Clinical Research Nurses
Grace Graninger received her nursing degree from Townson State University (Baltimore, MD). She has been a Clinical Nurse since 1987, Critical Care Staff Nurse since 1991, and a Clinical Research Nurse at NIH since 2000. She has worked with Dr. Michael Solomon since 2003 and with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension patients since 2013. Grace has extensive experience as a clinical and research nurse and along with co-worker Bonnie Harper, Grace is involved in all of the clinical preparations needed to successfully maintain and expand the PAH clinical protocols. They take great pride in being responsive to the needs of patients and referring physicians.
Bonnie Harper received her nursing degree from Providence Hospital School of Nursing (Southfield, MI). She has been a Clinical Nurse since 1975, and a Critical Care Staff Nurse since 1980. She has worked as a Clinical Research Nurse with Dr. Michael Solomon since 2003 and with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension patents since 2013. Bonnie is a knowledgeable and resourceful clinical and research nurse and along with co-worker Grace Graninger, Bonnie is involved in all of the clinical preparations needed to successfully maintain and expand the PAH clinical protocols. They take great pride in being responsive to the needs of patients and referring physicians.
Keshia Thompson, DNP, FNP-BC, RN
Dr. Keshia Thompson earned her bachelor's degree as a Registered Nurse from Florida A & M University (2004-2009) and her master's degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner from Chamberlain College of Nursing (2014-2016). She continued her nursing journey and received a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree with a Healthcare Leadership System focus, from Chamberlain College of Nursing (2017-2019). Dr. Thompson began her career in nursing in 2009 and practiced as a Nurse Practitioner since 2016. She is currently a Nurse Practitioner and research study coordinator in the Critical Care Medicine department with the Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension group. Dr. Thompson provides compassionate and collaborative care for patients with complex multi-system illnesses.
Dr. Samuel Brusca earned his undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University (2006-2010) and his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine (2010-2014). He went on to complete an internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is currently a senior fellow in critical care at the NIH Clinical Center. In the laboratory, Dr. Brusca is investigating the utility of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) as a noninvasive biomarker of pulmonary artery endothelial injury and disease progression in pulmonary arterial hypertension.
Dr. Keytam Awad joined the NIH Critical Care Medicine Department as a Postdoctoral Fellow in August 2011 and became a full-time staff member in February 2015. Dr. Awad was trained as a cellular and molecular biologist and received her PhD from Kent State University. There she studied the mechanisms by which natural ligands suppress viral oncogene function as a novel approach to inhibit human papillomavirus induced precancerous and cancerous lesions. Dr Awad's current work is focused on dysregulated signaling pathways in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), and the development of targeted therapies aimed at blocking the proliferative, hyper-migratory, anti-apoptotic pulmonary vascular phenotype associated with PAH. She recently silenced BMPR2 in pulmonary artery endothelial cells to create an in vitro model of hereditary PAH. Using this model system, Dr. Awad identified non-canonical Ras/Raf/ERK activation as the major driver of an abnormal cellular phenotype characterized by proliferation, invasiveness and a disrupted cytoskeletal architecture. Treatment with Raf inhibitors and nintedanib an inhibitor of receptor tyrosine kinases upstream from Ras, corrected many of the phenotypic alterations associated with BMPR2 silencing. As such, Ras/Raf/ERK signaling, an important oncogenic pathway, may contribute to pathologic vascular remodeling and be a useful therapeutic target in PAH.
Dr. Li-Yuan (Lillian) Chen first came to the NIH as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 1999 and returned to the NIH as a full-time staff member in the Critical Care Medicine Department (CCMD) in 2004. Dr. Chen received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the National Taiwan University in 1998. During her post-doctoral training at the NIH she investigated the immunophenotype that results from GSD-1b loss of function in a murine knock-out model (GSD-1b-/-) of type 1B glycogen storage disease. Dr. Chen then worked as a research associate at the Georgetown University Lombardi Cancer Center. There she investigated the role of matriptase 1 and its inhibitor, hepatocyte growth factor regulator inhibitor, in cancer metastasis. As a member of the CCMD, Dr. Chen's previous work focused on lipid mediator signaling in human monocytes and macrophages as well as lipid mediator modulation of cellular inflammatory responses such as inflammasome activation and induction of autophagy. Her focus turned to pulmonary vascular disease in 2014. Dr. Chen brings a tremendous amount of laboratory experience to the CCMD Vascular Biology group. Currently, she is investigating the effects of spironolactone on inflammatory gene transcription in human pulmonary artery endothelial cells.
Dr. Salina Gairhe joined the NIH Critical Care Medicine Department as a Postdoctoral Fellow in June 2014 and became a full-time staff member in 2016. Dr. Gairhe has been interested in further understanding pathogenic mechanisms of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) since 2006 with an emphasis on the development of novel therapeutic approaches to reverse the disease. Dr. Gairhe received her Ph.D. in Basic Medical Sciences from the University of South Alabama in 2011. Her doctoral research was focused on intercellular communication between lung vascular cell types. She demonstrated that myoendothelial gap junction communication was necessary for the maintenance of the contractile pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cell phenotype. Dr. Gairhe continued to work in the field of pulmonary vascular disease as a post-doctoral fellow and an Instructor at the University of South Alabama, where she identified sphingosine-1-phosphate, a bioactive lipid mediator as one of the critical signaling molecules in the pathogenesis of PAH. Dr. Gairhe has received pre- and post-doctoral research grants from the American Heart Association and the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, and her work has been published as original research and cover art in the American Journal of Physiology. Dr. Gairhe is also an editorial board member of Pulmonary Vascular Research Institute Journal. At NIH, she is investigating the effects of caveolin-1 gene silencing in human pulmonary artery endothelial cells.
Carrie Johnson is a 4th year medical student participating in the 2021-2022 NIH Medial Research Scholars Program. Her research includes systematic review of flow cytometric schemes for cell type identification in peripheral blood of patients with PAH. Additionally, she is researching the relationship between disease progression and these cell types in our prospective cohort of clinical trial PAH patients, with goal of developing improved biomarkers for disease and therapeutic monitoring. Carrie earned her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and biochemistry at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota and her PhD in chemical biology at the University of Michigan. Currently, she attends the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and plans to apply for residency in emergency medicine and internal medicine.
Past Research Fellows
Adrien Mazer, MD July 2015 - June 2017
Dr. Adrien Mazer earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (2001-2005) and his medical degree from Georgetown University (2005-2009). After completing an internal medicine residency at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (2009-2012), he did a critical care medicine fellowship at the NIH Clinical Center (2013-2017) and a pulmonary disease fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital (2014-2016). He received additional specialty training in the clinical management of PAH patients at the NIH (2015 – 2107). Dr. Mazer took a lead role in a meta-analysis of genome-wide microarray data from the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with PAH. Dr. Mazer presented this work at the 2016 American Thoracic Society (ATS) Conference as well as the 2016 Metropolitan DC Thoracic Society Annual Meeting where he was awarded first place in the basic science category. He also helped to successfully implement a pre-clinical rat model of PAH that recapitulates both hemodynamic and histologic features of human PAH to further understand the effects of mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists in PAH. An abstract describing this work was presented at the 2017 ATS Conference. Upon completion of fellowship he received an appointment in the Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine Department of Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Maryland.
Past Medical Students
Yvette Zou July 2019 – June 2020
Yvette Zou is a 4th year medical student participating in the 2019-2020 NIH Medical Student Research Program. Her research focuses on using the Sugen/hypoxia/normoxia rat model of PAH to validate cfDNA as a marker of severity and progression of the disease. Yvette earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering at Dartmouth College, currently attends Dartmouth Medical School, and plans to apply for residency in internal medicine.
Mengyun Lu July 2018 - June 2019
Mengyun Lu earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical and electrical engineering from Duke University in 2015 and attended medical school at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She participated in the NIH Medical Research Scholars Program (2018-2019) and spent the year doing research on the effects of mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist on right ventricular function and pulmonary vascular remodeling in PAH, as well as clotting kinetics in PAH patients using thromboelastography. She presented both projects at the 2019 American Heart Association Conference in addition to the 52nd Annual UNC John B. Graham Student Research Day, where she was awarded best oral presentation in the basic science category. She will start internal medicine residency after medical school.