Congratulations to the 2023 “DocStars” – Christina Herrera, M.D., Katie Hoge, M.D., and Avanthi Tayi Shah, M.D. – who all show great promise for medical innovation and a passion for their research. Each investigator will receive a $50,000 Early-Stage Research Grant from The Cary Council, which has been providing crucial funding to advance the research of UT Southwestern early-career investigators since its founding in 2015. To date, The Cary Council’s grants have led to an additional $13+ million in follow-on funding to continue their work. We can’t wait to see what progress the 2023 DocStars will help make with their exciting research.

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From left to right: Christina Herrera, M.D.; Katie Hoge, M.D.; Avanthi Tayi Shah, M.D.

Christina Herrera, M.D.

Unlocking the mysteries of the placenta to address health issues during pregnancy

Christina Herrera, M.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Dr. Herrera has dedicated her academic career to clinical and translational research, using ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging along with genomic techniques to study the normal and abnormal development, structure, and function of the human placenta. Despite being an integral organ for fetal development, the placenta has long been overlooked in understanding how its development and function impacts pregnancy. Her work applying cutting edge technologies to placental research will elucidate these key issues. Following these insights, she is poised to evaluate the role of interventions and therapies to improve outcomes. Her pioneering work has already demonstrated the feasibility of recruiting patients, obtaining imaging, and correlating with clinical outcomes and has the potential to markedly advance the field and provide her with the necessary data for the first of many NIH research grants. Dr. Herrera earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry, graduating magna cum laude from Princeton University. After earning her medical degree at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, she completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at UT Southwestern.

Katie Hoge, M.D.

Developing a novel treatment for a mental health phenomenon in parents of NICU babies

Katie Hoge, M.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, where she specializes in neonatal-perinatal medicine and developmental-behavioral pediatric medicine. She developed a novel approach to investigating how parental mental health influences the neurodevelopmental outcomes of newborns, a relationship that can lead to a state known as the vulnerable child syndrome (VCS). VCS is a parent-infant phenomenon in which a parent develops lasting mental health symptoms and trauma from a child’s health care experience and has a heightened perception that their child is at higher risk for medical, behavioral, or developmental problems. VCS results in unhealthy parenting styles that can impair a child’s neurodevelopmental outcomes. There is currently no accessible, standardized therapy to address VCS in neonatal intensive care (NICU) populations to improve parent-infant long-term outcomes. Dr. Hoge earned her medical degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and completed her pediatric residency and three fellowship trainings in neonatology, developmental behavioral pediatrics, and neonatal neurological critical care at UTSW. As the only person in the country with this combination of training, she is uniquely positioned to investigate VCS in premature newborns, contribute to the field, and develop a successful academic career with major research productivity.

Avanthi Tayi Shah, M.D.

Improving diagnosis of pediatric cancer through translational genomics

Avanthi Tayi Shah, M.D., is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, where she is developing the Precision Oncology Program within the Division of Hematology-Oncology. She also leads the Cancer Genetics Clinic at Children’s Health Plano. She is a leader in translational genomics, which aims to improve human health by building on discoveries made through genetics research and applying them in the clinical setting. Her career goal is to improve outcomes for pediatric oncology patients by utilizing genomic techniques, and she is studying the effectiveness of the use of liquid biopsy in assessing thyroid nodules. Liquid biopsies are one of the most exciting and innovative areas of research in translational genomics, and utilizing this technology to determine if a thyroid nodule is benign or malignant can potentially revolutionize the care of pediatric patients by sparing them from invasive and expensive surgical procedures. After earning her medical degree and completing her residency in pediatrics at UTSW, she completed a fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology at Stanford University/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Dr. Shah served on the faculty of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital as Director of the Pediatric Cancer Precision Medicine Program and Director of the Pediatric Hereditary Cancer Program before coming to UTSW.

Save The Date

November 2, 2023

Mark your calendars for An Evening with DocStars 2023. The Cary Council’s signature event will be even bigger than before. We can’t wait to see you for another night of innovation and community support of early-stage research.

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