Emerging Physician Scientist Program

PAPSTR provided funding for the Emerging Physician-Scientist Program, which is led by Dr. Elizabeth Gunderson, associate professor of Hospice and Palliative Medicine at the University of Colorado. In 2022, PAPSTR supported three students (Caitlin Blades, Shaquia Idelett-Ali, and Gordon Matthewson). In 2024, Anna Ha will be joining the program. Support entails up to $10,000 each ($2,500 for travel to a national conference or workshop, plus a stipend of $7,500). These medical students were selected by a committee process through a merit-based review and are involved in mentored research. The students and their mentors meet quarterly with Dr. David Schwartz.

Caitlin BladesCaitlin Blades

Caitlin is between her third and fourth years at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She aspires to become a Clinician-Scientist in the field of plastic surgery and is currently pursuing a Scholar's Research Year in the lab of Drs. David Mathes and Christene Huang, in the Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. This year, Caitlin has focused on the investigation of the role of the immune system in the pathophysiology of keloid scars.

As the project lead, she has been diligent in her pursuit of keloid, hypertrophic scar, and healthy skin samples. She obtains consent from patients in the clinic, utilizes surgical techniques to harvest samples, and analyzes tissues in the lab. Eager to expand her project, Caitlin will be pursuing an additional research year to uncover specific mRNA molecules and cellular heterogeneity that may be contributing to keloid pathogenesis and their high recurrence rates. Considering the current lack of research regarding the etiology of these lesions, which primarily affect minority populations, Caitlin’s investigations could place us one step closer to an effective, universal treatment option.

Shaquia Idelett-Ali, PhDShaquia Idelett-Ali, PhD

Shaquia Idlett-Ali, PhD, is medical student at the University of Colorado completing a scholar year in the laboratory of Sana Karam, MD, PhD within the Department of Radiation Oncology. Prior to entering medical school, Shaquia completed her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Her current research project is titled "Targeting nerve-mediated immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.” The objective of this project is to understand the contributions of sensory nerve activity and neuropeptide release on: (1) immune cell infiltration in the tumor microenvironment and (2) treatment response to radiation and immunotherapy.

Gordon MatthewsonGordon Matthewson

During the 2023-2024 scholar’s year, Gordon will be examining discrepancies between memory care patients and their caregivers, and how these relate to clinical trajectories. For example, if a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease rates their mood or functional status as high, but their caregiver rates it as low, is this a predictor of more advanced or severe disease? Do these discrepancies indicate a worse prognosis for memory care patients, or a higher burden in their caregivers? These questions will be explored using the Standard of Care Rates Database (SoCRates), a collection of standardized surveys and clinical data gathered between 2017 and 2023 at CU’s Memory Disorders Clinic. This database is Python-based, and its backbone is code he helped write in 2020 while working as a Research Assistant in the Neurology department here at CU. Currently, he is using Python’s data science packages to write scripts that align standardized measures for analysis, perform quality control, and use text-scraping methods to pull additional standardized measures out of physician notes.

This is a large enough dataset for Gordon to become proficient with scientific computing methods such as vectorization, yet the benefit of working with such a large amount of data is that any robust patterns in patient-caregiver discrepancies and how they relate to patient outcomes have a good chance of emerging. Through this work, he hopes to advance our understanding of these discrepancies, and also provide important characterization metrics of the patient population here that will support CU’s Memory Disorders Clinic as a center.

Anna HaAnna Ha
Newly awarded scholar for 2024

David Schwartz, MD
Program Director

Jennifer Kemp, PhD
Associate Program Director

Paul Wood, MA
Program Manager
Sarah Miller
Business Coordinator


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