University Senate, dean for faculty affairs in the BSD and co-interim director of the Marine Biological Laboratory. For the past five years, she has held a position in the Provost’s Office as a vice provost. During her time as both a student and faculty member at UChicago, she’s seen many positive changes for women. “It’s an exciting time. For most of my years at UChicago as a graduate student there were no women on the faculty in my department who were actively doing research. Now there are four of us,” Hale said, “and we’re putting much needed attention on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) more broadly. Our current graduate students are such a positive force in this work and great colleagues on these efforts. “We need to keep our energy and focus on DEI. We still have a lot of work to do but are headed in a good direction.”





As department chair, Lauderdale is excited about the development of a new master of public health degree program, as well as an MD/MPH program leveraging the connections between clinical, basic science and social science departments. She is keenly aware of the importance of having more women in STEM leadership. “Women are underrepresented at leadership levels, where folks are making higher-profile decisions,” Lauderdale said. “When people are trying to recruit star researchers, either they don’t think as often of women or it’s harder to convince them to come. It’s an issue of hiring patterns. But the promising part is, I think these gender issues are not overwhelming, and can be overcome.”

Diane Lauderdale, AM’78, AM’81, PhD Louis Block Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences and the College

Women are less likely to be represented on NIH study sections, which determine federal research funding.


Diane Lauderdale, AM’78, AM’81, PhD, first studied religious history at UChicago’s Divinity School, then library science. In the midst of the AIDs epidemic of the 1980s, she realized that she is fundamentally a very quantitative thinker, and that epidemiology was a field where she could put that thinking to good use. But as a mother of two children, Lauderdale couldn’t uproot her family to pursue a new career. She enrolled at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the only university in Chicago to offer a PhD in epidemiology at the time. “By extraordinary good luck, UChicago opened a department that included epidemiology as I was finishing my doctorate program,” Lauderdale said. “I was hired as the first assistant professor in the department.” Lauderdale’s research has been diverse and interdisciplinary, shaped heavily by her experience of helping establish UChicago’s department. “There were no senior researchers in my field, no big studies on which I could build,” she said. “I ended up reaching out to people in demography and sociology, and also to faculty in general internal medicine. Typically, epidemiologists focus on one disease or methodology, and my career has been much broader than most.” For the last 10 years, Lauderdale’s research has focused on sleep and its effects on health, developing methods to measure sleep behavior outside of the laboratory and in the home. “Sleep is clearly related to people’s circumstances, as well as to their physiological and psychological situation,” she said. “It’s also undoubtedly related to health, but maybe not in the ways that earlier studies relying on self-reported sleep behaviors have indicated.”


Carole Ober, PhD Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Human Genetics and the College Chair, Department of Human Genetics



Chair, Department of Public Health Sciences

In the eyes of Carole Ober, PhD, human genetics has fared better than other STEM fields, “possibly because there have always been senior women in the field who served as great role models.” As a woman in leadership, she is well aware of the “subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences in the ways men and women are treated. Most meetings and committees are still male dominated, and it can be challenging to feel heard or that we’re all playing on a level field.” For many years, Ober’s research focused on genetic mapping studies in the Hutterites, an isolated population similar to the Amish. Recently, due to groundbreaking advances in gene therapies, her work has shifted to focus more on helping Hutterite families access treatments, and even cures, for their children with severe recessive diseases. As part of her other genetic studies, she has co-led national and international consortia on asthma genetics and directed a March of Dimes Prematurity Research

Joy Bergelson, PhD James D. Watson Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution and the College Immediate Past Chair, Department of Ecology and Evolution

At the time she chose an undergraduate major, Joy Bergelson, PhD, had learned that ecology was a field where one could really gain traction. She appreciated that the research seemed to depend more on critical thinking skills rather than technical ones. “Ecology is great because you get to travel and see interesting places, and at the time that I entered the field, it didn’t take a lot of money to do something novel,” Bergelson said. Over the years, technology has changed, and so has the field. “There’s now a lot of genetics, functional biology and chemistry in what we do. I learned new things along the way and now approach problems at a more detailed level than when I started.” Over time, her research has evolved from understanding competitive interactions between species to a focus on plant-enemy interactions: how plants and the creatures that damage them respond uchicagomedicine.org/midway


Center, in collaboration with Northwestern University and Duke University. Ober finds her many research collaborations to be the most rewarding part of her job. “It’s great for my trainees to be growing up in a world where science is collaborative and supportive, where you can learn how to be generous and share, and know when to step back and let someone else take the lead.” Ober said that there is just so much more pressure on young people today that sharing research successes and failures with collaborators can help investigators feel less isolated and hopefully more bold. “Things were very different when I was starting out,” she said. “It wasn’t as hard to meet academic milestones, and the pace was slower overall. Yet, this rising generation of academics has so much more awareness of and desire to address head-on the social injustices and implicit biases that have held so many groups back. It gives me great optimism for the future when I see the energy and commitment of our students, postdocs and junior faculty to not just succeed on their own, but to make academia a more welcoming environment for everyone.”

and adapt to one another. This led to her study of the evolutionary costs of resistance, and eventually down a path to the interface between ecology and evolution, seeking to understand how plants and their pathogens drive one another’s evolution. “My work has expanded to cross ecological and evolutionary time frames, expanded from single pathogens to microbiomes and expanded from a single host to the host community,” she said. “We learned five to 10 years ago that it’s really not possible to understand these species interactions in isolation or outside of their real context.” Reflecting on her own career trajectory, Bergelson said: “I don’t know what it would have been like as a man, because my experience is just my experience.” But she notes that even though women now receive over half of the PhDs awarded in biology, their representation at the tenured faculty level is not keeping pace — despite conscious efforts on her part to offer positions to diverse candidates. “Once you know that biases exist against women in STEM, it’s possible to consider them in evaluations,” Bergelson said. “It helps to focus on where there’s an issue, assess it and adjust as needed. I don’t know what we can do besides being aware and then working at higher levels to take these challenges under consideration. Things get better, slowly.”

Women earn more degrees in biology than men, with over

60% of bachelor’s degrees going to women.

Victoria Prince, PhD Professor, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and the College Dean for Graduate Education

Victoria Prince, PhD, is deeply conscious of the role she plays as a leader for trainees in STEM — and as a role model. “I think it’s important that young women don’t see barriers to their careers at an early time point,” she said. A developmental biologist, Prince studies the Hox genes, which are critical for developmental

Sources for statistics: National Center for Education Statistics; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; National Science Foundation; Nobelprize.org; Science; bioRxiv; Nature; JAMA Network Open.




$40 K  less than men in their first funding award from the NIH.


Women receive

patterning in all animal species. This work fits neatly at the intersection of two of her academic interests — evolution and developmental biology. “These genes have been well studied in lots of organisms and are very well conserved, and yet the details of how they do their job help to make different species different from one another,” she said. “Understanding how that is has important evolutionary and developmental impact.” But her favorite thing to study, she says, is the neural crest. “These cells are a vertebrate-specific innovation,” said Prince. “These cells migrate all over the body turning into different things. I’ve loved looking at some older questions with newer technology and imaging approaches that were not available before.”

Programs like myCHOICE at UChicago are an important resource for women in STEM, she said. “I’m all for people pursuing whatever kind of career they’re interested in,” Prince said. “But there is a leaky pipeline in science, and I think that in some cases it’s got to do with the challenge of a demanding career that conflicts with having a family. We lose a lot of people at the transition points. MyCHOICE offers popular workshops on the business of running a lab, facilitating conversations on topics like how to staff a new lab, write your first grant —  how to transition from being a member of a lab to leading one.” One benefit to these programs is that they help early-career women in research get advice from and network with investigators in a variety of fields. “It’s very important to have a strong support network,” said Prince. “It doesn’t fix the problem, but it can help you navigate the problem. Seeing women support other women has helped me realize how powerful and meaningful that can be — ultimately, that can help us come out on the other side with a more unified front.”

BEYOND THE BENCH Meet three BSD alumni who have followed career paths outside of academia For decades, the traditional career path in science —  from PhD to postdoctoral research to tenuretrack faculty member conducting independent research — has influenced resources and training provided by graduate programs. But an increasingly competitive job market for a shrinking number of faculty positions has spurred more PhD graduates to pursue careers in a variety of sectors. In 2017, only 23 percent of PhDs in the life and health sciences held a tenure-track position in academia, down from 33 percent in 1997.



Gabrielle Edgerton, PhD’10 Founder and Principal Consultant, Red Pen Scientific, Inc.

Gabrielle Edgerton, PhD’10, realized early on that a career in academic research wasn’t her first choice, but while exploring positions in science policy, she saw how a PhD could open doors. “I was right at the transition point between when it was really taboo to talk about not doing a postdoc and now, when people are encouraged to talk about it,” said Edgerton, who has a doctorate in neurobiology. The aha moment came when she submitted a successful application for a National Research Service Award grant from the National Institutes of Health. “It made me realize those were the days I

really looked forward to as a student — days where I was just sitting with the data, thinking about how you would convince a reader that something is significant, important and interesting, and revising and editing the writing.” She ultimately decided to pursue a postdoc, but soon discovered that she faced the choice between moving cross country to continue working with her advisor or finding some other opportunity. “I talked to my advisor about this idea I had — like, can I just be a pinch hitter in a lab to write what needs to be written?” she said. Her advisor introduced her to a colleague who ran a gigbased writing business. Several years later, Edgerton struck out on her own with Red Pen Scientific. Now, she works full time as a writer, editor and consultant for other scientists. Through her work, Edgerton finds that she gets to talk to scientists about all kinds of exciting research questions. While operating her own business can be tough, she loves her work. “I’ve been doing it for 10 years, and I haven’t looked back,” Edgerton said.

security needs and provide safety training and other resources to enable groups to respond quickly and adequately to biosecurity challenges. “We fund work that helps make people’s lives safer and more secure,” she said. “The importance of the work we do has really been brought home in the middle of a pandemic. We can’t do everything, but we have the ability to provide people with the resources, training and knowledge they can’t get on their own that make a difference.” Vora, whose doctorate is in cancer biology, said she wishes she’d been more aware of the breadth of University of Chicago resources when she was a student. “I did not take nearly enough advantage of the Harris School of Public Policy as I wish I could have,” she said. “But now I’m helping develop a science policy course for BSD, PSD, and other graduate programs through the myCHOICE program, and it’s been a sign to me that there should be more opportunities fostered between these phenomenal schools at the University.”

47.7% of biological scientists are women.

Courtney Burrows, PhD’15, MBA’17 Sapana Vora, PhD’14 Deputy Team Chief, Biosecurity Engagement Program, U.S. Department of State

Sapana Vora, PhD’14, first began considering a career in science policy after chancing upon an advertisement on LinkedIn for the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program, which gives scientists and engineers firsthand experience in policymaking. “The program is all about taking the skills developed in an academic research environment and making it more impactful, more public facing,” she said. “How can you make a bigger difference with what you know? From that moment I was sold.” Now deputy team chief in the Biosecurity Engagement Program at the U.S. Department of State, Vora works with foreign partners to identify


Commercial Leadership Program, AbbVie

After deciding early on that she could have a bigger impact if she went further down the scientific development pipeline, Courtney Burrows, PhD’15, MBA’17, set her sights on a career in industry. “I started to get interested in the business side of things while doing my PhD,” said Burrows, whose doctorate is in human genetics. “I got involved in the tech transfer office, working on startups out of UChicago, and started taking classes at the business school. Those experiences clarified that I wanted to take the full step to get the MBA.” Burrows is now in a commercial leadership program at AbbVie that she considers the perfect match between her expertise and skills as a scientist and her training in business. While this position is preparing her for a leadership role in the commercial




More than

40% of women with full time jobs in science leave or go part-time after having their first child.

side of the industry, she has been surprised by the multitude of opportunities in pharma. “There’s so much you don’t even realize is out there until you’re in it. There’s an enormous variety and good opportunities for PhDs that I would never

know about if I wasn’t already in pharma.” Burrows is grateful for the ecosystem at UChicago, which allowed her to feel plugged into the biotech and life sciences industries even before her MBA. “The myCHOICE internship program was a big evolution for grad students that I think has served people very well,” she said. “Now students can get that exposure in a safe and supported way.” Burrows finds that this career path has been the perfect fit for her needs and interests. “I have fantastic work/life balance and a pension,” she said. “I think academia is more entrepreneurial, when you’re running your own lab, but you can be an entrepreneur outside of academia, too.”

IN THE LAB Four scientists discuss their research in human genetics Mengjie Chen, PhD Assistant Professor, Departments of Medicine and Human Genetics and the College

K-12 female students perform just as well as their male classmates in mathematics and science.

R E S E A R C H F O C U S : Developing new technologies

W H AT S H E ’ D L I K E M O R E P E O P L E T O K N O W :

for high-throughput single-cell analysis, measuring gene or protein expression at the single-cell level. This work has applications for cancer, where understanding intratumor heterogeneity can be key for identifying ideal treatment approaches, and neuroscience, where understanding differences between individual cells can help us better understand the structure and composition of the brain.

Just because there is no immediate clinical or translational application doesn’t mean that the work isn’t relevant or useful. “We don’t have many opportunities to be introduced to the general public, because a lot of the research is only loosely related to disease treatment,” Chen said. “We need more opportunities to talk to younger generations if we want to attract more students and to help the general public learn about the existence of this field. It’s not highlighted often, but it’s very important.”

FAV O R I T E PA R T O F H E R J O B : Reviewing a data set and discovering something that hasn’t been noticed by other people yet. “We can see something entirely new, a new phenomenon from the data, and try to explain why we’re seeing this,” Chen said. SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT HER E X P E R I E N C E I N S T E M : Initially, Chen was discouraged by the prospects of a career in academic research as she watched mentors juggle large labs, administrative work and conference travel. “After


becoming an assistant professor myself, I realized that not every faculty member will lead a life like that,” Chen said. “You can lead a very balanced life. I chose this job for the flexibility of being able to study anything I wanted.”


Looking back at key discoveries by women in the BSD

1923 Pathologist Florence B. Seibert, PhD, developed new lab equipment to reduce bacterial contamination in intravenous fluids, reducing the risk of infection in patients. Later, she helped develop a reliable test to identify tuberculosis. SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION ARCHIVES



Psychiatrist Esther Somerfeld-Ziskind, SB’23, Rush MD’26, was an early proponent of group psychotherapy and helped pioneer groundbreaking psychiatric treatments such as lithium for treating depression.

1967 Lynn Margulis, PhD, LAB’54, AB’57, published a landmark paper arguing for endosymbiotic theory, which says that cellular components such as mitochondria and chloroplasts evolved from formerly free-living single-celled organisms. She weathered years of criticism, but by the 1980s, the theory had become widely accepted.

1930s 1961 Frances Oldham Kelsey, PhD’38, MD’50, a pharmacologist and drug reviewer for the FDA, refused to approve the anti-nausea drug thalidomide for use in the U.S. without clinical safety data, despite considerable pressure. Thalidomide was found to cause severe birth defects.





Sara Branham Matthews, SM 1920, PhD’23, MD’34, studied the flu virus. While working at the NIH, she isolated and identified Neisseria meningitidis, a bacterium that causes meningitis.

1966 Infectious disease researcher Dorothy Hamre, PhD, was the first person to isolate a strain of a coronavirus, which she described in a paper co-authored with John J. Procknow as “possibly associated with mild upper respiratory illnesses of man.”



1981 Susan Lindquist, PhD, one of the first professors in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, studied how heat shock proteins play a role in the cellular response to environmental stressors, and pioneered the use of yeast as a model organism for studying protein biochemistry.

Janet Rowley, LAB’42, PhB’44, SB’46, MD’48, identified chromosomal translocations linked to leukemia, providing some of the early evidence that chromosomal abnormalities play a role in some cancers.




Associate Professor, Department of Pathology R E S E A R C H F O C U S : Studying how and why

some patients respond well to treatment while others do not in blood cancers, specifically myeloid malignancies. A large focus is on understanding why high-risk patients, who don’t respond to treatment, are frequently missing a portion of chromosome 7 in their tumor cells, and how that leads to treatment resistance. Her research has identified a gene called CUX1 on chromosome 7 that acts as a “master regulator” of the genome; if you remove this gene in mice, they develop myeloid malignancies.

As of 2015, women represented only


M O ST E XC I T I N G T H I N G H A P P E N I N G I N H E R F I E L D R I G H T N O W : “Next-generation sequencing of the total number of people in science and engineering occupations in PHOTO BY JEAN LACHAT

the U.S.

and uncovering somatic mutations that occur in cancer have opened up the door for finding new tailored therapies for cancer,” McNerney said. Instead of using systemic chemotherapy for all cancers, which targets all proliferating cells in the body, personalized inhibitor treatments are based on specific mutations in cancerous tumors. “This is a super fun time to be in cancer research,” McNerney said. “We have these specific drugs we can give patients, the outcomes are better, patients feel better, and it’s less toxic.” FAV O R I T E PA R T O F H E R J O B : “I’m interacting with smart, creative, motivated people that are inspiring and engaging, and it’s very intellectually stimulating. Even if I won the lottery, I would keep my job.” H E R A D V I C E F O R W O M E N I N S T E M : “Learning to say no is key. Women often get stuck with the so-called ‘pink labor,’ and in science it’s still a huge problem. As women in leadership positions, we need

to foster an environment where we’re enabling our junior investigators to thrive and stay focused on their priorities.”

Maanasa Raghavan, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Human Genetics and the College R E S E A R C H F O C U S : Reconstructing human

population and demographic history in order to understand the origins, past migratory patterns, and adaptive and disease trajectories of different populations all around the world. “We all have a shared history leading back to Africa, but since the migration out of Africa between 60,000 and 100,000 years ago, unique cultural, societal and biological evolutionary processes have caused different populations around the world to drive in unique directions,” Raghavan said. Her team is not only seeking to understand the biocultural trajectories that have shaped our human species, but also to diversify the genomic literature in a sustainable and equitable fashion, working with Indigenous communities to better understand their histories, build community partnerships for sequencing diverse populations of people, and help build and support HOW HAVE scientific capacity ANCIENT HUMANS in collaborating AND THEIR countries. ENVIRONMENTS SHAPED PRESENT-DAY HUMAN GENETIC DIVERSITY?




Megan McNerney, PhD’05, MD’07

M O ST E XC I T I N G T H I N G H A P P E N I N G I N H E R F I E L D R I G H T N O W : “In the last 10 years, there’s

been a revolution with the advent of next-generation sequencing techniques. Coupled with that has been the development of methods to generate large genomic data sets from ancient samples. We’ve learned that human populations have mixed around a lot in the past. It’s hard to look around today and find a ‘pure’ population. We now have exciting new avenues to explore these questions that are already well studied in some regions, like Europe, and start taking that to more underrepresented populations. Increasing representation in genomic data sets will bring forth new insights, and create opportunities to work collaboratively with communities and their existing knowledge.” FAV O R I T E PA R T O F H E R J O B : The opportunity

to explore new, never-before-asked research questions. Also, “being able to work with the next generation of scientists,” Raghavan said. “Postdocs and students become your colleagues, and you’re all working together as a team. We’re all sharing this knowledge and process of learning and teaching —  it’s not just one way.” W H AT S H E ’ D L I K E M O R E P E O P L E T O K N O W :

Raghavan said one of the things she struggles with is the conflation between genetics and race in ways that are not biologically or scientifically supported. “Sometimes papers get misinterpreted, or data gets used in nefarious ways by people with an agenda,” she said. “We can’t expect people to pick up a paper and understand the jargon. With social media and the power for scientists to be more visible, it’s up to us to simplify our science.”

Anindita “Oni” Basu, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine and the College R E S E A R C H F O C U S : Basu has combined innovative

droplet technology with genetic sequencing technology to develop high-throughput methods for single-cell sequencing, a technique called Drop-seq. While many commercial platforms have been developed for this type of analysis, Basu describes


hers as “home-brewed” and “open source,” and her team is working on expanding the technology to biological systems that have not been easily accessed by existing systems. “I would say 40 percent of our work is still development,” she said. M O ST E XC I T I N G T H I N G H A P P E N I N G I N H E R F I E L D R I G H T N O W : “In single-cell genomics,

we mainly look at RNA, or gene transcription. But there are new techniques coming in that look at epigenetics, which affects how genes and their functions are regulated. This provides information on how gene regulation might be different among different populations. We are seeing some indications that we can understand disease from a population perspective, which is valuable for medical applications, but also for understanding how our genomes might make us more susceptible to different conditions.” FAV O R I T E PA R T O F H E R J O B : “I really

enjoy collaborative research. I love to work with all of these interesting scientists who think in different ways, and getting to see things from their perspective.”

Female authors are underrepresented in high-profile journals.



SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT HER E X P E R I E N C E I N S T E M : How exciting the field can be, and how quickly progress can be made. “I came to systems biology in a roundabout way,” Basu said. “I thought I was going to be an engineer, and got into physics, and then into systems biology because I enjoyed it so much. It’s been a very honeymoon experience. Not to say that physics is not exciting, but it’s a very old field, and the new findings that come out tend to be incremental. In genetics, it’s like a child going to the fair. There are so many exciting things happening, and we’re finding big and bold insights because the field is so new. That’s not a given for all fields of science, and we’re lucky to be where we are at this point in time.”

of bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2017-2018 in STEM fields were earned by women of color.




YOUNG VOICES A college journalist. A South Side native. A medical student. A PhD candidate in biochemistry. How four women are following their own paths in STEM. Emma Dyer College Class of 2021

Male postdocs are

90% more likely than women to have an advisor who is a Nobel laureate.

“I would say to a young girl interested in a career in STEM — you are smart enough.”

Emma Dyer started out thinking of herself as a writer, not a scientist. A physiology class changed her mind. Dyer is co-editor-in-chief of The Chicago Maroon, where she has been “working on building infrastructure for data journalism and science writing.” She plans to pursue a master’s degree in bioinformatics and eventually become a physician. Currently, she works as an undergraduate researcher with Alexander Pearson, MD, PhD, where she’s learning how to use machine and deep learning algorithms to improve image processing and diagnostic pipelines for head and neck cancers. “I dream about going into orthopaedic medicine and using computation to support athletics and movement research,” Dyer said. In the summer of 2020, Dyer had a unique opportunity to work as a Data Core analyst with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. “It was awesome to work with a powerhouse team of female data analysts,” she said. Finding female mentors in the field has helped bolster Dyer’s confidence in her skills and helped to cement her career goals. “Not getting As in math class doesn’t mean you can’t be a scientist. STEM isn’t about being good at math, it’s a way of thinking that you learn over time.”

Tamica Collins, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology

Tamica Collins, PhD, got hooked on science early in college. “When I started learning about science and doing research, I just found that it worked for me in a way that nothing else had,” she said. Now a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Collins is investigating strategies to inhibit cell growth in BRCAdeficient and triple-negative breast cancers. She recently was named one of 1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America by Crosstalk Cell Press Blog. “These two kinds of cancer predominately affect African American women,” she said. “Because I’m from the South Side, I’ve seen these diseases that affect my community. Being able to come to the lab and do the research to try and fix this, that’s a great experience that a lot of people don’t have.” Collins says pursuing a postdoc was one of the best decisions she ever made. “I’ve been able to get an NIH grant, to learn more about health disparities, to really think about and understand what I want to do after I finish,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to decide whether or not I want to have my own lab and to see how I would want to shape it. It’s really helped me see my potential.” “There’s a need to create spaces where women feel comfortable in the field, and people need to understand that minorities and women bring a diverse and different perspective to research that will change the game.”



“It’s not lost on me that it will be challenging to maintain the work

Christina Roman, SM’20 PhD candidate, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

schedule that I’ve seeing other women who have accomplished what I’m trying to accomplish makes it feel possible.”

Christine McIntosh, PhD’20, MS3 Growth, Development and Disabilities Training Program

Unlike most MD/PhD students, Christine McIntosh, PhD’20, didn’t decide to pursue the dual degree until after she started medical school. “I took a cell and molecular biology course and I realized I didn’t want the course to end,” she said. “I felt like if I didn’t pursue research, that was going to be the last time I’d get to sit down and focus on the mechanisms of disease.” She joined the Growth, Development and Disabilities Training Program, a unique opportunity available to Pritzker School of Medicine students who decide to pursue an advanced PhD degree after they have started medical school. As a PhD student in the lab of Maria-Luisa Alegre, PhD’93, McIntosh studied the immunology of organ transplantation. She hopes to identify new treatments that can retrain the immune system following an organ transplant so it will accept the donor organ without the need for long-term use of immunosuppressant drugs. “The faculty here were willing to help me carve out a path doing whatever I felt most drawn to, as long as it was valuable to patients in some way,” McIntosh said. “And Marisa was an incredible mentor, making sure I made a presence for myself in the scientific community and making sure I learned how to be an independent scientist.”


In her dissertation research, Christina Roman, SM’20, engineers antibody fragments that can act as crystallographic chaperones for RNAs. These antibody fragments facilitate the crystallization of RNA targets so X-ray crystallography can be used to reveal the RNA’s three-dimensional atomic structure. This is important because, in her words, “Viruses often use structured RNAs to hijack cells. Knowing the structure of those RNAs gives us an avenue to combat those viruses by designing drugs to mess up those structures.” The first couple of years of graduate school were tough for Roman. She struggled with a project that wasn’t getting off the ground, and, as a woman of color in a field composed mostly of white men, she was confronted with regular microaggressions and systemic discrimination. After shifting her focus to a new research project, her work took off. “Over the pandemic, I sat down and dug into solving crystal structures. In just a couple of months I managed to solve multiple RNA crystal structures because I took the time to try stuff and teach myself with trial and error.” Roman is one of the creators and a former leader of the Graduate Recruitment Initiative Team (GRIT) —  an organization of STEM graduate students at UChicago who work to recruit and support diverse students. Her work at GRIT has helped open her eyes to what a career in STEM can actually look like, and helped her see opportunities outside of academia’s ivory tower. “I wish I’d considered what made me happy as a person more when I first considered a career in STEM,” Roman said. “When others questioned my abilities as a scientist, I found my own definition of success that didn’t depend on their validation through grassroots organizing in diversity and inclusion work. The contributions that I can make to this field are so much bigger than good experiments. What makes me proud to be a woman in STEM is not just my research, but rather my ability to work and succeed while disregarding the arbitrary structure and barriers of academia.” MEDICINE ON THE MIDWAY



maintained, but at least



Seeking solutions in the microbiome The Duchossois Family Institute is building a network of faculty and facilities to study the microbiome and understand its effect on health and well-being.




In Bangladesh, more than a third of children

under 5 years old suffer from chronic malnutrition. The condition not only stunts growth — it ravages the microbiome, the collection of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live and thrive in our digestive tracts. Because the microbiome affects so many systems within the body — everything from the immune system to mental health — Bangladeshi children need more than food to cure their malnutrition. They need the right kind of food to restore their microbiome health. Several years ago, Arjun Raman was part of a team that set out to find the right foods needed to manipulate the microbiome to create better outcomes for these children. But many wondered whether finding a simple answer to such a complex question was even possible. “The microbiome has thousands of species that vary over time scales, depending on what you eat and your genome and the environment,” Raman said. “It can also change without any sort of rhyme or reason. So the prevailing thought was this system was intractably complex, and we won’t be able to figure out how to manipulate it.” But Raman, MD, PhD, SB’08, was up for the challenge. Armed with his medical degree and a doctorate in molecular biophysics, he helped create a statistical workflow that ultimately revealed the 15 bacterial species to target to cure malnutrition. With uchicagomedicine.org/midway

that information, the team designed a specialized food made from chickpeas, soy, peanuts, bananas, oils and micronutrients that boosted microbial health in children. “We figured out the levers that you can push and pull to affect well-being,” said Raman, who joined the University of Chicago as an assistant professor of pathology in 2020. “Biology is not infinitely complex. We can find principles to better biological systems.” Over the past four years, this type of approach has defined the work within the Duchossois Family Institute: Harnessing the Microbiome and Immunity for Human Health (DFI). Founded with the broad goal of maximizing good health and the economic, social and personal benefits it delivers, the institute has focused on achieving wellness through the intersection of the microbiome, the immune system and genetics, under the direction of Eric Pamer, MD, Donald F. Steiner Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Microbiology and Pathology, and the College. The institute has approached the microbiome from several angles — through interdisciplinary research and clinical studies, using state-of-the-art technology — to not only understand its levers, but how scientists can engineer solutions that mimic nature to restore order within patients’ bodies. “In just a few short years, the DFI has crystallized a multidisciplinary focus on the role of the

Arjun Raman, MD, PhD, SB’08, studies the complex interactions among human gene products, microbial genes and metabolites, the foods we eat, and the chemicals in our environment.




Director Eric Pamer, MD, leads the Duchossois Family Institute as it seeks to carry out groundbreaking research on how the human immune system, microbiome and genetics may interact to maintain health.

Eric Pamer, MD, takes viewers on a virtual tour of the Duchossois Family Institute: vimeo.com/ uchicagombsd/dfi-tour


microbiome in biology and disease and its potential to maintain wellness,” said T. Conrad Gilliam, PhD, Dean for Basic Science in the Division of the Biological Sciences. Gilliam, along with Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, Dean of the Biological Sciences Division, led efforts to launch the institute, established through a $100 million gift from Janet and Craig Duchossois and The Duchossois Family Foundation in 2017. “The prescience and generosity of this gift has enabled the recruitment of best-in-class scientists and engineers spanning multiple departments, schools and divisions of the University,” Gilliam said. “Founding director Eric Pamer brings a razor-sharp focus to the institute. He seeks to understand the essential components of a healthy microbiome and then use this information for the production of microbiomederived therapeutics to enhance the quality of clinical care and promote wellness.” In recent years, the University of Chicago has become a leader in studying the microbiome with collaborative, multidisciplinary projects underway in all areas of microbiome research and expertise in sequencing, imaging, research computing and core facilities. UChicago faculty have identified the role of the microbiome in improving the effectiveness in cancer immunotherapy, the healthy development of preterm infants, and treating children with severe food allergies.


From infectious diseases to microbiome health Understanding the microbiome is no small feat. Not only are there hundreds of species of bacteria in our guts, every person has their own signature network of pathogenic and symbiotic microbiota. This network can be disturbed by diet, antibiotics and illness, and the resulting imbalance affects not just gut health, but also the immune system, mental health and chronic diseases like atherosclerosis. Among scientists and physicians, the microbiome’s importance is increasingly hard to overstate. It’s often called the next frontier of health and even the “second brain” within our bodies. For much of his career as chief of infectious diseases at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Pamer wasn’t focused on studying the microbiome, but he was interested in treating antibiotic-resistant pathogens that were common among cancer patients. That’s when he and his collaborators began to sequence the bacteria in the gut and found that the loss of normal bacteria increased the risk of adverse effects in patients undergoing stem cell transplants. His interest began to shift to this powerful ecosystem within us, and when the Duchossois Family Institute was founded, he became its first director in 2019. “I was excited to come to the University of Chicago to be able to investigate the impact of the microbiome in a wider range of patients and conditions,” he said. “I wanted to work with clinical research teams on the microbiome’s role in a variety of diseases, from vascular disease to Alzheimer’s disease to inflammatory bowel disease.”

A microbiome breadboard What if we could create a kind of breadboard to optimize the microbiomes in each of our systems? A tool to experiment with “tuning” various species of bacteria, all at the same time, so that the microbes in us deliver the functionalities individualized for our health? Mark Mimee, PhD, is working to do just that. A synthetic biologist, he specializes in redesigning microorganisms, turning their genes off and on to change how they perform, what they consume, and the metabolites they produce. An assistant professor of microbiology, Mimee has plans to engineer bacteria we normally carry in our bodies to

home in on inflammation, engineer microbes that can measure intestinal bleeding, and genetically alter bacteria to deliver payloads to our resident gut microbes to make them better intestinal citizens. Mimee and the teams of scientists with whom he works have already done some of these things. The goal now is to figure out how to develop new functionalities that work not just with one individual species, but with an entire a system of species, like a microbial breadboard. He wants to find a way to test how manipulating multiple types of microbes that normally live in the gut can provide

valuable health functions that are both safe and reliable. Among the candidates for Mimee’s breadboard is Bacteroides, a type of bacteria often found in the intestines, where it is sometimes associated with diarrhea. But in other parts of the body, Bacteroides can cause serious infections, and the microbe is often resistant to multiple types of antibiotics. Strangely, however, some strains of these bacteria are found in much lower levels in patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, while other Bacteroides strains are enriched. Understanding why this is may lead to treatments or better preventive strategies.

Correlating transplant outcomes More than 12,000 people received a heart or liver transplant last year, and while many transplants give patients a new lease on life, others can result in new complications. For heart patients, one of the most common complications is cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV). In CAV, fibers grow down the inside of the cardiac artery wall, thickening the vessels. Transplant specialists like Ann Nguyen, MD, suspected that CAV results from an attack not by the body’s immune cells, but by immune proteins — antibodies —  circulating in the blood. Their presence can increase the odds of a failed heart graft fivefold.


Nguyen and cardiology fellow Mark Dela Cruz, MD, are interested in understanding how a patient’s individual microbiome might affect the production of donor-specific antibodies and the outcomes patients experience after heart transplants. To do so, they worked with DFI Director Eric Pamer, MD, to design an observational clinical study that monitors patients’ stool samples before and for months after heart transplant. The stool samples will enable the DFI team to assess the patient’s microbiome before surgery and track any changes after transplant. They will correlate what they learn about each patient’s microbiome with the progress of the cardiac

transplant for at least the first two years after the patient’s surgery. Transplant surgeon Talia Baker, MD, is also working with the DFI on a similar study for liver transplants. End-stage liver disease patients who are chronically ill have often been treated with multiple antibiotics pre-transplant, wreaking havoc on their microbiome. “By looking at the microbiome before, during and after the transplant, we hope to correlate complications with changes in the microbiome,” Baker said. “It’s amazing to be able to work with the DFI team to gather data that will better inform how we treat patients, and hopefully be able to get them better outcomes.”




Understanding metabolites Since arriving two years ago, Pamer has worked to recruit faculty members, hire staff and begin clinical studies with partners in surgery, cardiology, pathology and critical care medicine. At their disposal are the institute’s core facilities, which provide the critical resources needed to understand the microbiome and correlate it with clinical events. The metagenomics core takes clinical samples — stool samples from University of Chicago Medicine patients — extracts their DNA and prepares it for sequencing at UChicago’s Genomics Facility. The resulting data tell researchers which bacteria are present in each sample. But perhaps more interesting are the data that come from the institute’s metabolomics core. The bacteria in the gut consume our food and then produce metabolites, small molecules in the form of chemicals, hormones and vitamins that are absorbed into our body. “Over the past decade, we’ve learned that metabolites impact many areas of the body, including immune development, mental states and the liver’s response to alcohol,” Pamer said. For example, one such metabolite, butyrate, works to modulate proper immune system function. But much work needs to be done to understand which metabolites correlate with which bacteria and how those bacteria correlate with clinical events. The metabolomics core uses mass spectrometry to test each sample for 200 different metabolites, a Sayantoni Mukhopadhyay, left, is part of a team that studies bacterial samples at the DFI’s Microbiome Metagomics Platform. Anitha Sundararajan, PhD, right, is the platform director.



number that will increase as more metabolites are identified. The core runs like a small business within the institute, working with professors and clinicians to expeditiously provide metabolite data, while providing additional context as to what the data mean. Up and running for the past year, the core’s goal is to continue to expand its knowledge of metabolites and what metabolomics can tell us about our health.

Creating a capsule for bacterial reconstitution Pamer has clinical studies running with groups in transplant surgery and critical care, where patient’s metabolites are analyzed and compared with their outcomes. (See stories on Page 33 and Page 36). The ultimate goal is to use the information gleaned from these studies to be able to take certain bacteria and reconstitute a patient’s microbiome after antibiotic treatment. To that end, the institute has also developed a bacterial strain bank, in which they’ve grown nearly 2,000 strains of bacteria from healthy donors. “In the coming years, we would like to be able to use rapid testing to see which bacteria or metabolites a patient has lost, then give them a capsule that contains the right bacteria to re-establish a normal profile,” Pamer said. Production of such a capsule will be enabled by a bacteria manufacturing facility. Planning for the

Sam Light, PhD, and team study the relationship between microbial metabolism and healthy/ diseased states of the gut microbiota with the goal of eventually using these insights in the development of targeted therapies.

facility is already underway, and Pamer hopes to begin construction within the next two years.

The microbiome as an ecosystem To get to that point requires more research across disciplines. Working with Pamer is a group of faculty members who each approach understanding the microbiome from a unique angle. Sam Light, PhD, is studying the microbiome as an ecosystem. Just like some animals and organisms thrive in a humid rainforest, while others thrive in an arid desert, some bacteria in the gut thrive in the stomach, while others thrive deep in the intestines. Not only that, this bacterial ecosystem has its own food chain — some bacteria eat the food we eat, while others eat the waste from bacteria. “Our grand goal is to really understand where each microbe fits into that ecological framework,” said Light, an assistant professor of microbiology. Light previously discovered that certain microbes residing in the gut respired by transferring electrons to their surroundings — something that scientists knew happened in nature, but did not know happened within our bodies as well. That got him interested in understanding the ecosystem. Now, with the help of the DFI cores, his team is using fecal samples to see which microbes prevail under which conditions. They are also doing more targeted research. For example, they know that certain microbes respire cholesterol. Now they are trying to figure out which microbes do that, how they do it and why they do it. “Developing this framework will help make it


clearer what is happening within the microbiome, to identify the difference between a microbiome in a diseased state and in a healthy one,” he said. “It will also help lead to insights into how to make interventions to return a diseased state to a healthy state by replenishing certain microbes.”

Harnessing big data Considering the microbiome contains a huge array of microorganisms, developing such a framework might seem impossible. But for professors like Arjun Raman, “You cannot believe this is infinitely complex. If you do, you have to quit.” Raman, too, is interested in deriving the instructional manual for biological systems — a so-called wiring diagram of how everything works together. Just as he did with the Bangladeshi children, he is approaching this problem by finding the right levers to push and pull. To do this, he and his team are harnessing the tool of our times: data. They started with the well-studied bacteria E. coli and set out to find if they could create its “wiring diagram.” They downloaded 7,000 publicly available bacterial genomes and created a new mathematical framework to analyze them. That led to a statistical way of being able to show how all of the proteins give rise to that bacterial phenotype. “If two proteins co-vary with each other, that means they likely interact,” he said. “It’s as simple as that, but we needed to analyze the data to show how this works. The post-genomic era has been a boon for people like us. It provides the ability to navigate complex systems in a really facile way.”




Research specialist Claire Kohout directs the Symbiotic Bacterial Strain Bank, which contains more than 2,000 bacterial strains isolated from healthy human fecal donors that have been anaerobically cultured and characterized.

By combining faculty expertise in microbiology, chemistry, pathology and big data, faculty associated with the DFI hope to build a whole that is greater than its parts. “We’re not all one person,” Raman said. “That is by design. We’re all meant to collectively work together. That way something clinically actionable can come out of what Eric [Pamer] is trying to build.”

Bringing innovations to the clinic To support research and clinical studies, the DFI has provided fellowship support for clinical fellows who are interested in research careers. The institute has started offering multidisciplinary grants to support collaborations between research scientists

and clinical investigators, and is working with the University’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to ensure any breakthroughs can make it to market. “We want to help build these bridges for investigators to take the first step toward transferring laboratory discoveries to the clinic,” Pamer said. The Duchossois Family Institute was originally founded to support research not only in the microbiome, but also in genetics and immunology. Pamer said that these are a continuum — all three areas impact each other. “There is so much to be done,” he said. “The field has exploded and left us with so many opportunities to do research.”

How critical care affects the microbiome Patients admitted to the ICU have a wide range of microbiome composition: Some are normal, while others have been devastated by antibiotics and sedation. But just how imbalanced microbiomes affect long-term outcomes is unclear. John Kress, MD, Director of the University of Chicago Medicine’s medical intensive care unit, and fellow Matthew Stutz, MD, have partnered with the DFI to study the microbiomes of patients in sepsis or respiratory failure. 36

Through the study, patients’ stool samples are collected throughout their stay. The samples are analyzed for their diversity and their metabolomic profile, with the hopes of understanding whether any particular microbe is associated with mortality or readmission to the ICU. The researchers are also examining how bacteria and the metabolites they produce are related to recovery and long-term outcomes for patients. Many ICU patients suffer from physical,


emotional and cognitive dysfunction long after leaving the ICU, and the researchers hope to find a correlation to outcomes in the microbiome. With 300 patients enrolled so far, it is the largest study of microbiomes in critically ill patients to date. “The DFI and its resources have created an incredible opportunity for us to design, develop, and then initiate a clinical trial,” Stutz said. “It has been a really productive, collaborative relationship.”


Paleontologists Michael Coates, PhD, left, and Rob Gess, PhD, conducting field research on the 360 millionyear-old Waterloo Farm black shales in South Africa.


new study by researchers at the University of Chicago, the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Albany Museum challenges a long-held hypothesis that the blind, filter-feeding larvae of modern lampreys are a holdover from the distant past, resembling the ancestors of all living vertebrates, including ourselves. The new fossil discoveries indicate that ancient lamprey hatchlings more closely resembled modern adult lampreys, and were completely unlike their modern larvae counterparts. “Modern lamprey larvae have been used as a model of the ancestral condition that gave rise to the vertebrate lineages,” said first author Tetsuto Miyashita, PhD, formerly a Chicago Fellow at UChicago and now a paleontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature. “They seemed primitive enough, comparable to wormy invertebrates, and their qualities matched the preferred narrative of vertebrate ancestry. But we didn’t have evidence that such a rudimentary form goes all the way back to the beginning of vertebrate evolution.” Newly discovered fossils are changing the story. Connecting the dots between dozens of specimens, the research team realized that different stages of the ancient lamprey lifecycle had been preserved, allowing paleontologists to track their growth from hatchling to adult. On some of the smallest specimens, about the size of a fingernail, soft tissue preservation even shows the remains of a yolk sac, indicating that the fossil record had captured these lampreys shortly after hatching. Crucially, these fossilized juveniles are quite unlike their modern counterparts (known as “ammocoetes”), and instead look more like modern adult lampreys, with large eyes and toothed sucker mouths. Most excitingly, this phenotype can be seen during the larval phase in multiple different species of ancient lamprey.




BSD News

Newly discovered fossils upend theory of vertebrate origin

An artist’s rendering of a yolk-sac-carrying hatchling of the stem lamprey Priscomyzon riniensis.

“Remarkably, we’ve got enough specimens to reconstruct a trajectory from hatchling to adult in several independent lineages of early lampreys,” said Michael Coates, PhD, a professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, “and they each show the same pattern: the larval form was like a miniature adult.” The researchers say that these results challenge the 150-year-old evolutionary narrative that modern lamprey larvae offer a glimpse of deep ancestral vertebrate conditions. By demonstrating that ancient lampreys never went through the same blind, filter-feeding stage seen in modern species, the researchers have upended this cherished ancestral model. “We’ve basically removed lampreys from the position of the ancestral condition of vertebrates,” said Miyashita. “So now we need an alternative.” After looking back at the fossil record, the team now believes that extinct armored fishes known as ostracoderms might instead represent better candidates for the root of the vertebrate family tree, whereas modern lamprey larvae are a more recent innovation. The investigators believe that this is the sort of discovery that can rewrite textbooks. “Lampreys are not quite the swimming time capsules that we once thought they were,” said Coates. “They remain important and essential for understanding the deep history of vertebrate diversity, but we also need to recognize that they, too, have evolved and specialized in their own right.” The study was published in March 2021 in Nature.




BSD News



Why pregnancy may increase risk of organ transplant rejection

Even after long-term exposure, bionic touch does not remap the brain

A University of Chicago study helps

clarify why the immune system can tolerate a fetus during pregnancy, but later may be more likely to become sensitized to and reject an organ transplant. During pregnancy, while the T cell response to a fetus becomes tolerant to allow for successful pregnancy, the part of the immune system that produces antibodies — known as the humoral response — becomes sensitized, the researchers found. This creates memory B cells that can contribute to organ rejection after a person has given birth, particularly if the transplanted organ, such as a kidney, is from a male partner. In the study, the investigators tracked both the T cell response and humoral response of female mice after they received a transplanted heart from one of their offspring. They saw that the T cells did not react to the allograft, but the memory B cells did, producing antibodies against foreign antigens from the transplanted heart. “One aspect of future research is to see if we can exploit this ability of pregnancy to tolerize T cells to have better acceptance not only in people who have been pregnant, but in everybody,” said Maria-Luisa Alegre, MD, PhD’93, Professor of Medicine, co-author of the study with Anita Chong, PhD, Professor of Surgery. “Outside of pregnancy, people can get sensitized prior to transplantation in different ways, from disease or environmental antigens,” she said. “Now we’re looking at how pregnancy can tolerize these memory T cells that are otherwise difficult to immunosuppress with current drugs.” The study was published in January in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


n a cohort of three subjects whose amputated limbs had been replaced with neuromusculoskeletal prosthetic limbs, investigators found that even after a full year of using the devices, the participants’ subjective sensation never shifted to match the location of the touch sensors on their prosthetic devices. The stability of the touch sensations highlights the limits in the ability of the nervous system to adapt to different sensory input. “You can’t tell during the implantation surgery which part of the nerve corresponds to what sensation, so the electrodes don’t always land in exactly the location in the nerve that would match the location of the sensors in the prosthetic hand,” said the lead author and developer of the neuromusculoskeletal prostheses, Max Ortiz Catalan, PhD, an associate professor of bionics at Chalmers University of Technology. Investigators hoped the sensation might shift over time. But despite being able to observe their hands while interacting with objects, none of the users ever reported that they felt the sensation in the correct location; rather the sensation persisted in the same area where it was originally felt. This study highlights the importance of knowing exactly where to place electrodes when implanting sensory arrays, as it appears unlikely that the Sliman Bensmaia, PhD brain is capable of making substantial adjustments in how it perceives that sensory input. “This means that you really have to get it right,” said senior author Sliman Bensmaia, PhD, James and Karen Frank Family Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago. “There are no do-overs here.” The study was published in December 2020 in Cell Reports. — Alison Caldwell, PhD P3




Study participants using the neuroprosthetic device shown on the left all reported little change in the location of the sensation provided by their device, feeling it in the middle finger, palm or base of the thumb rather than at the tip of the thumb, despite long-term, daily use.



Gold Humanism Honor Society School of Medicine Class of 2021 were inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society in February. Nominated by their peers, these students exemplify compassionate patient care and serve as role models, mentors and leaders. The honorees are: Nicholas Antos, AB’17, Abena AppahSampong, AB’16, Jillian Baranowski, Stephanie Bi, AB’16, Christopher Da Silva, Nicole Dussault, SM’20, Gena Lenti, Robert Nolan, Christianah Ogunleye, Nichole Smith, Katherine Tran, Jasmine Tzeggai and Annie Zhang. Jasmine Tzeggai, MS4, was the student Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award recipient. Keme Carter, MD, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, was the faculty recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award and gave the keynote address.

Carter is also the 2021 Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award nominee.

Pritzker News

Thirteen members of the University of Chicago Pritzker

Virtual induction of the GHHS Class of 2021. Not pictured: Gena Lenti.

Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society


wenty University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine students were inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha (AΩA) Honor Medical Society. The honor society recognizes fourth-year medical students for academic excellence, leadership, compassion and fairness. Members of the AΩA Class of 2021 are: Tess Allan, Michael Andersen, SB’15, Stephanie Bi, AB’16, Jeffrey Bunker, PhD’18, David Cook, Nicole Dussault, SM’20, Phillip Hsu, PhD’18, Ryan Judd, Gena Lenti, Seán Lyne, Robert Nolan,

Christianah Ogunleye, Mikhail Pakvasa, Emily Papazian, Ramya Parameswaran, PhD’18, Anastasia Piersa, Kellie Schueler, Nichole Smith, Jasmine Tzeggai and Benjamin Yang. Each AΩA class recognizes alumni, faculty and housestaff with election to the Illinois Beta Chapter (University of Chicago). Alumni are elected based on leadership and accomplishments, and are not eligible until 10 years after graduation. Faculty are elected based on demonstrated commitment to scholarly excellence and medical education. Residents and fellows

are elected based on achievement, promise and mentorship qualities. The 2021 honorees are: Alumnus: John Blair, MD’03, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine. Faculty: Kamala Gullapalli Cotts, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, and Sonia Oyola, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine. Housestaff: Dany Accilien, MD, Chief Resident in emergency medicine; Shirlene Obuobi, MD’18, and Ben Vasquez, MD, internal medicine residents. Aimee Crow, MD, pediatric hospitalist at Evanston Hospital, part of the NorthShore University HealthSystem, and senior clinician educator for the Pritzker School of Medicine, received the Volunteer Clinical Faculty Award, which recognizes a community physician who contributes with distinction to the education and training of medical students.

Members of the Alpha Omega Alpha Class of 2021 participate virtually in the induction ceremony.






Pritzker News

“The debate about changing the scoring system for the Step 1 exam is both

Rethinking how medical students are evaluated for residency BY SARAH RICHARDS

“ I am a Black student taking the USMLE Step 1 exam on Thursday, June 11. I have not had time to grieve, I have not had time to feel, and I have not had time to hurt — because in order for me to pass this exam I am required to be hyper focused and undistracted. A luxury that I do not have.” Jasmine Solala, MA, MS3 University of Illinois College of Medicine


a manifestation of dysfunction in the medical education pathway and an opportunity to address this dysfunction.” From “A Shared Evaluation Platform for Medical Training” New England Journal of Medicine


o develop the most skilled, innovative, adaptable and compassionate physicians, leaders in academic medicine continuously review and adjust the methods used to teach, train and evaluate medical students and residents. The civil rights protests last summer, along with the stark health disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, added urgency to this practice, with many students and faculty stressing the need for medical education to better address structural racism. Several University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine faculty members have emerged as thought leaders in this environment. Their suggestions for improving medical student evaluation have appeared in leading journals, and their actions are placing the University at the forefront of modernizing medical education. “The University of Chicago Medicine is a well-known medical training institution, and we can be an example for others to follow,” said Alisa McQueen, MD, Associate Chair for Education and Program Director of the pediatric residency program and the fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine program.

Embracing the move to pass/fail for Step 1

In a letter titled “Why We Can’t Wait,” published in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education in February, 11 UChicago Medicine residency program directors announced they would no longer use U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 scores when selecting medical students for their residencies. Beginning with the 2020 recruitment season, Step 1 numerical scores will be masked when programs


select applicants for interviews or rank applicants for the match. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the NBME (National Board of Medical Examiners) decided last year to replace numerical scores with a pass/ fail ranking to reduce the overemphasis on students’ performance on the test. The change doesn’t go into effect until 2022, however — making UChicago Medicine one of the first institutions in the U.S. to adopt it. “There is no evidence that being able to score well on a standardized exam makes you a better physician, researcher or educator, and for many equity-seeking groups, standardized exams and particularly board exams have been an obstacle for reaching certain specialized fields in medicine,” said Monica Vela, MD’93, Associate Dean for Multicultural Affairs. The authors of “Why We Can’t Wait” include Jasmine Solala, MS3, a University of Illinois College of Medicine student who wrote an essay about her experiences studying for Step 1 during the George Floyd protests; Victoria Okuneye, PhD’20, MS2, who brought the essay to the attention of Pritzker leadership; Rochelle Naylor, MD, Associate Program Director of the pediatric residency program; McQueen; and Vela. The letter urges other institutions to immediately adopt Step 1 pass/fail grading in light of the structural inequities emphasized by the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. The authors contend that embracing this change early recognizes historic discrimination and injustices in medicine suffered by Blacks, Latinos, women and people of non-conforming genders and sexualities. At least some of

the benefits of increasing diversity among physicians will be improved patient health outcomes and more equitable practices in medicine and medical education. Step 1 was originally designed to be pass/ fail. But as medical schools switched to pass/fail grading, residency programs have used Step 1 as a tool to screen applicants. Medical students increasingly skip class and other learning opportunities to devote hundreds of hours to studying for the highstakes exam. “Step 1 scores were never meant to be used to count somebody out before knowing anything else about their skills, abilities and contributions to the medical field,” Naylor said. Pass/fall for Step 1 isn’t the only recent shake-up in the medical licensure process: In January, the FSMB and NBME announced that the Step 2 Clinical Skills exam would be dropped permanently after the in-person exams were shelved last year due to the pandemic. The two sponsors said they would work to establish new methods for assessing students’ clinical skills. At UChicago Medicine, the residency programs that pledged not to consider Step 1 numerical scores will review students’ applications more holistically. In addition to the usual letters of recommendation, personal essay and medical school transcripts, applications are also being weighted for their service — for example, working in a community health clinic —  leadership capacity, and work advancing the field of medicine. Measuring performance in medical school and beyond

James Woodruff, MD, Pritzker’s Dean for Students and Associate Program Director for the internal medicine residency uchicagomedicine.org/midway

program, said the recent changes highlight a larger issue: the need to improve the transition between medical school and graduate medical education. In an article published in February in The New England Journal of Medicine, Woodruff and John McConville, MD, Director of the internal medicine residency program, wrote that a shared framework is needed to measure students’ performance throughout medical school, residency and fellowships, as is a national data system to track the information. The article describes some weaknesses of the current system. For example, residency applications focus overwhelmingly on a student’s positive qualities and miss relevant information that would support their move to graduate medical education, including comprehensive details about their performance during patient care experiences. “Historically we’ve used reductionist assessment methods characteristic of the natural sciences,” said Woodruff. “The problem is we’re functioning as educators and physicians in areas with a wide range of complexity, from basic science all the way through sociology to philosophy.” Even though grades from students’ preclinical classes and clinical rotations are included in residency applications, they do not predict a student’s performance during residency, Woodruff said. Doctoring requires judgment and continuous adaptability, and the abilities to prioritize competing tasks, integrate into large teams, respond to feedback and communicate with others. Methods currently used by medical school to assess these skills still don’t fully value or capture their complex nuances.

“We urge our fellow program directors to join us in this effort. Our patients and our nation’s health care workforce cannot afford to wait. Justice cannot wait.” From “Why We Can’t Wait” Journal of Graduate Medical Education

To address these flaws, Woodruff and McConville suggest requiring all students complete at least one sub-internship and expanding the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s Milestones resident assessment program so that universal specialty and subspecialtyspecific Milestones-based assessments can be used to evaluate students during clinical rotations. The information could then be entered into a national system of medical school, residency and fellowship performance data, providing educators with a longitudinal view of an individual’s performance. Woodruff said expanding Milestones would also create a shared medical education assessment language and that the data could be used by medical schools and residency programs to see what is and isn’t effective in teaching programs. “We’ll be able to make informed decisions about what works instead of relying on surrogate, short-term markers of dubious value when it comes to long-term outcomes,” said Woodruff, who added that the ACGME has expressed interest in a pilot program involving Milestones assessments and a handful of medical schools. “If such a plan comes to be, we’ll be one step closer to truly evidence- and outcomes-based training in medical school.” MEDICINE ON THE MIDWAY



Pritzker News

C OV I D -1 9 R E S P O N S E

AMA recognizes UChicago medical trainees for making an impact during COVID-19 pandemic


hen COVID-19 caused significant disruptions in medical education, both in the classroom and in clinical settings, University of Chicago medical students, residents and fellows moved quickly to contribute to the pandemic response. The American Medical Association launched the 2020 Health Systems Science Student, Resident and Fellow Impact Challenge to acknowledge meaningful activities designed and led by trainees with respect to COVID-19. Eight UChicago projects — the most submissions by any institution — were accepted for recognition in the national competition. “Given how challenging the pandemic has been for medical trainees, I am particularly proud of the great work of so many of our students, residents and fellows,” said Vineet Arora, MD, AM’03, Herbert T. Abelson Professor of Medicine and Associate Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Learning Environment. “They persevered and supported innovations in medical education healthcare delivery that benefited patients and the community.” Educational support

Medical students, residents and infectious disease fellows collected COVID-19related queries from busy clinicians on the front lines. With the assistance of hospital librarians, the trainees conducted real-time literature searches on the topics and quickly provided critical, synthesized reviews of the newest findings to the providers. PROJECT LEAD: Gena Lenti, MS4

COVID units

Internal medicine residents staffed the new COVID-19 inpatient service on a volunteer basis, improving quality and efficiency of care and implementing


Valerie Press, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine, left, and residents Alexandra Rojek, MD, Jori Sheade, MD, Albina Tyker, MD, and Kevin Prescott, MD.

evidence-based data as the pandemic evolved. As the primary care providers in the COVID-19 ICUs, they worked to conserve PPE, adapt resuscitation protocols and champion the use of helmet ventilators. PROJECT LEAD: Alexandra Rojek, MD,

PGY-2 Internal Medicine

Multidisciplinary rounds

Given the need for physical distancing, multidisciplinary rounds (MDR) were transitioned to a virtual format. The project team implemented a standard

process for Zoom MDRs to improve effectiveness while maintaining highquality patient care. PROJECT LEAD: Anup Das, MD, PhD, PGY-3

Internal Medicine

Leveraging technology

The team adapted existing touchscreen consoles in patient rooms to facilitate effective communication between physicians and nurses while maintaining social distancing and preserving PPE. PROJECT LEAD: Chase Corvin, MD, MBA,

PGY-2, General Surgery

What is health systems science? Health systems science aims to train future physicians in how care is delivered, how health professionals work together to deliver that care, and how the modern health system can improve patient care and health care delivery.


American Medical Association


Community-based health education

Student leaders at the Bridgeport Free Clinic implemented an online initiative to link patients to COVID-19 resources. Question and answer sessions with UChicago Medicine experts and a support group on a social media platform provided education to Chicago’s Chinesespeaking community. PROJECT LEAD: Amanda Zhang, MS2


Medical students phoned COVID-19 patients recovering at home to monitor symptoms, identify unmet needs and provide education. The students provided clinical, social and emotional assistance to patients. PROJECT LEAD: Sophia Uddin,

PhD’14, MS4

Medical student volunteers implemented H&P360 — a history and physical with a biopsychosocial framework — in a

telehealth setting for COVID-19 patients. The effort sought to engage patients in co-managing their health and assess the psychosocial factors impacting their ability to do so. PROJECT LEAD: Ramya Parameswaran,

PhD’18, MS4

To improve the clinician, trainee and patient telemedicine experience, project members surveyed primary care clinicians to elucidate overall perceptions of telehealth, identify benefits and barriers, and define training and support needs. PROJECT LEAD: Zi-Yi Choo, MS2

Faculty mentors for the AMA’s 2020 Health Systems Science Student, Resident and Fellow Impact Challenge included: Vineet Arora, MD, AM’03; Julie Oyler, MD’01; Anita Blanchard, MD’90; Jonathan Lio, MD; Joyce Tang, MD’04; Maria Alcocer Alkureishi, MD; Wei Wei Lee, MD, MPH; and Karen Kim, MD.

‘Kind eyes’: Pritzker student’s video featured as part of Smart Museum series Inspired by the Smart Museum of

Art exhibition, “Take Care,” the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry invited students to submit short videos that reflect on the questions of how we care for ourselves and each other. For Susan Feldt, MS3, this meant reflecting on the nature of learning clinical medicine during a pandemic. Her video “Kind Eyes,” featuring fellow medical students from the Class of 2022, was featured as part of the collection titled “a series of small gestures.” Of the project, Feldt wrote: “Taking care of patients looks different now. But as students who just started clinical work, pandemic healthcare is all we know. Before we enter a patient’s room, we put on our PPE and try to put down the weight of the work and the world. We do this because we are there to take care of them. But any relationship, uchicagomedicine.org/midway

Susan Feldt, MS3, created the “Kind Eyes” video featuring fellow medical students.

even a provider-patient relationship, is in its nature reciprocal, a connection between two people. We can’t leave ourselves outside of the room, and through our PPE, they can still see us. Whether conscious or not, sometimes a patient says something that lifts a bit of that weight off. And that makes the next day easier. These are some of those stories.” Watch the video at vimeo.com/517194052.

Pritzker student establishes national MCAT scholarship for minority women


n her role as national scholarship chair for the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), Katherine Brito, MS3, wanted to support low-income premedical students from underrepresented backgrounds. With the support of an LMSA friend and mentor, Brito achieved her goal. María de Fátima Reyes, MD, an ob/gyn resident at the University of California San Francisco, suggested an MCAT award and offered funding. Together, they established the LMSA National Carmen Reyes MCAT Scholarship, named in honor of Reyes’ late mother. Brito then took up the reins for the project. “I created the application and got Katherine Brito, MS3 the word out across the country,” Brito said. Black, Latina, Afro-Latina, and Native premedical women with an interest in becoming physicians to narrow healthcare disparities were encouraged to apply. The scholarship, which covered the full cost of MCAT registration, was awarded to seven women in 2021 —  20 percent of the applicant pool. Brito’s involvement with LMSA began at a premed conference in her home state of California, where she first met Reyes, then a medical student. Brito was elected chapter co-president for the Pritzker School of Medicine in her first year of medical school and served as fundraising and scholarship chair for the LMSA Midwest Region before joining the LMSA National Executive Board. “Support and mentorship has meant a lot to me over the years,” said Brito, who also manages other LMSA national scholarships. “I wanted to make a sustainable impact and help other low-income women navigate their journey into medicine.” — Gretchen Rubin




M AT C H DAY 2 0 2 1

Pritzker Dean’s Letter News

Leading in tough times BY EMILY AYSHFORD


t’s been a strange year for medical students, the Pritzker Chiefs will be the first to tell you. But it has also brought some unexpected opportunities to serve. During a recent Zoom call, MS4s Gena Lenti, Jamila Picart, PhD’17, and Madison Wilson talked about dealing with anxieties, building community and learning about leadership in a challenging time. You became the Pritzker Chiefs after the beginning of COVID-19. You knew this year was going to be different. Lenti: We’re supposed to both support

How have students fared? Wilson: I’d say it was a bit easier for MS2s,

MS3s and MS4s. They have already gone through the transition of medical school, moving to Chicago and meeting new friends who they can go to for support. It was difficult for MS1s to move to a new city during a pandemic and not be able to meet the people they are in class with. It’s also difficult to see the nuanced parts of people on Zoom. It can be isolating seeing how well people are doing on Zoom while feeling like you are struggling yourself.


students and be the boots on the ground for the administration. Usually students could find us in common spaces, where they would just come up to us and express their concerns. But this year, nobody is around. We’ve done lots of

emails, texts, Zoom calls and phone calls. There have been the usual concerns, but this year students also had anxieties about COVID-19, especially when it first hit — taking care of patients who might have COVID, how their coursework was affected and being socially distant.

Pritzker Chiefs Jamila Picart, left, Gena Lenti and Madison Wilson



On top of the pandemic was a year of social unrest. Picart: When you compile COVID-19 and

isolation with so many students feeling the social unrest without the support of family members or their Pritzker community, that made it very hard to study for tests, especially when there were protests literally down the street. We were thinking about it as future community care workers. What can we be doing? Part of the experience of medical school is building a community with your peers to have the support you need. Normally students attend events — Wilson: Talent shows, White Sox games,

the formal —  Picart: Conferences, wellness activities,

holiday celebrations —  Lenti: We had to get very creative about community building this year. We still went apple picking and had a big kickball game — the most socially distant sport we could think of. We’ve done a lot of virtual events. Trivia night, individual class virtual get-togethers. We brought our third-years goody bags in the hospital, and made sure first-years could get a goody bag after one of their classes. Wilson: People had expectations that this year would look a certain way — that we would get to travel, for example, or that we would be able to celebrate big milestones. It’s been difficult to find new ways to make memories to replace the memories we thought we would have this year. Picart: The third- and fourth-year students really stepped up to attend virtual events. Usually students are food-motivated. Obviously we couldn’t provide that, so they came because they wanted to. They wanted to support our first-years and make them feel like they are part of our community.

The 2021 Match Ben Yang and Annie Zhang are headed to Cleveland. He matched in thoracic surgery at the Cleveland Clinic and she will do an internal medicine residency at Case Western.

Madison Wilson, left, and Nicelio Sanchez-Luege, PhD’18, couples-matched at the University of California, San Francisco.

Top 5 specialties Internal medicine (23 percent of the class) General surgery (12 percent) Emergency medicine (9 percent) Anesthesiology (8 percent) Otolaryngology (8 percent) Top 3 institutions University of Chicago Medicine (23 percent of the class) University of California system (9 percent) Harvard system (8 percent) Other popular institutions for the graduating class of 2021 include: Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, Denver Health Medical Center and Duke University.

Christopher Awounou matched in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell.

Abena Appah-Sampong, AB’16, will do her residency in general surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

It has been a tough year all around. Any upsides?

rates they should be. Students have been calling people to help get them signed up.

Lenti: Students were really amazing when

COVID-19 first hit. They volunteered to help call patients at home, to see if they were okay or to get them scheduled, and they helped deliver food. Wilson: It’s been really nice to see our school community come together to support our larger community on the South Side. Some students have been working on an effort to help get the word out about vaccines, since Black and brown people in Chicago are not getting vaccines at the


What lessons from the past year will you take with you? Picart: We practiced a lot of gratefulness this year. I found a passion for community building. When we first got kicked off the wards last spring, one of the ways we could connect with patients was by calling them. We got to be part of these teams that still had the opportunity to serve. It was a reminder that community is so important. Wilson: It’s been nice to see how invested our administration and faculty are in

the well-being of the students and the sacrifices they made to make sure our institution stays running and that students have the resources they need. Lenti: Leadership in medicine is hard. That’s what I’ve learned. But at the end of the day, it is so, so, so rewarding. Gena Lenti matched in medicine-pediatrics at the University of Washington, Jamila Picart in general surgery at the University of Michigan and Madison Wilson in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.





FALL 2020

Your Letters


I am writing to thank you for the excellent Fall 2020 issue of Medicine on the Midway, which I enjoyed reading. Confronting SARS-CoV-2 Researchers, clinicians and trainees meet the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic

Medicine on the Midway is open for feedback Medicine on the Midway is introducing a new section — Your Letters. The section will include letters from readers about the magazine’s content or reflections about their UChicago training. Letters being considered for publication must be signed and may be edited for AP style, space, clarity and civility. To provide a range of views and voices, we encourage letter writers to limit themselves to 300 words or fewer. While the staff works remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, please send letters via email: momedit@ uchospitals.edu.


Of colds and coronaviruses

I have some memories about the coronavirus discovery sidebar on page 23. During the October 1959 entering class orientation for the medical school Class of 1963, we were informed about Dr. Dorothy Hamre’s upper respiratory infection research project and encouraged to volunteer. As an incentive we were told that a volunteer would receive $1 each time one presented with early symptoms of a URI. Although altruism might have sufficed, I believe some of my classmates did (on occasion) rely on the reward and perhaps used it to relieve their symptoms by self-medicating at the University Tap (on 55th Street and Ellis Avenue, but closed sometime in the early 1960s) or the more distant Jimmy’s. In the summer quarter of 1960, I worked as a lab technician in Dorothy Hamre’s virology lab. It was a small lab with two full-time technicians, one or two graduate students, and two summer medical student technicians. Besides the lab staff, Drs. John Procknow, Marc Beem and the medical residents on the infectious disease service would drop in frequently. The atmosphere was informal, but I remember the quality of the work done as rigorous. Charles Schlossman, SB’59, MD’63 As a medical student and PhD candidate in virology from 1963 to 1969 I was a participant in the respiratory virus/common cold study conducted by Dorothy Hamre in the ’60s where the now infamous “coronavirus” was first isolated. I read the piece in the Fall 2020 issue of Medicine on the Midway about the discovery of coronaviruses at the University of Chicago as a cause of URIs in medical students. One of the journals where the first description of the coronavirus family responsible for the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic was cited, but the article in Medicine on the Midway never mentioned Dorothy Hamre as the lead researcher conducting this study. This was a serious oversight on the part of the editors of a magazine designed to report news about and for alumni of the University of Chicago.


As a virology graduate student during that time I do remember informal seminars organized by Marc Beem, Professor of Pediatrics, held in our 6th floor conference room in Wyler in which we discussed Dr. Hamre’s findings. I remember going for periodic nose swabbing and blood draws as a study participant. I may have even been one of those students from whom the first coronavirus was isolated when I went to provide a sample from an ordinary cold. Robert L. Wollmann, PhD’68, MD’69

Nuclear medicine memories The article on Paul Harper, MD, and Katherine Lathrop in the Fall 2020 Medicine on the Midway brought back many memories. I remember the day in August 1961 that our first Mo-99 “cow” was delivered from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Paul asked me to “read the instructions and go play with it.” Paul and Katherine, you might say, threw me in the deep end and I learned how to swim. I won the Chicago Surgical Society prize for my Tc99m research in 1962. In that same year we also began the first work on gallium and indium. The new isotopes were coming so fast that my wife put a sign in our ACRH basement laboratory — “The Isotope of the Month” — and it changed frequently! We wrote the first papers on Tc99m and I spent the next many years writing about it including the leader in The Lancet in 1967: “Tc99m — a versatile isotope.” I did the original animal and human dosimetry for our laboratory and human clinical investigations. There was also one in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism on the thyroid in 1967 or 1968. I “dined on pertechnetate” for a decade. With that work as a foundation, I went on to the NIH-NCI Biophysics Laboratory from 1962 to 1965. Somehow, the next step was general and vascular surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital, but that is another story. It was quite a year. George Andros, MD’60



Chris Albanis, AB’96, MD’00 President Paul Rockey, MD’70 Immediate Past President Doriane Miller, MD’83 Vice President Mark R. Aschliman, MD’80 Alumni Awards Committee Chair and National Reunion Chair Karyl Kopaskie, AB’07, PhD’14 Chicago Partners Program Chair Jeanne Farnan, AB’98, MD’02 Editorial Committee Chair Baruch Solomon Ticho, PhD’87, MD’88 Regional Programs Chair ALUMNI COUNCIL

Lampis Anagnostopoulos, SB’57, MD’61 ✱ Andrew Aronson, MD’69 Juliana Basko-Plluska, AB’04, MD Kenneth Begelman, MD’71 Jennifer “Piper” Below, PhD’11 Michael Boettcher, AB’89, MD’93 Kenneth Bridbord, MD’69, MPH Ava Ferguson Bryan, AM’10, MD’18 ✤ Courtney Burrows, PhD’15, MBA’17 Arnold Calica, SM’61, MD’75 ✱ Oliver Cameron, PhD’72, MD’74 Leonard Covello, AB’86, MD’90 Jennifer Ding ✤ Hunter Eason, MD’18 ✤ Gail Farfel, PhD’93 Jonathan Fox, AB’79, PhD’85, MD’87 Jeffrey Goodenbour, PhD’09 Andrew Hack, AB’95, PhD’00, MD’02 Sadia Haider, AB’96, MD’01 Rajiv Jauhar, MD’91 Lucy Lester, MD’72 Daniel Leventhal, SM’13, PhD’16 Howard Liang, PhD’92, MBA’01 Julian Lutze ✤ Jennifer McPartland, PhD’08 Julia Mhlaba, MD’16 Vincent Nelson, MD’98 Michael Prystowsky, MD’81 Steven Server ✤ Coleman Seskind, AB’55, SB’56, MD’59, SM’59 ✱ Abby Stayart, AB’97, PhD’12 Cynthia Thaik, MD’90 Barry Ticho, PhD’87, MD’88 Maimouna Traore ✤ Sapana Vora, PhD’14 Sydney Yoon, MD’86 Russ Zajtchuk, SB’60, MD’63 ✱



1970s Louis Constan, SB’68, MD’72, is the author of Two Minds, Your Body: Knowing What’s Going on in Your Doctor’s Head and Getting That Knowledge to Work for You. The book focuses on practical advice for patients who wish to communicate better with their physicians. Constan practiced family medicine in Michigan for 44 years and in 2006 was named Family Physician of the Year. He is a former hospital medical staff president, American Medical Association Physician’s Award winner and Governor’s Award winner for excellence in medical practice. He has written hundreds of editorials in local, state and national physicians’ generalinterest magazines. Mark L. Friedman, AB’73, MD’77, was named chief medical officer at First Stop Health. Based in Chicago, First Stop Health has been using telemedicine to triage patients during the COVID-19 epidemic and broaden the availability of medical personnel.

2021 VIRTUAL PRITZKER SCHOOL OF MEDICINE REUNION Visit the Pritzker Reunion page for the latest updates and a library of digital content, including past event recordings and

Your News


virtual campus and lab tours. mbsaa.uchicago.edu/reunion

VIRTUAL DISCUSSIONS: WHAT’S NEW IN THE BSD AND PRITZKER Faculty from the Division of the Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine joined alumni for virtual discussions on education and programming. Watch recordings of “The Life Cycle of a BSD Trainee” and “Education at Pritzker Today” on the University of Chicago Medical & Biological Sciences Alumni Association Vimeo page (vimeo.com/uchicagombsaa).

1980s Caprice Greenberg, AB’94, MD’98, MPH, was named chair of the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. She previously worked with the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology to help define the emerging field of cancer care delivery research.

2000s Lydia Dugdale, MD’06, published her first monograph, The Lost Art of Dying: Reviving Forgotten Wisdom. The book focuses on the preparation for death. She is currently director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

UChicago MBSAA thanks members for service to the Alumni Council The University of Chicago Medical & Biological Sciences Alumni Association (UChicago MBSAA) thanks the following four members for their dedication, enthusiasm and leadership as they conclude their terms on the Alumni Council on June 30, 2021: Andrew J. Aronson, MD’69 Oliver G. Cameron, PhD’72, MD’74 Howard Liang, PhD’92, MBA’01 Paul H. Rockey, MD’70, MPH

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In Memoriam



Herbert B. Greenlee, MD’55, died on December 11, 2020. Greenlee was a professor of surgery emeritus at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. In 2009, he established the McEachran Homestead Winery. He was preceded in death by his wife. He is survived by his three children and grandchildren.

Peter Gillette, MD’64, died on December 27, 2020. Gillette served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. After being discharged, he completed his medical degree, internship and residency at the University of Chicago. When the HIV epidemic erupted in the 1980s, he traveled throughout New York to train medical personnel. He had a lifelong interest in sickle cell anemia and for the past decade was the driving force for the clinical development of a drug shown to prevent the sickling process. Gillette is survived by his wife, Nedra, and his children.

Neil Proshan, MD’58, died on May 21, 2020. Dr. Proshan worked through a polio epidemic in Chicago. He completed his internship at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, New York, followed by a residency in radiology at the Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. After completing his residency, he served in the U.S. Army. In 1970, he founded Radiology Affiliates of Central New Jersey, now known as Radiology Affiliates Imaging (RAI), with two other radiologists. RAI now includes 56 members and several hospitals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. He spent nearly 30 years working for RAI, including many as president and chief of radiology at hospitals serviced by RAI. Dr. Proshan is survived by his wife, three children and seven grandchildren.

Saul Wasserman, MD’67, died on December 11, 2020. Wasserman co-founded and directed the child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit at San Jose Hospital. He served on the clinical faculty of the Stanford University Medical School and held various positions in the Regional Organization for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. In addition to his private practice, he was the consulting child psychiatrist for the foster care team of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara

County and for many local schools. He was involved in Congregation Beth Am and participated in the lay minyan, the Jewish book group, and weekly Torah study, and taught classes. Wasserman is survived by his wife, Judith; his children, Rachel and Yehoshua; and his five grandchildren.

sclerosis (MS) with his wife, Janet, stalwartly by his side. Scher is survived by his wife, Janet, his three sons, Jason, Sandor and Clifton, and six grandchildren.

Stephen Malcolm Scher, MD’68, passed away on October 10, 2020. Scher met his wife, Janet, at the University of Rochester. She helped foster his interest in research at the University of Chicago, where Scher was awarded the Borden Award for outstanding research with regard to diabetic retinopathy. After completing his internship and residency at the University of Chicago Hospitals, Scher fulfilled his Berry Plan military obligation serving as chief of the Pulmonary Research Department at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Scher was the chief pulmonary fellow at Albert Einstein Hospital in New York before becoming the first board-certified pulmonary physician in Ocean County, New Jersey, and a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians. He was an avid sailor, swimmer, snorkeler, and sculptor. He battled fiercely against multiple

Allen L. Horwitz, SB’66, MD’72, PhD’72, died on February 17, 2021. Horwitz studied at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, where he made contributions in genetic research and teaching. He was a proud faculty member at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois. He is survived by his wife, Diane.


Arthur Kelly Conrad Jr., MD’78, died on February 15, 2021. He completed his residency at the University of North Carolina, and his fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. As a type 1 diabetic since the age of 3, he was inspired to devote his life to medicine and serving others. He practiced medicine for more than 30 years in Bend, Oregon. Conrad is survived by his wife, Sandra, his three children and grandson.

Emeritus faculty

Jean-Paul Spire, MD


ean-Paul Charles Spire, MD, a highly respected and beloved emeritus faculty member in the University of Chicago Department of Neurology, died on March 20, 2021. He was a gifted clinical neurologist, researcher and laboratory director whose many achievements include developing interdisciplinary programs with neurosurgery, radiology and vascular surgery. He was involved in many major clinical trials, including the North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial, and was essential to early studies using PET imaging of the brain in humans. During his time at the University of Chicago, he also helped open one of the first sleep disorders centers in the U.S. and directed a sleep fellowship program in which several of the graduates became well-recognized experts in sleep science and medicine. Born in Lyon, France, Spire received his medical degree with cum laude from the University of Montreal in 1966. He completed a neurology residency at the University of California, San Francisco, where he later became an assistant

professor of neurology and co-director of the EEG Systems Group. Recruited to the University of Chicago by Barry Arnason, MD, James Nelson and Anna Louise Raymond Professor Emeritus of Neurology, Spire was founding director of the clinical neurophysiology laboratories. He was promoted to professor in 1982 and became emeritus in 2007. He trained over 100 fellows from around the world in neurology and neurophysiology, and was an exceptional mentor and colleague. In 2008, following his retirement, he won the Gold Key award, which recognizes outstanding and loyal service to the Biological Sciences Division and the University. Spire was truly the “face of neurology” for decades at the University, and a colorful and kind human being. He was an avid sailor who spent many weekends sailing on Lake Michigan and completed the Race to Mackinac many times. He loved food, art, music and, most of all, his family, friends and colleagues. He is survived by his wife, violinist Ikuko Mizuno, and family.

“Those of us who knew JeanPaul personally valued him as a wonderful friend and colleague. He had a personal warmth and zest for life and an intense loyalty to the University of Chicago, particularly the Department of Neurology, his colleagues on the faculty and our students, residents and fellows. He had a broad and substantial impact and will be greatly missed.” Shyam Prabhakaran, MD, MS Professor of Neurology Chair, Department of Neurology







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Art and science Artist Yvette Kaiser Smith, MFA’94, crochets continuous strands of fiberglass into flat geometric shapes that are formed and hardened with polyester resin. A visual articulation of mathematics is used to generate random visual patterns through form and color distribution by utilizing the grid, Pascal’s triangle and sequences from the numbers pi or e. “In this work there is an intersection and hybridization of mathematics and the tradition of time, labor and creativity that can connect us all,” the artist said. Etude from pi 51413 is on display in the Sky Lobby of the University of Chicago Medicine Center for Care and Discovery.

Profile for University of Chicago Medicine

Medicine on the Midway - Spring 2021  

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