I was drawn to discovery and science early in my academic career. At the University of Iowa, under the guidance of my mentor Peter Rubinstein, PhD, I submitted an abstract on my undergraduate research and was selected to present a poster at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) meeting in California.
There, at my first scientific meeting, I listened to keynote speakers and Nobel Prize winners Michael S. Brown, MD, and Joseph L. Goldstein, MD. I was mesmerized by the impact of their work and energized at the possibility of a career in clinically relevant medical research. I approached the podium after their presentation, seeking career-path advice. At their suggestion, I immediately began researching universities with dual-degree programs and was accepted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at Washington University School of Medicine.
As a young scientist, research, for me, was less about the specific question I was trying to answer and more about the excitement and passion for discovery. Over time — and after seeing the impact of asthma on my own family — my research interests became focused on allergic disorders.
Here at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, my lab combines epidemiologic, basic, translational and clinical research approaches to answer fundamental questions related to childhood asthma, atopic dermatitis, food allergy and allergic rhinitis. I’m joined by a diverse group of talented individuals with distinct backgrounds and skillsets, all working around our shared mission to improve the lives of children with allergic disorders.
Over the past two decades, we have published over 180 articles and established several large longitudinal population cohorts focused on asthma and allergic disorders, including the first U.S. cohort of children with atopic dermatitis. For the last 14 years, I’ve served as the principal investigator of an NIH-funded Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Center (AADCRC) — one of only 11 in the country — and I currently serve as the chair of the AADCRC steering committee.
Current work in my lab is focused on:
- Understanding the role of the epithelial barrier in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis, food allergy, asthma and allergic diseases
- Delineation of the mechanistic basis of the atopic march
- Molecular phenotyping and endotyping of allergic diseases to better define and subclassify atopic dermatitis and asthma disease phenotypes to improve prediction and management of these common disorders
- Identifying and testing new treatments for allergic diseases, especially asthma
I was honored in 2019 to be recognized for my work with a Daniel Drake Medal from the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, the college’s highest honor. That same year, my alma mater, Washington University Medical School, presented me with their Alumni Achievement Award. In 2018, Cincinnati Children’s recognized me with their Senior Faculty Award for Research Achievement, and in 2015, I was awarded the World Allergy Organization Scientific Achievement Award.
I’m humbled by this recognition, but perhaps the most rewarding aspect of my career has been training young scientists and my involvement with our MSTP here at Cincinnati Children’s and the UC College of Medicine.
Research is the engine that drives innovation. We need people to understand both sides of the equation — research and clinical medicine — to advance medicine and discover new therapeutics and technologies. Graduates of MD/PhD programs are leaders who can impact change and improve health.
I was extremely proud in 2012 to be named director of our MSTP and look forward to continuing to nurture and develop these leaders.
I have also been fortunate to extend my leadership to a number of roles within my scientific community. I previously directed the Ohio Children’s Hospitals Research Collaborative Asthma Initiative, which encompasses the six major children’s hospitals across the state. In addition, I was a member of the National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Disease Council, served on the Board of Directors for the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, and held a role on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
For over 20 years, my team and I have worked tirelessly to improve the health of children. After all, the roots of most diseases, including allergic disorders, are in childhood. This only amplifies the potential of our work. Although we have made great strides, there is a lot of work to be done in terms of our understanding of allergic disorders. By focusing on the health of children, I believe we are guaranteeing a healthier, better future.
Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics