Academic Affairs & Faculty Development

VPCAT Research Scholars Program

2021-2022

2021-2022 Scholar Cohort

Hediyeh Baradaran, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Radiology & Imaging Sciences

Dr. Baradaran is a neuroradiologist in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences. Her research interests include the imaging evaluation of cerebrovascular disease, including intracranial and extracranial atherosclerosis. Vascular disease is a major contributor to stroke and cognitive dysfunction. Despite this general knowledge, how specific plaque components contribute to cerebrovascular ischemia is unclear. Dr. Baradaran’s research utilizes imaging techniques to improve detection and reporting of carotid atherosclerosis in order to identify those at risk for stroke and cognitive dysfunction.  

 

 

 

 

Email:  hediyeh.baradaran@hsc.utah.edu

Alycia Bristol, PhD, RN, AGCNS-BC

Title:  Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Dr. Bristol is an adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist and Assistant Professor at the College of Nursing. Dr. Bristol’s research aims to improve health outcomes and care coordination for older adults and family caregivers during hospitalization. Frequent transfers of older adults between hospital units may limit and delay discharge planning for patients. Moreover, caregivers may be excluded during intra-hospital transitions, potentially limiting caregiver preparedness for discharge. Dr. Bristol will seek to explore the connection between intra-hospital transitions and discharge readiness. This unique consideration will support future interventions targeting patient and caregiver experiences and outcomes during hospital stays and transitions to community settings

Email:  alycia.bristol@nurs.utah.edu

Jonathan Constance, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Pediatrics

My name is Jonathan Constance. I am a Research Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and board accredited clinical pharmacologist. My laboratory investigates drug interactions with the potential to affect the activity of life-saving chemotherapy among children with cancer. As a state of polypharmacy is inherent in the treatment of cancer, drug interactions are inevitable, but not well understood. By studying the patterns of medications used as well as their pharmacokinetics, we can identify the most likely drug interactions to affect chemotherapy. We have identified opioids as a class with high potential to interact with chemotherapy. Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, but these same receptors are often highly expressed in cancer tissue. Using blood cancer cells, we have demonstrated therapeutically relevant concentrations of opioids can block the cancer killing activity of molecularly targeted chemotherapy.

Email:  jonathan.constance@utah.edu

Michelle Debbink, MD, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology

I’m an Assistant Professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Utah, and have a PhD in health policy/social epidemiology. As a clinician, I manage high risk pregnancies, a vantage point from which I have witnessed the impact of maternal morbidity and mortality. I’m intensely interested in identifying ways to reduce and eliminate the persistent racial inequities in maternal and infant outcomes in the US. Black, Indigenous and other women and birthing people of color and their infants die or are injured at alarming rates in our country, and many of these outcomes are preventable. I approach this issue from a community and geographic lens, rather than focusing on individual patients’ comorbidities. My research focuses on understanding how hospital, neighborhood, and community structures can be leveraged to support maternal health resilience and reduce risks, as well as the ways in which institutional and social structures can mitigate the impacts of structural racism.

Email:  Michelle.Debbink@hsc.utah.edu

Robert Dood, MD, MSCE

Title:  Assistant Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology

We have a good idea how to treat stage I endometrial cancer and stage I ovarian cancer, but it’s unclear what to do when a woman has both.  This can happen in up to 20% of endometrial cancer cases depending on age, but we still have a tough time distinguishing synchronous stage I endometrial tumors from an endometrial cancer that has metastasized to the ovary (stage IIIA).  If we misdiagnose, these patients would be missing out on life prolonging adjuvant treatments.  We currently rely on clinical and pathologic criteria to distinguish these entities, which can be subjective and prone to error.  I seek to use a unique paradigm and skillset to address this problem: (1) use large database studies to generate a signal → (2) validate with translational science and biologic endpoints → (3) generate algorithms to change practice, informed by the new data.  In this case I will use the SEER database to see if synchronous primary uterine and ovarian cancers behave differently than stage IIIA uterine cancers, controlling for adjuvant treatment.  I will then perform pilot genomic analysis on already sequenced tumors in our ORIEN cancer network, looking specifically at targets that could be easily assessed with the commercially available Foundation Cdx test, and Lynch syndrome loci.  These could then be used for accurate diagnosis, and guide future treatment options.  This study will then be repeated in the larger Utah Population Database which has more available synchronous primary cancers, and family data.

Email:  Rob.Dood@hsc.utah.edu

Danielle Groat, PhD

Title:  Biostatistician, IMC

Dr. Groat’s research focuses on critically ill patients and exposures that affect health outcomes during the post-discharge timeframe. Exposure to poor outdoor air quality is known to increase the risk of hospitalization and mortality, however, little is known about the impact of household indoor air quality on critical illnesses and recovery. Ascertaining household indoor air quality can be difficult over large populations and intrusive at the individual level. In order to better understand the impact of household indoor air quality on health outcomes in critically ill patients, Dr. Groat employs computational approaches for measuring and estimating air quality in homes across Utah. She uses machine learning methods to derive models that predict household air quality across various timeframes using heterogenous datasets while leveraging informatics infrastructure. Having reliable estimates of indoor air quality will facilitate studies that assess the combined impact of outdoor and indoor air quality on relevant outcomes in critical illnesses.

Email:  danielle.groat@imail.org

Sumati Gupta, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine

I am a medical oncologist focused on the treatment of genitourinary cancers, especially urothelial cancer. My research is focused on the treatment of ARID1A mutated urothelial cancer. ARID1A mutated urothelial cancer is a complex heterogeneous disease with no targeted therapy available. ARID1A mutations have a multifaceted role in carcinogenesis and are accompanied by other oncogenic alterations. My approach is unique because it characterizes the pathways affected in ARID1A mutated cancer and creates combination approaches to effectively treat the disease. I plan to create a system of classification of ARID1A mutated urothelial cancer based on activated oncogenic pathways and optimized combination strategies to target these. The project involves clinical and genomic database studies and analyses, preclinical studies and clinical trials.

Email:  sumati.gupta@hci.utah.edu

Guilaume Hoareau, PhD, DVM

Title:  Assistant Professor, Surgery

I am an Assistant Professor with the Emergency Medicine Division and a veterinary emergency and critical care specialist. My interest lies in clinical conditions leading to ischemia-reperfusion injury, specifically hemorrhagic shock and cardiac arrest. I study resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to manage those conditions. My research has focused on novel strategies to mitigate ischemia-reperfusion observed with those cutting-edge interventions. I have a particular interest in hemorrhage control strategies relevant to military applications. I am interested in characterizing the mechanisms of injury in patients treated with REBOA or ECMO. Specifically, I seek to discover pathways that could serve as targets to improve patient outcomes ultimately.

Email:  guillaume.hoareau@utah.edu

Skyler Johnson, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Radiation Oncology

My name is Skyler Johnson. I am a cancer clinician and health outcomes researcher with special interest in non-traditional cancer treatment decision making and cancer misinformation. Foregoing recommended cancer therapies in favor or non-traditional cancer treatments can have dire consequences making addressing health misinformation is a critical public health goal. My research program studies the sociodemographic, clinicopathologic, healthcare system factors, attitudes, beliefs and exposure to complementary and alternative medicine use that may influence the quality and outcomes of cancer care. This research will help guide meaningful efforts to improve patient and physician communication, clinical management and healthcare policy.

Email:  skyler.johnson@hci.utah.edu

Joseph Letourneau, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology

Dr. Letourneau is an infertility specialist and Co-Director of the University of Utah Oncofertility Program. In the past 50 years, chemotherapy has greatly increased the number of young adults who survive cancer. However, treatments meant to target cancers often cause a devastating side-effect: infertility. Preserving fertility, by freezing eggs or embryos before chemotherapy, can improve one's chances of building a family post-cancer. Fertility preservation can also have a positive impact on quality of life in survivorship. Through research and advocacy, he aims to help improve our understanding of how to build a healthy family after cancer treatment.

Email:  joseph.letourneau@hsc.utah.edu

Sabrina Malone-Jenkins, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Pediatrics

As a clinician in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), I provide care for critically ill newborn infants and understand the importance of personalized clinical care in improving outcomes. Over the past 4 years, I’ve been part of a team that implemented a rapid targeted diagnostic gene panel of 4,503 established disease-causing genes (RapSeq) in the NICU and showed a reduction in the number of invasive procedures, diagnostic clinical testing, and lengths of stay among all critically ill neonates tested. As the physician lead for the rapid Whole Genome Sequencing (rWGS) project in the Primary Children’s Hospital (PCH) Center for Personalized Medicine, I am integrating clinical genetic testing into the NICU, cardiac intensive care unit, and pediatric intensive care unit at PCH. I also serve as the principal investigator for the Utah NeoSeq project which is a research pipeline for rapid whole genome sequencing in the NICU.  The sequencing is being done at ARUP and the analysis through the Utah Center for Genetic Discovery. My current study is unique in that it involves prenatally identifying patients with specific clinical phenotypes, sequencing at the time of delivery, and having results within the first week after birth. Infants with the clinical phenotype of arthrogryposis, non-immune hydrops fetalis, or skeletal dysplasia often experience a prolonged diagnostic odyssey during their NICU stay. Starting with these three complicated phenotypes, I am working toward my long-term goal of improving care for newborn infants by integrating the application of genomics in the NICU to provide precision medicine and focused clinical care.

Email:  sabrina.malonejenkins@hsc.utah.edu

Larissa McGarrity, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Physical Medicine & Regabilitation

Dr. McGarrity is a clinical psychologist in the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation who works closely with the Comprehensive Weight Management Center. Her research focuses on psychological health for patients before and after bariatric surgery. The existing research on obesity and bariatric surgery overwhelmingly emphasizes patient risk factors for poor outcomes (e.g., psychopathology, disordered eating) at the expense of understanding and building interventions to enhance protective factors (e.g., adaptive coping styles, social support, self-esteem). Dr. McGarrity is particularly interested in patient resilience, or the ability to thrive in the face of weight-related stress and stigma. This research has the potential to inform guidelines and improve patient-centered healthcare from a biopsychosocial model of weight management.

Email:  larissa.mcgarrity@hsc.utah.edu

Daniel Mendoza, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Atmospheric Sciences

I am a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and hold joint appointments in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning, Pulmonary Division in the School of Medicine, and NEXUS Institute. My research focuses on environmental exposure and health disparities and resulting impacts on vulnerable populations. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on social and environmental injustices where the most socioeconomically disadvantaged populations are further marginalized. I study the impacts of social and environmental determinants on health outcomes and subsequent economic costs towards developing enactable policy solutions. My goal is to develop personalized health risk assessments based on an individual's genotype and environmental exposure so that they can make informed decisions for preventative purposes.

Email:  daniel.mendoza@utah.edu

Henrik Odéen, PhD, MS

Title:  Assistant Professor, Radiology & Imaging Sciences

I’m a Research Instructor in the Radiology Department with a PhD in Physics. Our research group is working on Magnetic Resonance Imaging-guided non-invasive interventions using focused ultrasound. Focused ultrasound can be used for thermal ablation, to liquify tissue, and to excite or inhibit neural activity. Our group is mainly working on applications in the brain, breast and spine. One of my recent projects is investigating using micro- and nano-bubbles for non-thermal ablation of brain tumors.

Email:  henrik.odeen@hsc.utah.edu

Rebecca Overbury, MD, MS

Title:  Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine

Dr. Overbury is a clinician, a researcher, and the director of the Adult Center for Childhood Onset Rheumatic Disease. Her research interests focus on the implementation of better management and subsequent outcomes in patients diagnosed with or suffering chronic rheumatic and autoimmune disease in adolescence and young adulthood. Current health care processes do not adequately serve the needs of these adolescents and young adults, and the process of transitioning from pediatric sub-specialty care to adult sub-specialty care is dangerous and costly. Her research aims to incorporate patient-oriented interventions, before, during, and after this transition, to maximize the short and long-term physical and psychosocial health of this vulnerable and unique patient population.

Email:  rebecca.overbury@hsc.utah.edu

Candace Reno, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine

I am a Research Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. I study hypoglycemia as a complication in the treatment of diabetes.  Hypoglycemia is the cause of death in up to 10% of people with diabetes at risk for hypoglycemia. My research suggests that sudden death during hypoglycemia is caused by cardiac arrhythmias, but it is not clear how arrhythmias develop. By determining the mechanisms of hypoglycemia-induced cardiac arrhythmias in pre-clinical animal models, my research will potentially lead to better treatment options to reduce the risk of death from hypoglycemia in people with diabetes.

Email:  creno@u2m2.utah.edu

Kevin Shah, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine

My name is Kevin Shah and I am a heart failure and transplant cardiologist here at the University of Utah. My area of focus is on the link between infection and cardiovascular disease. This problem has become a growing concern in 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, within heart failure, there has been a working hypothesis that viral infection may predispose to the development of cardiomyopathy and clinical heart failure. The link between the infection and possible heart disease has been the presumed development of myocarditis which may not be diagnosed due to subclinical symptoms. My approach will be to carefully study patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 and through use of a combination of inflammatory and cardiac injury biomarkers combined with advanced imaging, attempt to help determine the link and pathway between infection and heart disease. My goal will be to capitalize on the natural experiment of a viral pandemic to understand the connections between infection and cardiovascular disease and potentially identify future targets for therapy.

Email:  kevin.shah@hsc.utah.edu

Djin Tay, PhD, RN

Title:  Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

I am a tenure-track Assistant Professor at the College of Nursing, and I am interested in how patients and caregivers make decisions for serious illness. In the past decade, cancer treatment has rapidly evolved with therapies that have dramatically improved cancer survival in advanced cancer; however, these treatments are costly and only work for a minority of patients. Yet, little research has examined the ripple effects of this paradigm shift in cancer treatment on end of life, decision making, caregiving, and bereavement outcomes. By leveraging the UPDB and linked claims and cancer registry data, we can better understand how population changes in cancer care delivery affects outcomes at the end of life through bereavement. Understanding the cost, benefits, and spillover effects related to immunotherapy can provide insight on ways to improve the quality and value of care of patients and families with in advanced cancer.

Email:  Djin.Tay@nurs.utah.edu

Adam Ware, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Pediatric Cardiology

I am a pediatric cardiologist focused on identifying and treating cardiovascular risks in children.  Most cardiovascular risk factors such as abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity start in childhood and contribute to the progression of blood vessel diseases that cause heart attack and stroke. In my clinical practice and research. I evaluate the impact of those risk factors on the blood vessels in children and evaluate treatments to prevent blood vessel disease.

Email:  adam.ware@hsc.utah.edu

Tsegaselassie Workalemahu, PhD, MSc

Title:  Assistant Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology

I am an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the division of maternal-fetal medicine. I develop a research program investigating the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms related to obstetric complications (and their short- and long-term adverse outcomes). Presently, there are knowledge gaps regarding the causes of pregnancy loss and its recurrence. These knowledge gaps have prompted the use of diagnostic tests and treatments that increase cost, anxiety and even cause harm without clear efficacy. If the genetic factors that are relevant for pregnancy loss and normal pregnancy are determined, expensive but non-specific, diagnostic evaluations and interventions for couples suffering the loss could be avoided. In my study, I am proposing to determine specific genetic mutations that cause pregnancy loss by conducting whole genome sequencing analysis of DNA from families.

Email:  tsegaselassie.workalemahu@hsc.utah.edu