VP&S Promising Clinician Scientists Awardees

Support for Early-career Clinician Scientists Impacted by Caregiving Responsibilities

The VP&S Fund to Retain Clinician Scientists provides support to early-career clinician scientists at VP&S to maintain productivity in the face of extraprofessional commitments related to significant family caregiving responsibilities. Funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the American Heart Association, with supplemental funding provided by the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and the VP&S Office of Research, VP&S has been able to provide one time grants of up to $50,000 to 15 outstanding early-career clinician scientists.

In the News

15 VP&S Physician-Scientists Receive Early-Career Funding to Support Research

VP&S Receives Grant to Support Early-Career Biomedical Researchers Impacted by Caregiving Responsibilities


  • Marwah Abdalla, MD, MPH

    • Assistant Professor of Medicine


    The overall goal of the proposed study is to examine the association between poor sleep architecture and reduced blood pressure dipping among community participants. The study will also assess whether this association is partially explained by autonomic dysregulation and differs among men and women. 

  • Elana J. Bernstein, MD, MSc

    • Assistant Professor of Medicine


    Interstitial lung disease (ILD) affects approximately 40-60% of adults with systemic sclerosis (SSc) and is the leading cause of death in this population. Despite the life-threatening nature of ILD and the availability of existing therapies, there are no clinical practice guidelines recommending screening for ILD in SSc. This project will generate new knowledge about the clinical and biological significance of screen-detected ILD in SSc, and has the potential to change clinical practice. 

  • Christina Brezing, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry


    Despite having efficacious, FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder, retention in treatment is low, and drop-out increases the likelihood of chronic medical morbidity and mortality associated with relapse on opioids, including death from overdose.  Repeated exposure to opioids, such as heroin, leads to androgen insufficiency and associated negative physical and affective states that are known to trigger opioid relapse, ongoing opioid use, and treatment drop-out. This award will provide valuable support to facilitate the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) for men with androgen insufficiency and opioid use disorder and determine TRT’s effectiveness on retention in outpatient sublingual buprenorphine treatment.

  • Lauren S. Chernick, MD, MSc

    • Associate Professor of Pediatric (in Emergency Medicine) at the Columbia University Medical Center


    Telehealth is a widespread and effective method to provide patient-centered contraception counseling; yet, how to effectively refer female adolescents from the emergency department for follow-up telehealth visits remains unclear. My prior research has culminated in the development of the Dr. Erica telehealth referral tool (DrE-THT), an innovative digital process that refers female adolescent ED patients to virtual patient-centered contraception counseling. The objectives of this proposal are to refine and pilot the DrE-THT in the emergency department to determine implementation outcomes and potential efficacy. Ultimately, a reproducible and user-informed ED-based referral process that is scalable across the US could significantly increase the delivery of unbiased, patient-centered contraception counseling. 

  • Jennifer A. Danielsson, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology


    Dr. Danielsson's main area of research in is investigating antagonists of the calcium-activated chloride channel TMEM16A as a novel treatment for asthma and acute bronchospasm.  Perioperative bronchospasm in the OR and ICU is an important clinical problem for anesthesiologists, and poorly controlled asthma is a major risk factor.  She has already demonstrated that TMEM16A antagonists acutely relax airway smooth muscle, and her current research aims to identify TMEM16A antagonists as effective rescue bronchodilators after b2-adrenoceptor desensitization and anti-inflammatory drugs in asthma.

  • Cristina Fern├índez, MD, MPH

    • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Columbia University Medical Center


    Dr. Fernández is conducting patient-oriented research that uses the Developmental Original of Health and Disease theory to evaluate the influences of modifiable prenatal and early life nutrition, lifestyle, and social determinants of health factors on early child nutrition and development. With funds from this award, she aims to examine the effect of dietary intake and quality during pregnancy on infant feeding practice and temperament in socioeconomically diverse communities. She also aims to assess the effects of food insecurity and lifestyle behaviors during pregnancy on infant feeding practice, autonomic stability, and mother-infant emotional development.

  • Angela Gomez-Simmonds, MD, MS

    • Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center


    Gram-negative bacteria resistant to broad-spectrum antibiotics represent an escalating public health challenge. The proposed research will examine the contribution of plasmids, extra-chromosomal genetic elements enabling transmission of antibiotic resistance genes, to the dissemination of ESBL and carbapenemase genes among Gram-negative bacteria. The goals of this work will be to identify plasmids associated with multispecies transmission of these genes, characterize resistance phenotypes associated with specific plasmid types, and identify hospital reservoirs for plasmids harboring ESBL and carbapenemase genes. 

  • Rebecca F. Hough, MD, PhD

    • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics


    Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) results from failure of the alveolar-capillary barrier in the lung, leading to pulmonary edema, multiorgan failure, and death. Dr. Rebecca Hough uses in situ imaging of the mouse lung to elucidate mechanisms of molecular crosstalk that lead to barrier failure. She has identified capillary mitochondria as mediators of crosstalk signaling. Dr. Hough hopes that her work will identify potential drug targets for ARDS, which currently has no specific treatment. 

  • Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, MD, MS

    • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics


    Our research program seeks to understand how environmental and social factors influence childhood respiratory disorders, particularly asthma. Our partnerships with large multi-center research consortiums have allowed us to examine exposure to air pollution and related respiratory outcomes across multiple US cities. This work is complimented by local studies in NYC to better understand mechanisms of lung exposure to pollutants and potential interventions. The majority of our research focuses on minoritized children living in urban communities who are at the highest risk of exposure and health outcomes related to environmental air pollution. 

  • Son H. McLaren, MD, MS

    • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (in Emergency Medicine) at the Columbia University Medical Center


    In the study “Diagnosis and characterization of febrile illness in pediatric oncology patients using a novel high-throughput sequencing platform,” we seek to determine whether genomic sequencing can accurately detect and characterize bacteremia and viremia in febrile children with cancer. In the study “Predicting outcomes in young infants with viral lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs),” we aim to use clinical and viral genomic variables to develop a validated, evidence-based risk stratification tool to predict LRTI severity in young infants. 

  • Imama A. Naqvi, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Columbia University Medical Center


    Our research focuses on developing multi-faceted telehealth based behavioral interventions among post-acute stroke patients to improve health equity and outcomes. Integrating multidisciplinary team-based care with telehealth in behavioral interventions to improve access and equitable care to underserved populations. The current work, Patient Informed Telehealth After Stroke Care (Pi-TASC), engages post stroke patients to assess acceptability of blood pressure and physical activity telemonitoring for a user-centered design. 

  • Catherine Spina, MD, PhD

    • Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology


    Dr. Spina’s laboratory is studying the complex immunologic implications of tumor irradiation with the overarching goal of defining and targeting the mechanistic determinants of immune-mediated radioresistance. Focused on the understudied suppressive myeloid compartment, her preclinical mechanistic studies are being translated into an investigator-initiated clinical trial testing adenosine signaling modulation and T cell-directed immune checkpoint blockade combined with tumor irradiation for men with oligometastatic prostate cancer. Paired pre- and post-treatment biopsies will be collected from study participants for single cell analyses to further mechanistic investigations of the suppressive effects of tumor irradiation. 

  • Vidhu V. Thaker, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics


    My research focuses on molecular and genetic underpinnings of severe early childhood obesity, and its clinical implications, with a special focus on children from ancestries underrepresented in research. In this clinical/translational work, my team strives to identify known and unknown genetic causes of weight dysregulation, and undertake functional validation in the laboratory using cellular and animal models, with a goal to bring targeted therapies to the patients. We study syndromic and nonsyndromic forms of obesity and use a wide spectrum of treatments. 

  • Aaron D. Viny, MD, MS

    • Assistant Professor of Medicine


    Mapping the epigenetic landscape of Myelodysplastic Syndrome and Acute Myeloid Leukemia is essential for understanding gene regulatory mechanisms during cell fate changes, disease onset, and progression, as well as for optimizing therapeutic strategies.  However, current techniques require significant cellular material which is challenging as both normal and malignant bone marrow are heterogeneous in cell type and stage of differentiation, leading to imprecise results regarding epigenetic determinates. We have developed technology and workflow to miniaturize sample volumes for both chromatin shearing and immunoprecipitation in a 96-well format high-throughput epigenetic system to better understand the epigenetic regulatory processes by which normal and malignant hematopoiesis are governed. 

  • Kelley Yan, MD, PhD

    • Warner-Lambert Assistant Professor of Medicine (in the Columbia Center for Human Development) and Assistant Professor of Genetics and Development


    This award will support my research program, which aims to understand the behavior of intestinal stem cells and how we can manipulate them for therapeutic benefit. We seek to understand how to unleash the power of these cells to create cell types that would treat human disease.