Meet our Fall Communications Intern!

Please join us in welcoming Nishtha Yadav, a graduate student at Emerson College and our communications intern this semester. Be sure to check back here for updates on what she’s working on!

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Name

Nishtha Yadav

Where do you attend school and what’s your major, and year?

I’m a second year Communication Management graduate student at Emerson College.

Where are you from?

I currently live in Brookline, but I’m originally from New Delhi, India.

Why are you interning at the Mass General Research Institute?

I wanted to get a glimpse of how a leading research institute pushes out information to their stakeholders about clinical trials and research conducted at the hospital and its affiliates. As someone who enjoys writing long-form, research-oriented articles and has an avid interest in learning more about the healthcare industry, this internship was a perfect fit for me.

What do you hope to gain or learn while interning here?

Previously, I worked as a reporter with a leading English daily in India and did not get an opportunity to write research based articles due to the 24/7 news cycle. So, I hope I’m able to strengthen my research and writing skills.

Also, by the end of my internship, I hope I’ve a better sense of scientific/health industry terminology, which would help me in understanding complex research being conducted by scientists and clinicians.

Why are you interested in health communications?

This summer, I interned at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and had an opportunity to be a part of their radio-telethon, where all the patients, researchers and doctors were present to raise funds for cancer research. I saw patients, right from babies to octogenarians, and their families who couldn’t stop thanking their doctors for saving their lives. That’s when I realized that communicating with the public about medical breakthroughs and treatments is of utmost importance – it can save lives!

What are your future/career goals?

I would like to work either in the nonprofit sector or work as a crisis management professional. Years from now, I also see myself running for public office in India.

Secretly, I’m hoping that I’ll be discovered by Ryan Murphy and become the next Sarah Paulson! (Murphy is the creator of the American Horror Story, Glee, People vs. O.J. Simpson, etc., and Paulson is an award-winning actress, famous for her work in the American Horror Story and People vs. O.J. Simpson)

What do you like to do when you’re not being an intern?

Apart from planning my Oscar acceptance speech and binge-watching Netflix, I try to listen to as many podcasts as I can and read as much as I can, while trying different varieties of herbal tea.

Favorite dinosaur?

Dino from The Flintstones. Just kidding! Argentinosaurus is my favorite dinosaur. I always get the sense that they were free-willed and walked around their natural habitat like a king/queen.

Favorite food?

My mother has an elaborate recipe for cottage cheese (called Paneer in South Asia) – it’ll always be my favorite food.

Revolutionizing Care at Mass General

Four pillars of MGH

Massachusetts General Hospital was established to provide care to Boston’s sick, regardless of socioeconomic status—an innovative idea in 1811. In the words of our founder, Dr. John Warren, “When in distress, every man becomes our neighbor.” We then became the first teaching hospital for Harvard University’s new medical school and have been redefining excellence in health care ever since.

Today we remain committed to that mission through our four pillars: we provide exceptional patient care, perform more medical research than any other hospital, educate tomorrow’s brightest medical minds and maintain a deep-seated commitment to the community.

Check out our #RevolutionizingCare series which highlights the ways our dedicated, talented staff are upholding our mission to care, investigate, educate and serve:

Mass General Earns High Marks From U.S. News & World Report

Earlier this week US News & World Report announced its Best Hospitals rankings for 2017-18. We are proud to announce that Massachusetts General Hospital has once again been named among America’s Top Hospitals, earning the number four spot on the honor roll of best hospitals.

Mass General was also among the top hospitals in the country to be ranked across all 16 specialties. The hospital scored in the top ten in ear nose and throat, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and GI surgery, geriatrics, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, ophthalmology, orthopedics, psychiatry, pulmonary, rehabilitation and rheumatology.

Of the nearly 5,000 hospitals evaluated, Mass General has consistently placed among the top hospitals on the honor roll since its inception in 1990.

Complete information about this year’s Best Hospitals survey can be found on the US News & World Report website.

 

Research Awards and Honors: July 2017

Massachusetts General Hospital’s talented and dedicated researchers are working to push the boundaries of science and medicine every day. In this series we highlight a few individuals who have recently received awards or honors for their achievements:

brownDennis Brown, PhD, Director of the MGH Program in Membrane Biology, assumed the presidency of the American Physiological Society (APS) in April, immediately following the APS annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2017. As one of his presidential goals, Brown underscored the need to reach out to life scientists who may not consider themselves physiologists and welcome them under the APS umbrella.

“My lab focuses on how the kidney responds to signals in the body to maintain water and acid/base balance. Specialized cells detect when there is too much or too little water in the body, and they adjust the amount of urine we produce to keep our fluid level constant. Sometimes this goes wrong, and we end up with too much (hypertension) or too little fluid (dehydration). Similarly, the kidney helps keep blood pH within a normal viable range. When this fails, the blood becomes too acidic, resulting in problems ranging from kidney stones to defective bone formation, and even death. We are using drug discovery approaches to understand and find treatments for these conditions. This work depends on continuing support from federal agencies. Part of my mission as President of the APS is to lobby for increased NIH funding. Our future depends on attracting the best and brightest minds into research labs, and I am looking forward to being a part of this process.”

 

francis

Kim Francis, PhD, PHCNS-BC, neonatal clinical nurse specialist, has received the inaugural Jeanette Ives Erickson Nursing Research Award, a new honor for nurse researchers sponsored by the MGH Research Institute. The award will be presented annually to a mid-career, doctorally prepared nurse researcher with a passion for scientific inquiry. (Pictured from left, Maurizio Fava, MD, director of the Division of Clinical Research; Susan A. Slaugenhaupt, PhD, scientific director of the Research Institute; Francis; and Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, NEA-BC, FAAN, former chief nurse and senior vice president of Patient Care Services)

“I was thrilled to learn I received the inaugural Jeanette Ives Erickson Nursing Research Award. What an honor to be the first recipient. I am extremely grateful to work in an institution that supports nursing research. The support received from this award will go towards learning more about how to recognize pain behaviors for preterm infants.

Recognizing pain for preterm infants remains an area where more information is needed. There are many reasons that make it difficult to decide if a preterm infant is in pain. These reasons include: being born too early, a lack of pain assessment tools and understanding of the pain response. Currently, I am investigating the use of Infrared thermography with preterm infants to find out if this method can be used as a new, low cost, noninvasive approach that can identify pain from skin temperature changes for this at risk population.”

 

khera.jpgAmit V. Khera, MD, of MGH Cardiology and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Clinical Science Research award by The National Lipid Association. Khera’s winning proposal, “Determinants of LDL Cholesterol and Coronary Artery Disease Among Individuals with a Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) Mutation,” builds on his previous work noting substantial variability among carriers of FH mutations in both LDL cholesterol and heart attack risk. He will specifically aim to characterize the genetic and non-genetic determinants of observed LDL cholesterol levels and assess the genetic, lifestyle and biomarker risk factors for myocardial infarction among those with a FH mutation. The work will inform ongoing efforts to screen the population for such mutations and clinical counseling for patients who inherit such a mutation.

“My work seeks to build an evidence base for ‘genomic medicine’ – the use of human genetics to understand differences in risk for cardiovascular disease, risk factors, and response to medicines.

I am extremely honored to receive this inaugural award from the National Lipid Association, a group that has led the field in both research and clinical management for targeting cholesterol to improve human health. This grant will provide critical support at an early phase in my career.”

 

mullenAlan Mullen, MD, PhD, of the Gastrointestinal Unit, has been selected as Pew scholar in the biomedical sciences. He is one of 22 exceptional early-career researchers to be selected by The Pew Charitable Trust to pursue foundational research. Mullen’s lab will investigate the role that regulatory RNAs play in chronic liver failure. Using state-of-the-art techniques in genetics, genomics and physiology, he will determine which lncRNAs regulate the production of scar tissue in humans and mice, and whether inhibiting their action can prevent fibrosis – work that could lead to novel treatment to prevent liver failure.

“Most of the genes that are studied in any cell type encode RNAs that provide blueprints for production of proteins. However, recent discoveries have identified many RNAs that do not encode proteins, and we are just beginning to understand how these noncoding RNAs work. I am a clinician who takes care of patients with liver disease, and we are working to understand how a type of noncoding RNA called long noncoding RNA regulates the development of liver fibrosis, which leads to cirrhosis and liver failure. We have identified specific long noncoding RNAs that are expressed in the main cell type responsible for liver fibrosis.

I am very excited to have been named a Pew Scholar. The support from the Pew Charitable Trust will allow us to understand how these noncoding RNAs function and how we can modulate their expression to develop new treatments for liver fibrosis.”

 

schwabJoseph H. Schwab, MD, Orthopaedic spine surgeon and Orthopaedic Oncology surgeon, has received the CORR ORS Richard A. Brand Award for Outstanding Research from the Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons and the Orthopaedic Research Society for his paper “Immune Surveillance Plays a Role in Locally Aggressive Giant Cell Lesions of Bone.” The annual award is given to recognize the quality and scientific merit of an original paper focusing on a topic of clinical relevance.

“The work was a collaborative effort between myself and Mass General’s Dr. Soldano Ferrone from the Monoclonal Antibody and Immunotherapy Laboratory and Dr. Leonard Kaban and Dr. Zachary Peacock from the department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Our work focused on the role of immune escape mechanisms in the pathophysiology of giant cell lesions of bone. The data presented in this paper provides important insights into the role of the immune system in giant cell lesions and will serve to guide future treatment strategies.

I was honored to receive this award. My collaborators and I are very excited about the future of immunotherapy for musculoskeletal cancer and it has been great to be recognized for our efforts.”

Meet Our Summer Communication Interns!

This summer the Mass General Research Institute is thrilled to continue our summer internship program for the second year in a row. Please join us in welcoming Catherine Iannucci and Shika Lakshman, both undergrads at Emerson College.  Be sure to check back here for weekly updates on what they’re working on!

Name: Catherine Iannucci

Cat
Where do you attend school and what’s your major, and year? I go to Emerson College, I am a senior Journalism major and a Marketing Communications minor.

Where are you from? America’s Hometown, Plymouth Massachusetts.

Why are you interning at the Mass General Research Institute? This internship opportunity married my two passions, writing and marketing, perfectly. Here I will have the opportunity to do internal and external marketing while learning, and writing, about the groundbreaking health research being done at Mass General.

What do you hope to gain or learn while interning here? I want to expand professionally, by honing my writing and marketing techniques but I also hope to expand my understanding of medical issues and research happening right beyond my office doors.

Why are you interested in health communications? Health communication is extremely important, it allows people with no health or medical background  to be informed on the advancements going on in the medical world that could affect them or a loved one.

What are your goals for the future/career goals? I would love to go into non-profit Public Relations, in my opinion, the general lack of funding funneled into non-profit marketing and PR prevents people that need help from even being aware of the resources available to them.

What do you like to do when you’re not being an intern? I love being outside, everything from camping to sunbathing on a beach. Especially this time of year, I live on sunlight and swimming.

Favorite food? My favorite food is homemade pasta, no contest.

Name: Shika Lakshman

Shika
Where do you attend school and what’s your major, and year? I’m a senior Marketing Communications student at Emerson College.

Where are you from? I currently live in Jamaica Plain, but my family is from New Jersey.

Why are you interning at the Mass General Research Institute? I’m hoping to make the research being done at MGH accessible to the public. People should know about the discoveries made everyday, in a way they understand, even without a medical degree.

What do you hope to gain or learn while interning here? I’d like to strengthen my writing skills; health communications is a new field for me, and it would be great to have experience in different fields. Most of the time you can catch me on Twitter, so writing longer form pieces will be interesting.

Why are you interested in health communications? When I was 10 years old, I decided I was going to medical school, and up until my junior year of high school, that was still the plan. I switched career plans, and although I’m not in a medical field, my love of science is still a big part of my life.

What are your goals for the future/career goals? I’m planning on opening my own restaurant one day, but until then, I plan on working with nonprofits.

What do you like to do when you’re not being an intern? I’m a bit of a foodie, so either cooking or trying somewhere new to eat. If I’m not eating, then I’m probably playing with dogs in the Common or binge watching The West Wing for the umpteenth time.

Favorite food? My favorite food is probably macaroni and cheese. Despite my motto of “try anything once”, nothing tastes quite as good as a big bowl of mac and cheese!

Research Awards and Honors: May 2017

Massachusetts General Hospital’s talented and dedicated researchers are working to push the boundaries of science and medicine every day. In this series we highlight a few individuals who have recently received awards or honors for their achievements:

weinMarc Wein, MD, PhD,of the Endocrine Unit, has received a Young Physician-Scientist Award from the American Society for Clinical Investigation. These recognize young physician-scientists who are supported by the National Institutes of Health or similar significant career-development awards, are early in their first faculty appointment and have made notable achievements in their research.

“As an endocrinologist, the problem of osteoporosis is extremely important to me. My laboratory studies how bone cells respond to external signals like hormones and mechanical cues. Ultimately, this knowledge will lead to new and improved drugs for our patients with osteoporosis. It was truly an honor to receive this award. Attending the ASCI meeting as a recipient of the Young Physician-Scientist Award was both exciting and inspiring. Four different Nobel laureates gave lectures about their career paths, and provided excellent advice about picking the right research questions that will ultimately help our patients.”

 

hawryluckElena B. Hawryluk, MD, PhD, of the Department of Dermatology, has received Weston Award from the Society for Pediatric Dermatology for her work “Melanoma and Dysplastic Nevi in Children”. This award is given to one pediatric dermatologist every two years and supports career development of future leaders, educators, clinical scholars and/or translational investigators in pediatric dermatology. Awardees must demonstrate a strong commitment to skin research that can advance the field of pediatric dermatology.

“My research investigates moles in children as well as pediatric melanoma, which is quite rare.  Patients with dysplastic (abnormal) moles have an increased risk of melanoma, however, studies of children and adolescents with these moles have not been performed.  I am collaborating with pediatric dermatologists across the country to identify features that might help us better understand which melanomas are most aggressive.  With an increased public awareness of sun protection and melanoma, it is important for pediatric dermatologists to be able to identify skin lesions of concern, and discuss risks that are relevant to children and adolescents.

This is an incredible honor coming from the Society for Pediatric Dermatology: just one pediatric dermatologist every two years is selected for the award.  It means so much to have the support of both the research I’m so passionate about and the investment in my development as a researcher.”

 

tingDavid T. Ting, MD, of the MGH Cancer Center, has received a Phillip A. Sharp Award through Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), to advance “innovation in collaboration” among SU2C-affiliated scientists. The award program was established in 2014 by SU2C to honor Sharp’s keen interest in team research, and are intended to reward distinctive collaborations that propose to accelerate current research and development models, bringing therapeutic benefits for cancer patients. Ting’s research will focus on “Dissecting the Epigenetic Mechanisms of Repeat RNA Regulation in Cancer.”

“Our research focuses on identify novel methods to engage the immune system against cancer cells. We are working on a set of molecules called satellite RNAs, which we have found to be specifically expressed in cancers compared to normal tissues. These satellites are generated from areas of our genome thought to be silent and were considered “junk” DNA, but cancers have found a way to reactivate these regions through a mechanism called epigenetic regulation. Interestingly, these satellite RNAs appear to have behavior that is shared with viruses, and their presence in cancer cells are thought to alter the immune response to cancer. I am truly honored to receive this collaborative award with Dr. Shelley Berger who is an international leader in epigenetics. Together, we hope to understand how cancers turn on this primordial viral program and identify novel therapies that can enhance our ability to drive the immune system to attack cancer.”

 

demehriShawn Demehri, MD, PhD, has been awarded a grant from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation as part of its Kimmel Scholars Program for “Mechanism of CD4+ T-cell immunity against skin cancer precursors.” Begun in 1997, the program was designed to jumpstart the careers of the most promising and creative researchers and physician-scientists seeking solutions to the riddle of cancer. To qualify, grantees must demonstrate great promise and innovation in their work, and be in the early stages of their research careers.

“Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and we often see patients in our clinics who are affected by multiple skin cancers. To prevent these cancers, our laboratory has recently developed a topical immune activating treatment, which showed high efficacy in activating T cells leading to the clearance of skin cancer precursors in a randomized clinical trial. We now aim to explore the exact mechanism underlying the potent anti-tumor immune response we observed with our immunotherapy. The Kimmel Scholar Award will enable us to expand this research effort and establish a fundamental role for immunoprevention in cancers of skin and other organs.”

Research Staff Appreciation Day Celebrates Contributions to MGH Research

Research appreciation day

Every year, Massachusetts General Hospital celebrates Research Staff Appreciation Day to recognize and thank the research staff members who provide direct scientific support to faculty investigators across the Mass General research enterprise. Research staff members—a community of more than 3,700 people—include technicians, technologists and study coordinators.

Despite the dreary weather, hundreds of attendees came out on April 25th and 27th on the main campus and in Charlestown Navy Yard for the annual lunch and ice cream celebration. Prizes of mugs and movie tickets were raffled off courtesy of the Mass General Research Institute.

Harry Orf, PhD, Senior Vice President for Research, recognized the attendees for their many contributions. “Research staff comprise fully one third of our entire research community and, through their diligence and dedication, are the mainstay of our research enterprise,” said Orf.

Sue Slaugenhaupt, PhD, Scientific Director of the Mass General Research Institute, emphasized the crucial role research staff play. “The Mass General Research enterprise is so successful because of the thousands of people who support our work every day. We’re happy to honor them on Research Staff Appreciation Day.”

Maurizio Fava, MD, Director of the Division of Clinical Research, said the annual event is a way for the hospital to express its appreciation for this valuable part of the hospital’s scientific community. “Mass General is an institution that really values research, and values everyone who is involved in research.”

Mass General is home to the largest hospital-based research enterprise in the United States. Learn more about our research efforts.

Examples of Great Science Writing

Nautilus
Illustration by Ping Zhu, Nautilus

Three articles from our friends at Nautilus have been selected for inclusion in the The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017. Nautilus is a science magazine that uses narrative storytelling to bring science into the larger conversations we are having today.  They have been partners in our Communicating Science series, and we share a common goal to translate science into more relatable, understandable contexts.

It’s the fourth year in a row that one or more Nautilus articles have appeared in the annual collection. Here are the three articles that have been nominated this year:

This Physics Pioneer Walked Away from It All
By Sally Davies
Inside the South London offices of Doppel, a wearable technology start-up, sandwiched into a single room on a floor between a Swedish coffee shop and a wig-making studio, CEO and quantum physicist Fotini Markopoulou is debating the best way to describe an off-switch.

The Case For Leaving City Rats Alone
By Becca Cudmore
Kaylee Byers crouches in a patch of urban blackberries early one morning this June, to check a live trap in one of Vancouver’s poorest areas, the V6A postal code.

It’s Time These Ancient Women Scientists Get Their Due
By Emily Temple-Wood
Women are woven deeply into the history of science, stretching back to ancient Egypt, over 4,000 years ago.

Research Awards and Honors: April 2017

Massachusetts General Hospital’s talented and dedicated researchers are working to push the boundaries of science and medicine every day. In this series we highlight a few individuals who have recently received awards or honors for their achievements:

Joel HabenerJoel Habener, MD, MGH endocrinologist, has been awarded the Harrington Prize for Innovation – along with Daniel Drucker, MD, of Mount Sinai Hospital, Canada, and Jens Holst, MD, DMSc, University of Copenhagen, Denmark – for their discovery of incretin hormones and for the translation of these findings into transformative therapies for major metabolic diseases such as diabetes. The prize – established in 2014 by the Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio and The American Society for Clinical Investigation – honors physician-scientists who have moved science forward with achievements notable for innovation, creativity and potential for clinical application.

Our research is focused on the discovery of novel molecular and pharmacologic approaches for the treatment of obesity and diabetes. We are working toward increasing our understanding of the cellular and physiological mechanisms by which  glucagon-like peptide 1, a hormone in the pancreas that stimulates cells there to produce insulin, and its small peptide derivatives increase energy expenditure, burn body fat, and improve insulin sensitivity thereby lowering body weight and the risk for the development of diabetes.

I am honored to receive the Harrington Prize in Innovative Medicine – shared with my colleagues Daniel J. Drucker and Jens J. Holst. The goal of our research program at the MGH is to identify new, more effective methods to treat obesity-related diabetes and its associated metabolic disorders.

 

Steven LubitzSteven Lubitz, MD, MPH, of the Cardiology Division, has received a Doris Duke Clinical Research Mentorship award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). The program supports a dedicated year-long research effort between a medical student and a DDCF-funded clinical investigator and role model. Lubitz will mentor a visiting medical student from the University of California, San Francisco on a project that leverages the electronic health record to assess patients at greatest risk of morbidity from atrial fibrillation.

Our overall goal is to minimize strokes and other complications caused by an irregular or rapid heartbeat, otherwise known as atrial fibrillation (AFib). In many individuals, AFib occurs in the setting of reversible clinical triggers, such as surgery, pneumonia, or hyperthyroidism. The long-term risks and optimal management of such patients once the trigger is resolved are unclear. The specific objective of this project is to better understand the clinical triggers that cause AFib, as well as the risks of recurrent AFib and other complications after the triggers are resolved. This project will leverage the electronic health record, which is a unique and well-powered resource for addressing such questions.

I’m delighted to have received this award. The Doris Duke Clinical Research Mentorship award provides a bright and dedicated medical student with the opportunity to experience an immersive research experience, acquire foundational clinical research skills, and study a disease of immense public health importance.

 

Laurence RahmeLaurence Rahme, PhD, from the Center for Surgery, Science and Bioengineering, has been elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology. This academy is an honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology recognizing excellence, originality and leadership in the microbiological sciences. Rahme is well known for the development of alternative therapies to fight bacterial infections designed to disarm pathogens from their ability to be virulent, an approach that could reduce antibiotic use, decrease the development of antibiotic resistance and preserve beneficial flora. Recently, her group developed tools and identified prognostic biomarkers that could identify individuals at risk for multiple infections prior to the onset of the infection – enabling a more precise personalized medicine approach to infectious disease that would improve treatment outcome.

I am greatly humbled and honored to be receiving this honor!  I am excited to join the many outstanding Fellows of the Academy and continue to contribute to the fight against antibiotic resistance.

 

Hanna GagginHanna K. Gaggin, MD, MPH, FACC of the Cardiology Division, has been named a member of Cardiology Today’s Next Gen Innovators – a group of early career cardiologists have been identified as innovators in their field. These leaders represent the next generation of cardiologists who are working to educate their colleagues, conduct research on new and novel strategies to advance cardiovascular care and innovate the unique aspects of the cardiology specialty. The Next Gen Innovators list will be announced in the April issue of Cardiology Today.

I study the clinical application of novel and established cardiac biomarkers to better understand and personalize a patient’s medical management beyond traditionally available methods. My focus has been on three patient groups: heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, heart failure with preserved ejection fraction and type 2 myocardial infarction.

I was super-excited to be named a NextGen Innovator! To receive recognition from a source with a broad general cardiology reach is such a nice affirmation of the importance of these topics in the field of cardiology. I am looking forward to serving as a member of this group to guide their editorial coverage and get involved in media communications of significant research findings at meetings through Cardiology Today. It’s a great opportunity for a junior faculty, such as myself, to have a voice in the field.