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Gurjit Khurana Hershey, MD, PhD
Division Director of Asthma Research
Dr. Gurjit Khurana Hershey is an endowed professor of Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and the director of the Division of Asthma Research. She is board certified in Pediatrics and Allergy and Immunology and is an active clinician, educator, and researcher. Dr. Khurana Hershey is a physician scientist who has devoted her career to clinical investigation using a combination of epidemiologic, basic, translational, and clinical research to answer fundamental questions regarding the environmental and genetic factors that contribute to the development of childhood asthma and the mechanisms by which these factors interact and contribute to disease. Dr. Khurana Hershey is internationally recognized for her contributions and highly regarded by her peers. She serves on the National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Disease Council. She also served on the Board of Directors of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology and the Editorial Board of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Her research focuses on the overall goal of improving the health of children with asthma. Her laboratory uses multidisciplinary approaches that seamlessly integrate innovative human cohorts with animal and in vitro models to identify and delineate the mechanisms that contribute to the development, progression, and persistence of asthma. Current projects in the laboratory include: (1) understanding the role of the epithelial barrier in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis, asthma and allergic diseases; (2) delineate the mechanistic basis of the atopic march; (3) 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; and (4) identifying and testing new treatments for allergic diseases.
Dr. Khurana Hershey has trained over 80 trainees in her laboratory and 14 of her trainees now hold independent academic faculty positions. Collectively, her trainees have gone on to secure 39 external grants and publish over 500 manuscripts. Dr. Khurana Hershey has a proven track record in team science and managing large interdisciplinary research programs including as PI of an NIH U19 Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Center (AADCRC) for the last 13 years. She currently serves as chair of the NIH Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Centers Steering Committee. She has been continuously funded for nearly 20 years and has published over 170 articles in top journals. In addition to her U19, she leads numerous R01s and U01’s including as the Cincinnati PI of the NIH Inner City Asthma Consortium and the Environmental Child Health Outcomes Program. She also successfully directed the state-wide Ohio Childrens’ Hospital Research Collaborative Asthma Initiative, which includes the 6 major Children’s’ Hospitals in the state of Ohio. Dr. Khurana Hershey is an internationally recognized expert in pediatric asthma, allergy and immunology, and environmental health. Over the past 2 decades, she has established several large innovative longitudinal population cohorts focused on asthma and allergic disorders including the first US cohort of children with atopic dermatitis.
Dr. Khurana Hershey has been recognized with numerous awards and honors. This year she was awarded the Drake Medal by the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, the highest honor that the College of Medicine bestows. She was also awarded the Washington University Medical School Alumni Achievement Award this year. Last year, she was recognized with the Cincinnati Children’s Senior Faculty Award for Research Achievement. And in 2015, she was awarded the World Allergy Organization Scientific Achievement Award. She has also been named One of the Five Leading Women in Healthcare in the Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Area by Women’s Business Cincinnati Magazine.
Cassandra Almasri, BS
Clinical Research Coordinator II
Cassandra received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from The University of Kentucky in 2018. She joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator in August of 2020. At the Khurana Hershey lab she is working on MPAACH study. She is interested in learning more about how prevalence of eczema can progress into allergies and asthma in children. Currently, she is working on conducting patient visits, recruitment, and retention. Outside of the lab, Cassandra enjoys exercising, volunteering, and exploring the Greater Cincinnati area.
Ahmed is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine and is expected to graduate in 2022. He joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a student researcher in November of 2018. At the Khurana Hershey lab, he is primarily working on the CREW study. He is interested in continuing to follow the CCAAPS cohort as they participate in CREW, and eventually ECHO. Currently he is studying methods to improve re-recruitment of established cohort members through a variety of communication channels. He is also assisting with study visits, processing lab samples, and creating clinical supplies. Outside of the lab, Ahmed is a student ambassador for the University of Cincinnati Medical Sciences program and helps inform high school students about the opportunities available through the UC college of medicine undergraduate program. Additionally, Ahmed is working with UC Forward and the Kroger Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative to reduce student food insecurity at UC.
Paige Bolcas, PhD
Paige received her PhD in Immunology from the University of Cincinnati in 2019. She joined the Hershey lab as a Research Fellow in 2019. In the lab, she is currently working on animal models related to atopic dermatitis. Currently her focus is on understanding the relationship/interplay of the skin microbiome to skin barrier dysfunction. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with friends.
Eric Brandt, PhD
Eric received his PhD in immunology at the Pasteur Institute (Lillie, France), where he worked on Crohn’s disease, before moving to Cincinnati Children’s hospital in 1999 as a post doc, studying the role of eosinophils in gastrointestinal diseases and establishing one of the mouse models of food allergy commonly used today. He joined the Khurana Hershey Lab in 2008. One of his first projects was to demonstrate that traffic related diesel pollution increased allergen-induced asthma severity using mice exposed to house dust mite (HDM) and diesel exhaust particles (DEP), which has led to 8 publications. Building on his expertise with murine models of allergic diseases, Eric’s current research in the Khurana Hershey Lab centers around the contribution of innate and adaptive immune cells to the atopic march, specifically with skin barrier dysregulation promoting allergic sensitization and the development of food allergy and asthma. Eric also contributes to the field of Allergy & Immunology as a regular reviewer for several peer reviewed journals, including as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Angelo is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine and is expected to graduate in 2022. He joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a student researcher in November of 2018. At the Khurana Hershey lab, he is primarily working on the MPAACH study. He is interested in tracking the growth of the MPAACH cohort, as well as learning what variables influence the atopic march. Currently, he is helping assist with the MPAACH study in clinical visits with young children; he is also recruiting new participants, processing samples in the lab, and creating clinical supplies. Outside of the lab, Angelo is a Learning Community Peer Leader at the University of Cincinnati Learning Commons and serves as Secretary of the UC Student Activities Board where he works to register, promote, and regulate student organizations on campus.
Jeff Burkle, BS
Application Specialist III
Jeff received his bachelor’s degree from the Pennsylvania State University in 2000. He built his career working in epidemiology as a data manager for 16 years with the University of Cincinnati until late 2018 when he joined the Hershey Lab. In his current role he oversees the historical and prospective data from the CCAAPS study which he has been involved with since the beginning of his career. He also has several responsibilities with cohorts located throughout Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Montana, and Illinois. He provides extensive experience with SAS Macro programming, Microsoft Access development and a number of proprietary instruments involving Geospatial data, graphics, and data collection instruments. Outside of the office Jeff pursues interests in photography, theater, and electronic entertainment.
Kristi Curtsinger RN, BSN, BS
Kristi received her Bachelor of Science in molecular biology from the College of Mount St. Joseph and her Bachelor of Nursing form the University of Cincinnati. She joined the Khurana Hershey Lab in 2011. Kristi is a research nurse for the Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC) trials and is responsible for performing participant visits including, but not limited to PFTs, induced sputum challenges, methacholine challenges, processing nasal epithelial samples and managing participant records. She also helps manage participant’s asthma care while on the ICAC clinical trials. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her children and reading.
Stan DeVore, MS
Stan received his Bachelor’s degree in Physiology with a Spanish minor from the University of Wyoming in 2015. In 2017 he completed his Masters in Physiology also at UWyo, where he studied prolactinoma epigenetics in the Cherrington Lab. In July 2019, he joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a Cancer and Cell Biology MD/PhD student. In the Hershey lab, he is interested in elucidating the roles and mechanisms of filaggrin, T-cells and NK-cells in atopic dermatitis. Outside of the lab, Stan enjoys rooting for Wyoming athletics (someone has to), comedy/heist movies, and indulging his pub trivia addiction.
Kathryn Geil, BSN
Kathryn received an Associate of Science in Nursing from Cincinnati State in 2016 and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Ohio University in 2018. She joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a Research Nurse in September of 2020. At the Khurana Hershey lab she is working on the CRITICAL study with the Inner City Asthma Consortium. She is interested in connecting with kids and their families and helping them lead happy and healthy lives. Currently, she is working on recruiting participants for CRITICAL, seeing patients in the Schubert Research Clinic, managing participant records, and processing samples in the lab. Outside of the lab, she loves spending time with her husband, dog, and family. She enjoys reading, Netflix, coffee, crafting, and all things that are cozy.
Alex Gonzales, MPH
Clinical Research Coordinator III
Alex received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Kenyon College in 2016 and her MPH from Ohio State in 2019. She joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator in September of 2019 and she is currently the lead coordinator on the MPAACH study. She is interested in understanding more about how social and environmental factors affect epigenetics and the atopic march. Outside of the lab, Alex enjoys reading, videogames, and spending time with her puppy.
Brittany Grashel, BS
Research Assistant III
Brittany received Bachelor of Science in Biology from University of Cincinnati in 2013. She joined the Khurana lab as a Research Assistant in 2016. At the Khurana Hershey lab, she is working on MPAACH, OPAR, and CREW. She is interested in molecular genetics and immunology. Currently, she is looking at KIF3A gene in noninvasive skin tapes. Outside of the lab, Brittany enjoys hiking, camping, crafts and volunteering
Taylor Groeschen, BA
Taylor received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Interactive Media Studies from Miami University in 2016. She joined the Division of Asthma Research as an Administrative Assistant in April of 2018. Currently she is working on updating and innovating upon the division’s digital media platforms. She also assists with patient recruitment and scheduling for the MPAACH study. Outside of the division, Taylor enjoys hiking with her dog, traveling, and volunteering at gaming events.
Pamela Groh, RN
Registered Nurse II
Pam received her RN-BSN from Ohio University and Diploma in Nursing from Bethesda School of Nursing. She joined the Khurana lab as a Research Nurse II in 2016. At the Khurana Hershey lab, she works closely with Sponsors, CPN, and Physicians to manage moderate persistent asthma within the Inner City Asthma Consortium interventional clinical drug studies. She also performs clinical study tasks such as recruitment, scheduling, orders, and management of daily clinical activities.
Seth Jenkins, BS
Research Assistant III
Seth received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Wright State University in 2008. He joined the Khurana lab as a Research Assistant III in January of 2019. At the Khurana Hershey lab, he is working on CREW and MPAACH study with RNA and DNA. He is interested in advancing the frontiers of human knowledge through scientific research. Currently, he is processing clinical samples for genetic analysis and cell culture. Outside of the lab, Seth enjoys collecting vinyl records, reading science fiction novels and spending time with his wife, daughter, and two cats.
Hanna (Lisa) M Elisabet Johansson, PhD
Elisabet completed her PhD in applied biochemistry from the University of Lund, Sweden. She joined the Khurana Hershey Lab in 2014. Elisabet’s current research in the Khurana Hershey Lab includes identifying genetic markers differentially associated with childhood allergic disorders; mainly asthma, allergic rhinitis and atopic dermatitis. A case- control genetic association approach is being used, in which a total of 769 SNPs in 80 genes are genotyped using a custom array. In addition, her research also aims at characterizing epistatic and environmental interactions that modulate the effects of candidate genes.
Kristina Keidel, BS
Clinical Research Coordinator III
Kristina received a bachelor’s degree in both Psychology and Communication from Denison University in May of 2017 and shortly after joined the Khurana lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator in June of 2017. At the Khurana Hershey lab, she is working primarily on the Breath Warriors Study as well as helping with the Adare project and the Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC) projects. She is interested in how psychological and environmental factors influence difficult-to-treat asthma. Currently, she is completing clinic and home visits with children that have difficult-to-treat asthma, specifically as the lead coordinator on the Breath Warriors Study, which creates personalized treatment plans based on medication adherence and environmental and biological factors. She is also working with adults on the Adare project. Outside of the lab, Kristina serves on the Board of Directors for Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio as well as the local Alumni Chapter of Delta Gamma Fraternity. She is also currently a mentor for local high school and college students that are passionate about promoting positive mental health and serves as a Volunteer Ambassador here at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Application Specialist I
John Kroner, MS
Biostatistician Epidemiologist I
John received bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Sociology from Indiana University in 2010. He started his career at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital as a Clinical Research Coordinator in 2011. He joined the Hershey lab in July of 2015 as a Data Specialist after completing a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology from the University of Cincinnati. In his current role as a staff Epidemiologist, John supports many of the human studies in the lab, such as MPAACH, OPAR, and GCPCR. His main areas of focus are study design and execution, database design, and SAS programming. John is also the elected chair of the Clinical Research Professionals group, helping support initiatives for research professionals throughout the institution. Outside of the lab, John spends his time exploring Cincinnati and playing board games with friends.
Tyler Miles, BA
Clinical Research Coordinator II
Tyler received a Bachelor’s of Arts in International Studies and Neuroscience from Miami University in 2018. He joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator in October of 2019. At the Khurana Hershey lab, he is working on M-PAACH study. He is interested in environmental factors that affect eczema and asthma. Currently, he is conducting patient visits and furthering his knowledge of asthma and atopic dermatitis. Outside of the lab, Tyler explores greater the greater Cincinnati area, furthers his language studies in French and American Sign Language, and listens to news podcasts.
David Morgan, BS
Research Assistant III
David received a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from The Ohio State University in 2016. He joined the Division of Asthma Research as a Clinical Research Coordinator in July 2018, and now works as a Research Assistant in the lab. He collaborates on multiple studies within the division, and is interested in improving the treatment of children with autoimmune disorders. Outside of the lab, David enjoys creating art and writing videogame reviews for an entertainment blog.
Elsie Parmar, BS
Clinical Research Coordinator II
Elsie received a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from Denison University in May of 2020. She joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator in August of 2020. At the Khurana Hershey lab she is working on the Human Epidemiology and Response to Sars-COV-2 (HEROS) study and the Children’s Respiratory and Environmental Workgroup (CREW) study. She is interested in learning more about how environmental factors play a role in allergic disease progression and how these diseases impact children and their families developmentally. Currently, she is working on study retention while also conducting participant visits. Outside of the lab, Elsie enjoys cooking, creating art, and exploring the Cincinnati area. She is looking forward to pursuing a career in medicine.
Steven P. Proper, DO, PhD
Steve received his BS in Environmental Chemistry from Kettering University (Flint, MI) in 2005. He also completed his PhD (Biochemistry & Environmental Toxicology) and DO degrees from Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and completed Categorical Pediatrics Residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin (Milwaukee, WI) in 2018. He is currently a Clinical Fellow in the Allergy & Immunology Division at Cincinnati Children's, and joined the Khurana Hershey lab to work on his Fellowship Research Project starting in August of 2019. He is currently working on characterizing aeroallergen sensitization patterns in high-risk atopic patients in the MPAACH Cohort to investigate the relationship between sensitization patterns and development of atopic disease. His previous work was in the laboratory of Dr. John LaPres, and focused on the Hypoxia Inducible Factors (HIFs), specifically HIF-1 alpha and HIF-2 alpha in lung epithelium, and how it affects the inflammatory response using mouse models and cobalt-induced lung inflammation. He is interested broadly in studying the role of environmental exposures and epithelial signaling in driving risk of atopic disease, particularly atopic dermatitis and asthma. Outside of the lab and clinical duties, Steve likes to spend time with his family exploring the Cincinnati area, playing music and doing outdoor activities.
Xiaomeng Ren, PhD
Xiaomeng received her PhD in Molecular Biology and Anesthesiology from Peking Union Medical University in 2001. She joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a Research Associate in June 2018. At the Khurana Hershey lab, she is working on Role and Regulation of TSLP in Childhood Allergic Disease. She is interested in mechanisms by which TSLP is induced in human skin, how TSLP single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) influences the gene expression and how eczema infants gradually developed asthma around school age. Currently, she is working on skin, nasal epithelial cells and blood samples that are collected from allergic dermatitis children to monitor their TSLP gene transcription, epigenetic modifications as well as their immune system changes. Outside of the lab, Xiaomeng enjoys yoga, walking, and running.
Brandy Ruff, AS, RLAT
Research Assistant II
Brandy joined the Khurana Hershey lab in 2012. She’s a research assistant who is responsible for managing the animal colony, performing, and setting up experiments for asthma and atopic dermatitis models. Her responsibilities include maintaining the animal use protocol (IACUC), IBC, addendums, and renewals. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, trap shooting, and riding ATV’s.
Daniel Spagna, BS
Research Assistant IV
Daniel received his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Stonybrook University in 1999. He joined the Khurana Hershey Lab as a Research Assistant IV in 2017. At the Khurana Hershey lab, he is working on the MPAACH study with RNA and DNA. He is interested in extracting the RNA and DNA from skin tapes. Outside of the lab, Daniel has two baby daughters who never sleep and don’t want him to either.
Cherie Thatcher joined the Division of Asthma Research in October 2020 as a Senior Administrative Assistant. As an Administrative Assistant she provides secretarial/administrative support to employees in the Division of Asthma Research. Cherie comes from over 22 years of Administrative Assistance in the Banking Industry. Outside the division, Cherie is very active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes lacrosse and coaches many youth lacrosse teams along with mentoring young adults and coaches. She also enjoys hiking with the family.
Kevin Titus, MBA
Kevin Titus joined the division in June 2016 as the Business Director. As the Business Director, he is responsible for the overall financial management and general operations of the division. Outside the division, Kevin is active in the Society of Research Administrators International; serving on the Board of directors and is the president-elect of the Midwest Section.
Veronica is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine and is expected to graduate in 2022. She joined the Khurana Hershey lab as a student researcher in May of 2019. At the Khurana Hershey lab, she is primarily working on the MPAACH study. She is interested in how the variables being studied impact the atopic march, as well as seeing the growth and development of the MPAACH cohort. Currently, she helps MPAACH in clinical visits with young children, recruitment of new participants, sample processing in the lab, and making clinical supplies. Outside of lab, Veronica is the concertmaster of the UC Symphony Orchestra. She is also the Committee Chair for the UC Undergraduate Research Society, a University Honors Program Ambassador, and a volunteer for the BEARchats program, where she helps international students acclimate to American culture in college and promotes diversity and inclusion at UC.
Anna-Liisa Vockell, MSN, BSN, RN
Anna-Liisa received a Master of Science in Nursing from Georgia State University in 1997 and a BSN from University of Virginia in 1992. She joined the Khurana lab as a nurse practitioner in 2017. At the Khurana Hershey lab, she is working on the Inner City Asthma Consortium asthma studies for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. She is interested in improving the health of children with asthma through new medications or testing. Currently, she is monitoring the medical care for all participants in the ICAC studies in addition to the coordination of study visits. Outside of the lab, Anna-Liisa deeply loves her husband and 4 children. She enjoys volunteering at her church with her husband to teach and mentor couples about to be married.
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