Training Grant Trainees

Emily Hensler, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term: 7/2020 - 6/2022
Mentor: Alfred Ayala, PhD

Research Project: Role of the immune checkpoint regulator VISTA in neonatal sepsis
Dr. Hensler's project focuses on how VISTA, an immune checkpoint regulator, modulates the immune response to a septic insult (cecal slurry) in neonatal mice, as well as how its activity affects survival.
Elizabeth Tindal, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term: 7/2019 - 6/2021
Mentor: Alfred Ayala, PhD

Research ProjectEvaluating selective deletion of check-point protein, PD-L1, in neutrophils as it compares to endothelial cells using specialized Cre-lox mice. 
Dr. Tindal's research looks at the impact on shock/sepsis-induced mortality and systemic inflammation will be studied following the combined effect of hemorrhagic and septic (ie. cecal ligation and perforation) insults.    

Michelle Wakeley, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term: 7/2019 - 6/2020
Mentor: Alfred Ayala, PhD

Research Project:  Checkpoint inhibitor protein modulation of immune dysregulation in neonatal sepsis. 
Dr. Wakeley's research attempts to identify novel targets for treatment of septic immune dysregulation by focusing on the role of checkpoint inhibitor proteins and their ligands including PD-1, PDL-1, and HVEM in modulation of neonatal sepsis in mice.
Chelsey Ciambella, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term: 7/2018 - 6/2020
Mentor: Jonathan Reichner, PhD

Research Project:  Identification of a damaging subset of neutrophils that arises in septic patients.
Dr. Ciambella will investigate the role of a distinct subset of neutrophils on endothelial barrier function, disease severity and host survival.  Her aim is to demonstrate these cells are a target for a therapeutic blockade that could benefit the septic host. 
Joshua Cohen, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term: 7/2018 - 6/2020
Mentor:  Craig Lefort, PhD

Research Project: Investigating the role of neutrophil progenitor transplantation following hemorrhage in the prevention of ARDS.  
Dr. Cohen aims to utilize the the mobilization of hematopoietic progenitor cells from the bone marrow following hemorrhage and trauma as conditioning for transplant of donor hematopoietic progenitor cells. His project's goal is to develop an off-the-shelf neutrophil progenitor cellular therapy for use in the acutely ill trauma patient.
Roberto Cortez, MD

PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term: 7/2017 - 6/2019
Mentor: Jack Elias, MD

Research Project:  Dr. Cortez's goal is to further define the complex and important roles of chitinase-like protein (CLP) Chi3l1/YKL-40, PLSCR, and PD-1/PDL1 in relation to the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, inflammation, and lung cancer in the mouse model. With the advent of PD-1 antibody therapy to treat advanced melanoma, further developing an understanding for said pathways may allow for the continued development of novel immunotherapeutic options. 

Current Position: Dr. Cortez returned to the surgical residency program at RI Hospital.
Laura Scrimgeour, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term: 7/2016 - 6/2018
Mentor: Frank Sellke, MD

Research Project: Dr. Scrimgeour’s research focused on investigating treatments for chronic myocardial ischemia in a porcine model. Her research also involved injection of microvesicles isolated from stem cells to improve myocardial blood flow. 

Current Position: Dr. Scrimgeour returned to the surgical residency program at RI Hospital.
Catherine Dickinson, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term:  7/2015 - 6/2016
Mentor:  Jonathan Reichner, PhD

Research Project: Dr. Dickinson's research focused on neutrophils and their role in damaging the endothelial barrier in patients impacted by surgery, trauma, and sepsis.

Current Position: Dr. Dickinson returned to the surgical residency program at RI Hospital.
 
Brittany Potz, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term:  7/2015 - 6/2017
Mentor:  Frank Sellke, MD

Research Project: Dr. Potz' focus was on the discovery  of new medical therapies for coronary artery disease using a  novel  pig model of chronic myocardial ischemia in the setting of metabolic syndrome that translates to patients with CAD and their associated co-morbidities.

Current Position: Dr. Potz returned to the surgical residency program at RI Hospital. 

Noelle Hutchins, PhD
1st Year Postdoctoral Research Associate
Term:   7/2013 - 6/2014
Mentors:
Alfred Ayala, PhD, Jonathan Reichner, PhD

Research Project:  Dr. Hutchins investigated how liver sinusoidal endothelial cells are affected during ALI in sepsis, and the potential mediators and/or signaling pathways involved.

Current Position:  Dr. Hutchins is a post-doctoral fellow at University of Texas Southwestern-Dallas in Dr. Bruce Beutler's lab. 

Andrew Blakely, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term: 7/2012 - 6/2014
Mentor:
John Morgan, PhD (Brown University)

Research Project: Dr. Blakely's research involved using micromolded hydrogels to create complex microtissues, such as toroids and honeycombs. His focus was on analyzing the mechanical properties of these formed microtissues as well as looking at methods to perfuse the tissues in order to create larger tissues.

Current Position:  Dr. Blakely is a general surgeon practicing in Rhode Island.

Elizabeth Fox, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term: 7/2011 - 6/2013
Mentor:
Jonathan Reichner, PhD

Research Project:  Dr. Fox studied the regulation of the barrier function of an endothelial monolayer. Normally, the cells of an endothelial monolayer are in close proximity to each other, in order to keep cells and other components of blood in the intravascular space. In the setting of trauma and sepsis, the space between cells increases, resulting in decreased barrier function, and allowing neutrophils to arrive at a site of tissue damage or infection. Dr. Fox attempted to study the role of CAP37 in the regulation of monolayer integrity, specifically as it functions in the absence of neutrophils. Additionally, she evaluated the structure and function of neutrophils obtained from trauma and septic patients and their effect on endothelial resistance.

Current Position:  Dr. Fox is a general surgeon practicing in Providence, RI.

Sean Ciullo, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term:  7/2010 - 6/2012
Mentor:  Thomas Tracy, MD

Research Project: Ciullo's research focused on liver fibrosis and injury in a rat model of biliary obstruction. Dr. Ciullo's projects focused initially on the development of liver fibrosis over the time of bile duct ligation and then on attempting to activate intrinsic MMP-8 within the liver.  To this end, Dr. Ciullo worked extensively with Dr. Reichner’s laboratory to better understand the physiology of neutrophils and what components of them are necessary to activate intrinsic MMP-8 within the liver.

Current Position: Dr. Ciullo is a pediatric surgeon in Providence, RI.

Zachary Gregg, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term:  7/2009 - 6/2011

Mentor:
John Sedivy, PhD (Brown University campus)

Research Project:  Gregg's research included elucidating the connections between, or the role of, cellular senescence in both tissue regeneration/wound healing and inflammation.

Current Position: Dr. Gregg is a colon and rectal surgeon in Charlottesville, VA. 

Samille Brancato, MD
PGY 3 Surgical Resident
Term:  7/2008 - 6/2010
Mentor:  Jorge Albina, MD

Research Project: Brancato worked with Dr. Albina's lab to test the following hypothesis: 1. IL-1 directly modulates the development or stability of keloids and 2.  IL-1 modulates the development or stability of keloids through IL-6.

Current Position:  Dr. Brancato completed her surgical residency program in June 2012 and is presently a surgeon at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, OR, and has applied for a fellowship position in Surgical Oncology.

Jill Johnstone, MD
PGY 2 Surgical Resident
Term:  7/2007 - 6/2009
Mentor:  Jonathan Reichner, PhD

Research Project:  Johnstone researched the requirements for VAV guanine nucleotide exchange factors in phagocytosis of zymosan and apoptotic bodies and the effect of sepsis on VAV-mediated host defense. Dr. Johnstone's goal was to determine the effects of sepsis on each phagocytic pathway with the consideration that they are differentially regulated and may not all be affected by sepsis in the same way.  This was done in collaboration with Dr. Ayala and furthered the work of a previous Trauma Training resident, Dr. Ryan Swan, who found that sepsis impedes the uptake of apoptotic bodies by murine macrophages. 

Current Position: Dr. Johnstone completed her surgical residency in June 2011 and has gone on to a vascular surgery fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Gwendolyn Elphick, PhD
3rd Year Postdoctoral Research Associate
Term:  7/2006 - 9/2008
Mentors:
  Alfred Ayala, PhD

Research Project: Dr. Elphick explored the effects of activated protein C on leukocyte migration during sepsis in both humans and an animal model. Her specific area of interest was changes in integrin expression and activation during sepsis, and how APC regulates integrin mediated neutrophil migration and how it impacts disease outcome.  

Current Position: Presently Dr. Elphick is and Instructor/Lecturer at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY.

Ryan Swan, MD
PGY 2 Resident
Term:  7/2005 - 6/2007
Mentor:
  Alfred Ayala, PhD

Research Project:  Dr. Swan researched the contribution of macrophage clearance of apoptotic cells to the pathophysiology of sepsis.  A hallmark of sepsis in animal models and human studies is widespread immune cell apoptosis, which has been linked to increased morbidity and mortality.  Macrophage phagocytosis of apoptotic immune cells leads to release of anti-inflammatory cytokines as a physiologic mechanism for controlling inflammation; however, in the setting of massive immune cell apoptosis as seen in sepsis, this process may contribute to the immunosuppressed state seen in septic patients.

Current Position: At the end of his fellowship, Dr. Swan returned to a Surgical Residency at St. Luke’s Hospital, New York, NY, where he completed his residency in 6/10, subsequently did a 2 year fellowship in surgical oncology at Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC, and is now an attending general surgeon in that Department of Surgery.

Michael Connolly, MD
PGY 2 Resident
Term:  7/2004 - 6/2006
Mentor:  Jorge Albina, MD

Research Project: Dr. Connolly's work concentrated primarily in developing techniques for laser capture microdissection/RNA extraction from murine wounds.  As a result of this work, the laboratory now has at hand detailed protocols leading to the isolation of high purity RNA from wound macrophages.  Additional work was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Minsoo Kim, a former faculty member in the Division of Surgical Research.  Together, they were able to acquire real time images of the respiratory burst of human neutrophils to correlate such burst with the expression of apoptotic markers.  Experiments were also performed to allow the laboratory to switch from the use of anti-Gr1 Ab to the more specific 1A8 anti-Ly6-G Ab for the induction of neutropenia and of neutropenic wounds in mice.

Current Position: Dr. Connolly completed his surgical residency training in 2009, did a 2 year Trauma and Critical Care fellowship at Brown, and is currently an attending trauma surgeon and Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Department of Surgery at the Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University.