Research

Voices

Daniel Armstrong, Ph.D.

Daniel ArmstrongDaniel Armstrong, Ph.D.
Director, Mailman Center for Child Development

“Nearly 30 years ago, we initiated studies describing the neuro-developmental outcomes of childhood cancer treatment, sickle cell disease and perinatallyacquired HIV. This led us to establish the Miller School of Medicine’s Second Chance Program. Implementing integrated lifespan research across the Miller School will help us build bridges between child health and adult health providers, train future professionals, develop innovative health care programs and understand the adult challenges of childhood illnesses. In turn, we can also improve how we care for the -children of today, improve their lives as future adults and give them a true ‘second chance.’”

By Bob Woods
Photograph by Donna Victor

Michelle R. Caunca, Ph.D.

Michelle CauncaMichelle R. Caunca, Ph.D.
6th-year M.D./Ph.D. candidate“

I received my Ph.D. in epidemiology in 2019 and am now -doing the clinical part of my M.D., which I will complete in spring 2021. I am interested in how cerebrovascular disease, particularly among stroke -patients, contributes to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive disorders. I don’t necessarily want to -reverse aging, though I understand that perspective, but want to make sure people can age with the best quality of life possible, while also improving the lives of their caregivers. Ultimately, I would like to be an academic physician with my own lab where I can translate research into clinical practice and public health policy.As an M.D./Ph.D., the name of the game is translation.”

By Bob Woods
Photograph by Donna Victor

David Goldberg, M.D.

David GoldbergDavid Goldberg, M.D.
Liver transplant expert

“I am a hepatologistwhose research encompasses liver disease, transplantation and organ donation. Several years ago, a colleague and I noted that the opioid crisis, while tragic, had resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of young, healthy individuals dying of overdose and becoming potential organ donors. Simultaneously, new drugs that virtually cure hepatitis C, prevalent among drug abusers, led to my clinical trials to safely transplant hepatitis C-infected organs into people without the disease. Since joining the Miller School of Medicine last year, I have continued my work to increase donation and transplantation in the Miami area. … My goal is to save more lives through transplantation.”

By Bob Woods
Photograph by Donna Victor

Catching Up with Baby No. 1

Justine JonesJustine Jones hopes to connect with others conceived via a novel fertility program“Thanks to you and your team, I was born!” That short sentence from an email sent to Nancy Brackett, Ph.D., last May opened the door to a remarkable reunion.The email came from Justine Jones, introducing herself as the very first child resulting from the Male Fertility Research Program, part of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the Miller School of Medicine. The program was started in 1990 by Dr. Brackett, now retired, whose research centered around finding ways for men with spinal cord injury to overcome infertility.“My dad, Douglas Forbes, had been paralyzed in a motorcycle accident,” Jones said. “He and my mom wanted to have a baby by any means necessary.” The couple was invited to participate in the program, and after months of experimentation, conceived Justine, their only child. She was born in 1992.Jones, a budding musician, content creator and marketer, is hoping to connect with the other children in her initial cohort and ultimately produce a short film about the program. “We should celebrate what our parents and the researchers accomplished. We share a common bond and unique experience.”

By Bob Woods
Photograph by Peter Freed

A High-Altitude View of Health Care

Stal ShresthaStal Shrestha, Ph.D., wants to explore the inner workings of the brain while also focusing outward on global health

You are in your second year at the Miller School of Medicine, after earning a Ph.D. in clinical neuroscience, yet with all that going on you traveled to Nepal. Where are you headed long term?
While my interest lies in academic research in neuroscience, I developed a passion for global health as a Ph.D. trainee at the National Institutes of Health. Last summer, I spent seven weeks assessing the state of health care in rural and urban Nepal. This experience helped me cement my overall career goal, which is to improve diagnosis and treatment in the field of brain health. I hope to make a lasting, transgenerational impact —especially in countries where people are still dying of preventable diseases. Every human being has the right to adequate health care.

You also have gained an appreciation for health technology and its global potential. What do you have in mind?
People all over the world are living with end-stage illnesses such as heart disease, lung cancer and kidney failure. Advances in telemedicine, videoconferencing, health-tracking devices and other technologies can help providers care for them, especially in remote areas. At the same time, we need a collaborative effort across professions ranging from health care to politics to promote healthy lifestyles, preventive care and early interventions to avoid chronic illnesses.

Currently, your medical education centers on the brain. How does that fit into your career aspirations?
Eventually I would like to conduct global health research focused on neuroinflammation, which encompasses both mental health and neuro-degenerative conditions. During my Ph.D. training, I used multi-modality imaging techniques such as PET, MRI and CT to study the brain. I hope a research-track residency will allow me to begin developing novel biomarkers and therapeutics for early disease stages, including frugal innovations that will make these services affordable throughout the world. It is critical that we as a human civilization practice equality as a principle, rather than just as a concept. I feel that there is a void in global health. When I have traveled to other countries, it is heartbreaking to witness people receiving poor health care. So I want to see how I can best implement new strategic techniques and policies.

By Bob Woods
Photograph by Tom Salyer

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