We all are impacted by, and reap the benefits of, medical research discoveries. From over-the-counter drugs, to healthcare policies and educational interventions, many of these advancements are a result of incredible feats, decades of work, and sometimes serendipitous events. Join us as we sit down with Harvard researchers to discuss these captivating behind-the-scenes stories of research.
“Virtual reality is very effective because we can create these scenarios that simulate real world situations,” says Lotfi Merabet, OD, PhD, MPH, of Massachusetts Eye and Ear. Lotfi discusses his recent pilot grant from Harvard Catalyst to improve outcomes for patients with cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy (cALD) and work using virtual reality and brain imaging techniques to improve detection.
Lotfi Merabet, OD, PhD, is a clinician-scientist who is investigating how the brain adapts to visual impairment. He is director of the Laboratory for Visual Neuroplasticity at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Schepens Eye Research Institute. He is staff optometrist in the vision rehabilitation service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.
“Can we use improving sleep to improve blood pressure?” asks Janet Mullington, program director of the Clinical Research Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Mullington discusses her work evaluating whether sleep behavioral interventions help reduce blood pressure and the effects of COVID-19 on her research.
Janet Mullington, PhD, is the program director of the Clinical Research Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. Mullington has a national and international reputation of excellence in the area of the role of sleep in human health and disease, with a focus on inflammation and host defenses. She also works to better understand the impact of sleep on cardiovascular, endocrine, and neurobehavioral function.
“We need to empower not just future physicians, but all individuals in our society to understand that we can use our voice to make a change,” says Isaiah Cochran, MD, of Halifax Health. Cochran discusses his past experience as a Harvard Catalyst intern, describes his work in health policy and politics, and shares his career aspirations as he begins his residency in family medicine.
Isaiah A. Cochran, MD, is a resident physician in family medicine at Halifax Health and immediate past national president and chair of the board of trustees for the American Medical Student Association. Cochran went to undergrad at Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania, and attended medical school at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, where he graduated in 2019. Cochran’s interests lie in the politics of medicine. He hopes to use his developing knowledge as a family medicine physician to fight for equity, equality, and justice for individuals in and outside of healthcare, and perhaps one day seek public office.
“The aim is to give opportunities to students who normally wouldn’t have these kinds of opportunities,” explains Alex Lin, PhD, director of the Center for Clinical Spectroscopy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Lin discusses his role as a mentor in the Harvard Catalyst Visiting Research Internship Program (VRIP) and the importance of mentor-mentee relationships.
Alexander P. Lin, PhD, is director of the Center for Clinical Spectroscopy in the department of radiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. He is also an investigator at the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Laboratory at BWH, visiting research associate at the Center of MR Research at the University of Illinois Chicago, and is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital. His research focuses on translating magnetic resonance spectroscopy to the clinic, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.
“I treat pancreatic cancer and only 1% of those patients respond and the rest don’t,” says Osama Rahma, principal investigator at the Center for Immuno-Oncology and Gastroenterology Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Rahma discusses his research in cancer immunotherapy and his development of novel immunotherapy drugs.
Osama Rahma, MD, is a principal investigator at the Center for Immuno-Oncology and Gastroenterology (GI) Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. His research focus is on drug development of combinational immune therapeutics, with the goal of moving immunotherapy to GI cancers and understanding the resistance mechanism to immunotherapy in GI cancers. Rahma received his medical degree from University of Damascus, completed his residency in internal medicine at East Carolina University, and a geriatrics fellowship at University of Hawaii.
“Microbes are amazing chemists,” says Emily Balskus, PhD, of Harvard University. Balskus discusses her research on the chemistry of microorganisms, including the microbiome, and how they affect human health and disease.
Emily Balskus, PhD, is a professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. She is an associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, faculty associate of the Microbial Sciences Initiative at Harvard, and member at both the Harvard Digestive Diseases Center, and MIT Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics. Balskus’ research works to discover, understand, and manipulate microbial metabolism. She received her undergraduate degree from Williams College and her PhD from Harvard University.
“Food in the U.S. is cheap. It’s very accessible; it’s very unhealthy. And it’s strongly marketed to us,” says Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Bleich discusses her research evaluating policies related to obesity and diet in vulnerable populations in our latest podcast.
Sara Bleich, PhD, is a professor of public health policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Her research provides evidence to support policy alternatives for obesity prevention and control, particularly among populations at higher risk for obesity. A signature theme throughout her work is an interest in asking simple, meaningful questions about the complex problem of obesity which can fill important gaps in the literature. Bleich is the past recipient of an award for “most outstanding abstract” at the International Conference on Obesity in Sydney, Australia, an award for “best research manuscript” in the journal Obesity, and an award for excellence in public interest communication from the Frank Conference. Bleich was recently appointed as a White House Fellow (2015-2016) where she was a Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative. She holds degrees from Columbia (BA, Psychology) and Harvard (PhD, Health Policy).
“It’s astonishing to understand how little we know about how people become pregnant,” says Caroline Mitchell, MD, MPH, director of the Vulvovaginal Disorders Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. In our latest podcast, Mitchell discusses her research with IVF patients to identify how the vaginal microbiome impacts fertility.
Caroline Mitchell, MD, MPH, is a faculty member in the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology and director of the Vulvovaginal Disorders Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Funded by NIH and foundation grants, her work focuses on the relationship between the vaginal microbiota, mucosal immune responses, and reproductive health.
Mitchell received her undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard University, and her MPH degree and OB/Gyn residency training at the University of Washington in Seattle.