An ardent supporter of clinician investigators, the University of Pittsburgh Department of Medicine is thrilled to announce that three of our junior faculty have recently been recognized for their research efforts by the American Society for Clinical Investigation.

ASCI Young Physician-Scientist Awards, 2023

Drs. Cary Boyd-Shiwarski (Renal-Electrolyte) and Mark Snyder (PACCM) are among the 50 recipients of this year’s Young Physician-Scientist Awards. The ASCI Council Young Physician-Scientist Awards recognize physician-scientists who are early in their first faculty appointment and have made notable achievements in their research. To encourage and support their research endeavors, these awards provide a two-year longitudinal experience including leadership development workshops, topical panel discussions with ASCI members, peer review groups, and virtual poster sessions.

Cary Boyd-Shiwarski, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Renal-Electrolyte Division

Cary Boyd-Shiwarski, MD, PhD has had a longstanding interest in renal physiology, starting with her PhD, then MD and now a career in Nephrology. She is an Assistant Professor in Medicine in the Renal-Electrolyte Division. In 2018, she was awarded a K08 grant to study With-No-Lysine (WNK) kinases in the distal kidney. Human mutations to WNK kinases have been implicated in inherited diseases of hypertension and hyperkalemia. Dr. Boyd-Shiwarski’s laboratory uses cutting edge methods to study WNK kinases from the level of DNA all the way into animal models. They have made exciting discoveries that answer fundamental questions. At the molecular level they have found that WNK1 facilitates liquid-liquid phase separation to regulate cell volume during osmotic stress, and recently published the results in Cell. Another discovery they made was identifying how and why WNK1 precipitates into puncta in both mouse and human kidneys during dietary potassium depletion. They termed these puncta “WNK bodies” and found that they evolved to help maintain potassium homeostasis. This work was published in Molecular Biology of the Cell in 2018 and in BioRxiv in 2021. Dr. Boyd-Shiwarski is excited to take their benchtop discoveries and translate them into patient care. To achieve this, she is working to establish a Center for Kidney Genetics. The Center has already provided a diagnosis to many patients with renal diseases of unknown cause. The next phase will be to identify patients with variants of unknown significance and apply her basic science skills to help identify whether these variants are clinically relevant. Dr. Boyd-Shiwarski’s 5-year plan includes obtaining R01-level funding to maintain her research, and to expand the Center for Kidney Genetics to include collaborations with her pediatric division and other research institutions.  Being part of groundbreaking work in both the laboratory and clinic has been incredibly rewarding and she is looking forward to the future.

Mark E. Snyder, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine

Four years ago, Mark E. Snyder, MD, started a laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh studying the role of lung tissue resident memory T cells (TRM) in health and disease.  Specifically, the Snyder lab focuses on the role of alloreactive TRM in the development of chronic lung allograft dysfunction. Prior to this, Dr. Snyder trained in both clinical epidemiology, working with Dr. David Lederer studying the impact of body physiometry on primary graft dysfunction after lung transplantation, and fundamental immunology, completing his post-doctorate with Dr. Donna Farber studying the generation and maintenance of human lung TRM.  Working with these world-class mentors taught me that a career in science can and should be both intellectually fulfilling and enjoyable; a sentiment he works hard to recreate with those currently training in his laboratory. 

Dr. Snyder finds the University of Pittsburgh to be a collaborative community providing an environment that promotes intellectual curiosity and innovation. Through collaborations with a diverse group of scientists from Cardiothoracic Surgery, Pharmacology, Immunology, and Systems Biology, he has established two translational models to study human lung TRM.  First, as co-director of the Pitt Ex-Vivo Research Core, Dr. Snyder’s team uses ex-vivo lung perfusion of human lungs to study how the local mucosal environment impacts lung TRM function and how systemic and inhaled immune modulators alter TRM survival and activity.  Next, studying longitudinal bronchoalveolar lavage samples from lung transplant recipients, they are investigating molecular drivers of recipient TRM generation and alloreactive potential.  Through their use of single cell RNA and T cell receptor (TCR) sequencing, Dr. Snyder’s team is actively cloning expanded TCRs and performing high-throughput epitope screening.  Their preliminary data suggests that alloreactive T cells, recruited to the lung during acute rejection persist as highly cytotoxic TRM contributing to chronic airway inflammation leading to CLAD.  Importantly, it seems these TRM are protected from systemic immune modulators.

ASCI Emerging-Generation Awards, 2023

Dr. Richard Ramonell (PACCM) is one of 25 recipients of the ASCI Emerging Generation Awards. The Emerging Generation Awards (E-Gen Awards) recognize post-MD, pre-faculty appointment physician-scientists who are meaningfully engaged in immersive research, giving them access to the Joint Meeting and longitudinal programming over a 2-year period. Entry into the ASCI network at this stage is intended to provide peer support and inspiration to stay the course into a physician-scientist faculty appointment.

Richard P. Ramonell, MD
Clinical Instructor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine

Richard P. Ramonell, MD is a Clinical Instructor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida and then went to medical school at the Florida State University College of Medicine. He then completed his residency in Internal Medicine, a year as Chief Medical Resident, and his fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Emory University. During fellowship, he worked in the lab of Dr. F. Eun-Hyung Lee examining B cell biology as it pertains to allergic disease and SARS-CoV-2 infection. After completing fellowship, he was recruited to the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh where he joined the lab of Dr. Anuradha Ray. He is currently investigating the role of T effector memory cells re-expressing CD45RA (TEMRAs) and “inflammaging” in the pathogenesis of severe asthma under the mentorship of Drs. Anuradha Ray and Sally Wenzel.

Congratulations to Drs. Boyd-Shiwarski, Snyder, and Ramonell!