ITS Learning Banner

ALERT BAR

Phase 1 ITS Scholars:

ITS KL2 Scholars

Rachel-Deer

Assistant Professor , Division of Rehabilitation Sciences
Mentor: David Brown PT, PhD, FAPTA
Co-Mentor: Gulshan Sharma MD, MPH, FCCP

Dr. Rachel Deer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Metabolism & Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch.  Her research focuses on improving health outcomes after acute illness with feasible, evidence-based intervention strategies. She has developed and executed multiple rigorous randomized clinical trials (from small pilots to larger multi-site studies) in older adults. Dr. Deer is the Research Director of UTMB’s Post-COVID Recovery Clinic, the first clinic to open in the greater Houston area, focused on understanding the long-term outcomes of COVID-19 infection on survivor's health and wellbeing.  As the Provost’s Scholar KL2 awardee, she is currently launching “INSPIRE” a multimodal intervention study to accelerate recovery and improve quality of life in COVID-19 survivors. 

W. Sam-Fagg
Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Transplant Division
Mentor: Mariano Garcia-Blanco, MD, PhD
Co-Mentor: Benjamin J. Blencowe, PhD
Co-Mentor: Muge Kuyumcu-Martinez, PhD

I grew up in North Carolina and always had a passion for how living things worked. This became very apparent when I first began learning about Cell Biology and my career path became clear. I then enrolled in a Master's program at East Carolina University and really became immersed in cellular biochemistry and molecular biology, then worked at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for a couple of years in stem cell biology. After that, I went to UC-Santa Cruz, where I got my PhD studying RNA splicing/alternative splicing and the many roles of RNA binding proteins. I have used my backgrounds in stem cell biology and molecular biology to approach difficult problems that have been overlooked or unapproached. Currently I am doing so to unravel the molecular mechanisms of myocardial infarct and heart disease. It appears that a long non-coding RNA, that is absent in the normally functioning heart, acts as a "sponge" for a particular RNA binding protein in this disease context. By dissecting the mechanisms through which the molecular pathology is executed, we can work toward RNA-based rational drug design.
Houghton, David_adj
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Mentor: Kathryn Cunningham, PhD
Co-Mentor: Denise Wilkes, MD, PhD
Co-Mentor: Heidi Spratt, PhD

Dr. Houghton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a member of the Center for Addiction Research. He conducted his doctoral training at Texas A&M University and his postdoctoral fellowship at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Houghton is interested in the underlying mechanisms that motivate compulsive and impulsive behavior, particularly substance use disorders. In his clinical experience, Dr. Houghton recognized the incredible diversity among patients with the same psychiatric diagnosis and was dissatisfied with “one size fits all” treatment approaches. These insights motivated him to develop a more precise understanding of how etiological mechanisms interact to produce psychopathology phenotypes and determine whether there are sub-types of patients with unique etiological biosignatures can be targeted with precision treatment and prevention approaches. His KL2 project therefore entails application of advanced machine learning analytics to behavioral phenotyping data among chronic pain patients who use prescription opioids and are at risk for developing opioid use disorder. 
Phase 2 ITS Scholars:

ITS KL2 Scholars

Lucas Blanton

Associate Professor – Internal Medicine Infectious Diseases
Mentor: David H. Walker, MD

Dr. Blanton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine – Division of Infectious Diseases.  He attended medical school at UTMB, completed his internal medicine residency training at the Medical University of South Carolina, and returned to UTMB to pursue fellowship training in infectious diseases.  He is active in the clinical practice of infectious diseases – treating HIV and general infectious diseases in both the inpatient and outpatient setting.  He has a special clinical interest in vector-borne diseases, and his research is focused on the the study of tick- and flea-borne rickettsioses.  While practicing at UTMB, Dr. Blanton helped recognize the reemergence of murine typhus in Galveston – a disease that had apparently disappeared from the area since the late 1940s.  He has since worked to characterize the ecology of the reservoirs and vectors of Rickettsia typhi on the island.  His research has also included field work for the collection of ticks; characterization of pathogens from ticks; studies to investigate rickettsial cross protection; and serosurveys to assess human exposure to various rickettsial pathogens.  While active in research and clinical practice, Dr. Blanton enjoys contributing to the education of medical students, residents, and fellows at UTMB.    

Ana Rodriguez

Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Mentor: Alan Barrett, PhD

Biography

Demidmaa Tuvdendorj
Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine
Mentor: Nicola Abate, MD

Dr. Tuvdendorj's passion is stable isotope tracer techniques that allows one to measure in vivo kinetics of different substrates (e.g., proteins, lipids and glucose). Through studies of both animals and humans her research focus is to understand the relationship between substrate kinetics and insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes related diseases. A special interest of her research is a connection between adipose tissue morphology, triglyceride kinetics and insulin resistance related pathophysiological conditions.
Phase 3 ITS Scholars:

ITS KL2 Scholars

Associate Professor, Department of Surgery
Sealy Center for Molecular Medicine

Biography

jonathan-hommel

Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology
Faculty in the Center for Addiction Research

Biography

Heather Stevenson-Learner

Associate Professor, Department of Pathology
Mentor: Cornelis Elferink, PhD
Co-Mentor: Laura Beretta, PhD

Heather Stevenson-Lerner is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology, Division of Surgical Pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch.  Her clinical focus includes liver, transplantation, and gastrointestinal pathology.  Prior to becoming faculty at UTMB in 2014, she completed a fellowship in the Transplant Pathology Division at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  Dr. Stevenson-Lerner leads UTMB’s Liver Diseases Diagnostic Management Team, which is popular with hepatologists, transplant coordinators, fellows, and residents. 

Heather is actively involved in several grant-funded clinical research projects including studies in patients with chronic hepatitis C (HCV), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).   Primary research interests include studying the role of the hepatic immune response, including macrophages and lymphocytes, in fibrosis and HCC development.  Her laboratory has also developed a Spectral-imaging platform to characterize and quantify these populations in human formalin-fixed liver biopsy tissue. 

Dr. Stevenson-Lerner earned her BS from Colorado State University and worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prior to coming to UTMB for her training in the combined MD/PhD program.  Her PhD training was in the department of experimental pathology under the guidance of Dr. David Walker.  She completed residency training at UTMB in 2013 and is board-certified in anatomic and clinical Pathology.

Dr. Stevenson-Lerner received a University of Texas Rising STARs award, is on the executive committee for medical school admissions, and received the Best Anatomic Pathology Faculty Award from UTMB’s pathology residents and fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year.  She is also a recent recipient of a career development award from the Institute for Translational Sciences' KL2 (ITS Scholars) program.

 

Associate Professor, Urology and Radiology
Chief, Division of Urology
Robert Earl Cone Professorship
Director of Urologic Oncology
Director of Urologic Research
Co-Director Department of Surgery Clinical Outcomes Research Program
Biography

Former ITS Scholars:

ITS KL2 Scholars

Associate Professor, Penn State Cancer Institute

Associate Professor, Arkansas Children's Institute 

Associate Professor, Duke University School of Medicine