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Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Program Rising Stars and Student Profiles

IHS Rising Stars

The Rising Star is a student-nominated award given each semester to a second-year IHS student who has been demonstrating excellence in academics, research and community service while in the program.

 Emmanuel Henry-Ajudua, Fall 2018 Rising Star
 Rody Alexis, Spring 2018 Rising Star
 Alaina Turchi, Fall 2017 Rising Star
 Melissa Urquhart, Spring 2017 Rising Star
 David Dugue, Fall 2016 Rising Star

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Student & Alumni Spotlights

 Michael Cruz, Class of 2016
 Robert Charles Barton II, Class of 2016

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Research Spotlights

Kate Williams: Palliative Care

Kate will be presenting the following posters in 2023:

  • “Interpreting Difficult Conversations – Supporting Medical Interpreters in the Delivery of Serious News” poster for 2023 Thomas Jefferson University Department of Medicine Health Equity and Quality Improvement Summit. Kate will also give an oral presentation on this topic at the Department of Family and Community Medicine's Research Seminar.
  • “Implementation of Complicated Grief Risk Screening into Inpatient Palliative Care Consults” poster for 2023 Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care General Assembly
  • “Development of Curricular Milestones for LGBT+ Older Adults for Geriatric and Palliative Care Fellowships” poster for 2023 American Geriatrics Society Conference

“Since July of 2021, I have been a part of the research team for the division of palliative care at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Through this affiliation, I was able to attend the American Association of Hospice and Palliative Care's annual research conference, The Assembly. The virtual platform, which ran from February 9-12, allowed participants from around the globe to come together to discuss advances in the field, ongoing research and recent case presentations. I was able to attend several poster presentations as well as several live and pre-recorded seminars discussing a broad range of topics within palliative and hospice care including the challenges of providing care to the terminally ill who are homeless, approaches to integrating faith and medicine in "Goals of Care Conversations" and current gaps in care for the LGBTQ+ population at end of life. Although my current research was not presented at the conference, I was able to support several of my mentors from Jefferson who were presenting, and it was wonderful to see the reaction that the larger community had to the work being done within the division at Jefferson. The Assembly was a wonderful learning experience for me, further igniting my passion for palliative care and opened my eyes to new research opportunities centered around providing compassionate and dignified care to all persons at end of life.”

Discovery Day - October 27, 2022

Grace Sandel, IHS class of 2022, presented "Co-Infection and Cancer: Host-Pathogen Interaction between Dendritic Cells and HIV-1, HTLV-1, and Other Oncogenic Viruses."

Sameika Graham, IHS class of 2022, presented “Impact of Mobile Covid-19 Testing in Communities of Philadelphia.”

Ivy Ochieng: Kidney Transplantation

“In 2015 I joined my research team at the University of Michigan as a research assistant. My research primarily focuses on kidney transplantation. Currently, in the United States, 1 in 10 Americans will need a kidney transplant. However, we do not have enough kidneys to do those transplants. Our research focuses on assessing if there are other factors in a patient's medical history to best assess patients for kidney transplants. Our goal is to assess these patients for kidney transplants with an outcome that can give them longevity of life. When I first joined the team, we researched the effects of peripheral arterial disease on transplantation. Through that work, we recently have become published. The publication has been a rewarding experience, a joy I have gotten from sharing our findings with the larger community of health professionals. Now, I am currently the primary investigator (PI) for my research team. While on the team in 2019, the PI at the time of our research left the University of Michigan. At that time, I was graduating from the University of Michigan with my bachelor's degree and looking for growth opportunities in our research lab. Through conversation and assistance from my research mentors Drs. Randall Sung and Kenneth Woodside, I became the PI. Currently, we are researching amputations concerning PAD and its effects on transplantation.”

Joanna Canagarajah: Experimental Biology

Joanna Canagarajah, IHS class of 2022, will be presenting a poster virtually and in-person at the 2022 Experimental Biology (EB) Conference, taking place on April 2-5 in Philadelphia. Joanna's presentation will discuss her research in the lab of Peter Gaskill, PhD, at Drexel University College of Medicine, which describes dopamine-mediated changes on inflammasome expression. EB is the annual conference of five societies that explores the latest research in anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, investigative pathology, pharmacology and physiology. The Gaskill lab is a member of the pharmacology society ASPET (The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics). Conference participants represent scientists from academic institutions, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and industry. The conference features plenary lectures, workshops, symposia, posters presentations, on-site career services and exhibits spotlighting products and services integral to this professional community. Actively participating in this conference will enable Joanna to network with professionals in the fields of dopamine biology and immunology, and also allow her to present her findings to a broad audience and receive multiple perspectives on her work.

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Student and Alumni Publications


Grace Sandel, IHS ’23, was co-author of “Novel Perspectives on Antisense Transcription in HIV-1, HTLV-1, and HTLV-2,” with Edward Lin, Amanda R. Panfil and Pooja Jain. The article appears in Front Microbiol, December 2022.

Kaitlyn Williams, IHS ’22, was co-author of “Evaluation of Bereavement Assessment Within Inpatient Palliative Care Consultation,” with Lauren LaTourette, Michael Wong, Jillian Thomas, Adam Pennarola and John Liantonio. The article appears in Am J Hosp Palliat Care, September 2022.

Grade Sandel, IHS ’23, was co-author of “Co-Infection and Cancer: Host-Pathogen Interaction between Dendritic Cells and HIV-1, HTLV-1, and Other Oncogenic Viruses,” with Tania H. Mulherkar, Daniel Joseph Gόmez and Pooja Jain. The article appears in Viruses, September 2022.

Jennifer Wang, IHS '22, was a co-author of “A Modified T-Stage Classification for Gastric Neuroendocrine Tumors," with Tingsong Yang, Zhi Ven Fong, Linda Pak, Jia Wei and Jiping Wang. The article appears in J of Surgical Research, February 2022.


Maftuna Gafurova, IHS '20, was a co-author of "Formative research to address vaccine hesitancy in Tajikistan" with Ann Carroll Klassen, Brandy-Joe Milliron, Leslie Reynolds, Zubayda Bakhtibekova, Suhaily Mamadraimov, Mutribjon Bahruddinov, Sitora Shokamolova, Michelle Shuster, Sarah Mukhtar, Malika Iskandari, Rauf Majidian and Bridget Job-Johnsonc. The paper was published in Vaccine, online January 2021.

Jeremy Weinberger, IHS '17, is a co-author of "Delivery of the 5-HT2A Receptor Agonist, DOI, Enhances Activity of the Sphincter Muscle during the Micturition Reflex in Rats after Spinal Cord Injury," with Jacklyn DeFinis and Shaoping Hou. The article was published in Biology in January 2021.

Shayna Zanker, second-year IHS student, is a co-author of "Mesenchymal stem cell-derived neural progenitors in progressive MS Two-year follow-up of a phase I study." Other authors include Violaine K. Harris, PhD, James W. Stark, MD, FAAN, Sophia Yang, John Tuddenham and Saud A. Sadiq, MD. The paper was published in Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation in January 2021.


Christian Farinas, IHS '20, was a co-author of “Human T-cell Leukemia Virus Type 1 and Strongyloides stercoralis: Partners in Pathogenesis," with Adam Dykie, Tharaka Wijesinghe, Arnold B Rabson, Kiran Madugula, Sydney Wilson, David Abraham and Pooja Jain. The article appears in Pathogens, October 2020.

Ivy Ochieng, IHS '22, was a co-author of “Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Screening for Iliac Arterial Calcification in Kidney Transplant Candidates," with Stephanie A. DeBolle, Anjan K Saha and Randall S Sung. The article appears in Ann Transplant, September 2020.

Billy Ramirez, IHS '18, published "A Subpopulation of Prefrontal Cortical Neurons Is Required for Social Memory" with co-authors Bo Xing, Nancy R. Mack, Kai-Ming Guo, Yu-Xiang Zhang, Sha-Sha Yang, Li Lin, Dong V. Wang, Yan-Chun Li and Wen-Jun Gao in Biological Psychiatry, 2020.

Neil Pillai, second-year IHS student, published "Cauterization as a Simple Method for Regeneration Studies in the Zebrafish Heart" with Papa K. Van Dyck, Natasha Hockaden, Emma C. Nelson, Alyssa R. Koch, Kamil L. Hester, Gabrielle C. Coffing, Alan R. Burns and Pascal J. Lafontant in the Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease, October 2020.

Katelyn Reeb, IHS '17, published "Dopamine activates NF-κB and primes the NLRP3 inflammasome in primary human macrophages" with Rachel A. Nolan, Yi Rong, Stephanie M. Matt, Hannah S. Johnson, Kaitlyn Runner and Peter J. Gaskill. The article appears in Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health Volume 2, February 2020.

Tatiana Saltos Shapiro, first-year IHS student, co-authored "Pharmacological inhibition of soluble tumor necrosis factor-alpha (sTNFα) 2 weeks after high thoracic spinal cord injury does not affect sympathetic hyperreflexia" in the Journal of Neurotrauma. The article was published online on January 4, 2021. The other authors were Micaela O'Reilly, Eugene Mironets, Kallon Crowther, Eileen Collyer, John Bethea and Veronica J. Tom. She also published "Chronic neuronal activation increases dynamic microtubules to enhance functional axon regeneration after dorsal root crush injury" with co-authors Di Wu, Ying Jin, Abhishek Hinduja, Peter W. Baas and Veronica J. Tom, in Nature Communications, November 2020.

Graduate students in a Interdisciplinary Health Sciences lecture at Drexel University College of Medicine.

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