We welcome our last speaker for the semester, Dr. Hannah Valantine. She is a Professor of Medcine at Stanford University.
Achieving Inclusive Excellence in Biomedical Research: Applying Genomics to Unravel Health Disparities in Organ Transplantation
Abstract: Enhancing diversity in the scientific workforce is crucial for advancing innovative solutions to complex problems of human health and disease. This is especially true for unraveling the racial health disparities seen in many conditions, including the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Scientist from diverse backgrounds bring new perspectives to the research agenda by asking new questions, spurning new fields of enquiry and uncovering new solutions for diagnostics and therapeutics. This presentation will provide insights into the case for enhancing diversity in the scientific workforce and strategies to achieve inclusive and equitable environments that are essential for scientific excellence. As an example of the power of diversity in scientific teams, Dr. Valantine will demonstrate how she and a diverse group of colleagues developed a new genomic technology, donor-derived cell-free DNA, and are applying it to improve the care of organ transplant recipients across the US. Dr. Valantine will also address how the technology is being used to understand (and solve) the observation that African American organ patients reject their transplanted organs more readily than White patients and have significantly poorer long-term outcomes, regardless of the type of organ transplanted. She will present preliminary data suggesting an important role for circulating mitochondrial DNA as a trigger for graft injury through damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) that may contribute to the heightened transplant rejection seen in African American patients.
Bio: Hannah Valantine received her M.B.B.S. degree from London University, cardiology fellowship at Stanford, and Doctor of Medicine from London University. She was appointed Assistant Professor of Medicine, rising to full Professor of Medicine in 2000, and becoming the inaugural Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Leadership, in 2004. She pursued a data-driven transformative approach to this work, receiving the NIH director’s pathfinder award. Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, recruited her in 2014 as the inaugural NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce diversity, and as a tenured investigator in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s intramural research program where she established the laboratory of transplantation genomics. Dr. Valantine is a nationally recognized pioneer in her field, with over 200 peer-reviewed publications, patents, and sustained NIH funding. She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2020 for both her pioneering research in organ transplantation and workforce diversity.