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.

May 27, 2020

Killing Cancer: Immunotherapy and Genomics

“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.

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Osama Rahma, MD

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.

May 13, 2020

The Chemistry and Biology of Microbial Organisms

“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.

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Emily Balskus, PhD

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.

April 29, 2020

Privilege, Access, and Health in the U.S. Food System

“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.

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Sara Bleich, PhD

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).

April 8, 2020

The Vaginal Microbiome and IVF

“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.

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Caroline Mitchell, MD, MPH

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.

March 26, 2020

The Gut Microbiome and C. difficile

“There are about 15,000 deaths a year from C. diff.,” says Georg Gerber, MD, PhD, MPH, co-director of the Massachusetts Host-Microbiome Center. In our latest podcast, Gerber discusses his research on predicting recurring C. difficile infections in patients by utilizing precision medicine, microbiome data, and machine learning.

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Georg Gerber, MD, PhD

Georg Gerber, MD, PhD, is co-director of the Massachusetts Host-Microbiome Center, assistant professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and associate pathologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Center for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics. His research interests involve building novel computational models and high-throughput experimental systems to understand the role of the microbiota in human diseases, and applying these findings to develop new diagnostic tests and therapeutic interventions to improve patient care. He has founded several companies focused on developing and applying 3D graphics technologies to create feature and IMAX® films. Gerber completed a fellowship in infectious disease pathology and molecular microbiology, and a residency in clinical pathology at BWH. He received his MD from HMS, master’s and PhD in computer science from MIT, and a master’s in infectious diseases and BA in pure mathematics from UC Berkeley.

March 11, 2020

Predicting Antibiotic Resistance in Gonorrhea

What are the factors driving antibiotic resistance in gonorrhea? Yonatan Grad, MD, PhD, Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, discusses his lab’s work exploring antibiotic resistance in gonorrhea and the methods employed to tackle this problem.

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Yonatan Grad, MD, PhD

Yonatan Grad, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Using a combination of genomics, microbiology, mathematical modeling, and epidemiological tools, his lab investigates how pathogens evolve and spread. In collaboration with hospitals and public health institutions, his projects include studying outbreaks, as well as the biology and epidemiology that underlies the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. He earned his MD and PhD at Harvard Medical School, trained in internal medicine at BWH, and in infectious diseases at BWH and Massachusetts General Hospital. He completed his research fellowship at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at HSPH with Marc Lipsitch.

February 26, 2020

The Skin Microbiome and Healing Wounds

“Large wounds have the same risk of infection as small wounds,” explains Victor Neel, PhD, director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Dermatologic Surgery Unit. In this podcast, Neel discusses his research examining the interplay between skin bacteria and infection post-surgery.

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Victor Neel, MD, PhD

Victor A. Neel, MD, PhD, is a board-certified dermatologist and has completed more than 24,000 Mohs procedures, making him one of Boston’s most experienced and knowledgeable Mohs surgeons. Neel is the director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Dermatologic Surgery Unit. He graduated from Princeton University, received his MD from Cornell University Medical College, and his PhD in genetics from Rockefeller University. He completed his dermatology residency at Brown University School of Medicine. Afterwards, he became a fellow in Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology at the UCLA School of Medicine.

Professionally, Neel is a member of several professional associations including American College of Mohs Surgery (ACMS) and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), where he is a preceptor (teacher) for several procedures. Neel is also assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. He is a co-author of numerous peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications in print, online media, and other media regarding issues such as skin cancers and Mohs surgery, as well as minimally invasive procedures to help aging skin. He has a particular interest in the biology of skin cancer and the genetics of aging, and has several ongoing clinical studies and basic research projects.

February 5, 2020

Networks of Care

“Our experience as physicians and patients is kind of getting lost in this web of the healthcare system,” says Michael Barnett, MD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In this podcast, Barnett discusses his research analyzing patient sharing networks and their associated cost of care, as well as his work evaluating policies aimed at reducing opioid use disorder.

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Michael Barnett, MD

Michael Barnett, MD, is assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a primary care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Barnett received his MD from Harvard Medical School and completed a residency and fellowship in primary care and general internal medicine at BWH. Barnett’s research focuses on understanding and improving the healthcare delivery system. His interests relate to the role of physicians in the opioid epidemic as prescribers and providers of treatment for opioid use disorder. He has also worked on studying innovative models for healthcare payment and care delivery. His research has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, British Medical Journal, and Annals of Internal Medicine. He has also been featured or cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, CNN, and The Economist. Barnett has received best research of the year awards from the Society of General Internal Medicine and Academy Health. He is the recipient of a Career Development Award from the National Institute on Aging.