penn md-phd steering committee

The Steering Committee is the core group that guides and shapes the MD-PhD program at Penn.  Information about the faculty members and administrative director is below. The committee meets often to discuss all aspects of the program, and the members are always available to talk with students individually.  In addition, the committee meets twice yearly with a group of student-elected representatives to the committee (1-2 from each cohort, so ~15 overall).

Additional information about the faculty members on the committee appears below.

Lawrence (Skip) Brass, MD, PhD

Lawrence (Skip) Brass, MD, PhD

Associate Dean and Director
 brass@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 215-573-3540

Faculty Profile »

Lawrence (Skip) Brass, MD, PhD is a graduate of Harvard College and Case Western Reserve University, where he received his MD and a PhD in biochemistry. After residency training in internal medicine, he became a fellow in Hematology-Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania where he served as Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Medicine from 2004 to 2007, and is currently Professor of Medicine and Professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics. He has led the NHLBI-funded Hematology Research Training Program since 1994 and became Associate Dean for Combined Degree and Physician Scholars Programs and Director of Penn’s MSTP in 1998. He has been active at the national level in the development of training programs for physician-scientists, has served as President of the National Association of MD-PhD Programs, Chair of the AAMC GREAT section on MD-PhD training and was a member of the NIH Physician-Scientist Workforce advisory group in 2013-2014. He is also a practicing hematologist whose research interests are in the fields of hemostasis and vascular biology. He has been continuously funded by the NIH NHLBI since the mid-1980’s, has been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and was an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association. He is a recipient of the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching from the University of Pennsylvania in 2001; the Distinguished Career Award from the International Society of Hemostasis and Thrombosis in 2013; the inaugural Bert Shapiro Award for Leadership, Dedication and Service to the Physician-Scientist Community from the National Association of MD/PhD Programs in 2015; the Distinguished Educator Award from the Association of Clinical and Translational Science in 2018; and numerous teaching awards from students at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Rahul Kohli, MD, PhD

Rahul Kohli, MD, PhD

Associate Director
 rmkohili@gmail.com
 215-573-7523

Faculty Profile »

Rahul Kohli received his undergraduate training in Biochemistry at the University of Michigan (1998). He received his MD and PhD (Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology) from Harvard Medical School (2004). He subsequently trained in Internal Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (2005-6) and completed his fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University (2007-2010), where he also carried out post-doctoral studies in the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences. He started his independent lab at Penn Medicine in 2010. Rahul holds a primary appointment in the Department of Medicine and a secondary appointment in the Department of Biochemistry, where he is currently an Associate Professor. The Kohli laboratory focuses on studying DNA modifying enzymes using chemical biology and biochemical approaches. These enzymes can purposefully introduce mutations or chemical modifications to the genome, with important roles in pathogens, immunity and epigenetics. Most recently, the lab has aimed to harness their improved mechanistic understanding of DNA modifying enzymes to engineer powerful biotechnological tools to target and control evolution or to characterize and edit the genome. His lab’s work has been previously supported by an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Rita Allen Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Doris Duke Foundation amongst others. He is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, received the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Basic Science Teaching. Rahul participates in multiple graduate groups, with an active role in MD/PhD training in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics (BMB).

Elizabeth Bhoj, MD, PhD

Elizabeth Bhoj, MD, PhD

Steering Committee Member
 bhoje@chop.edu
 Elizabeth Bhoj, MD, PhD Website

After being awarded an MD and PhD in 2010 from UT Southwestern, Dr. Bhoj completed training in pediatrics, clinical genetics, and molecular genetics at CHOP. She joined the CHOP/Penn faculty in 2018 to start a translational genomics lab, which has received funding from the Burroughs-Wellcome Foundation, Society for Pediatric Research, Landenberger Family Foundation Award, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, NICHD, NLM, and NINDS. She was winner of the Bowes Award in Medical Genetics from Harvard/Partners in 2018.  

She received her MD and PhD through the Medical Scientist Training Program at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas with a focus on patient-driven gene discovery. She also completed a Masters of Translation Research from Penn, where she gained additional translational research skills. For clinical training, she graduated from the pediatrics/medical genetics combined residency program and clinical molecular genetics fellowship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). As a result, she is board-certified in three specialties: pediatrics, clinical genetics, and molecular genetics. After clinical training she joined the Center for Applied Genomics under Hakon Hakonarson as a postdoctoral research/instructor.  

She started an independent laboratory in 2018 at CHOP as an Assistant Professor (tenure-track). Her laboratory focuses on gene discovery in pediatric disorders, and a deep mechanistic understanding of those diseases. She has led multiple disease-discovery consortia, some with over 100 collaborators from dozens of countries. She uses many modalities, including mouse models, iPSCs, patient-derived cells, and computational biology. She is also the co-director of the Penn PREP program, an NIH-funded Post-Baccalaureate Program to prepare scholars who are underrepresented in research as they apply for graduate school.

Donita Brady, PhD

Donita Brady, PhD

Steering Committee Member
 bradyd@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 215-573-9705

Faculty Profile »

Dr. Donita C. Brady is the Harrison McCrea Dickson, M.D. and Clifford C. Baker, M.D. Presidential Associate Professor of Cancer Biology and Assistant Dean for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Research Training. She completed her undergraduate training in chemistry at Radford University in 2003, followed by PhD in Pharmacology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008. For her postdoctoral studies, Dr. Brady joined the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Counter at Duke University, which focuses on pharmacologically accessible signaling pathways downstream of oncogenes, like RAS. Her independent laboratory at Penn is founded in a new paradigm in nutrient sensing and protein regulation, termed metalloallostery, where redox-active metals control kinase activity, and is advancing our knowledge in basic science and disease-focused areas. Their focus lies at the intersection of kinase signaling and copper (Cu) homeostasis with the goal of defining the mechanistic features of Cu-dependent kinases to target them in cancer via drug repurposing or development. Since arriving at Penn, she joined the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics (BMB), Pharmacology, and Cell and Molecular Biology (CAMB) graduate groups, and the Cancer Biology (CB) Program within CAMB. As an advocate for underrepresented trainees, Donita co-directed the Penn Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) and mentors PREP and Summer Undergraduate Internship Program (SUIP) scholars with the goal of helping them pursue Ph.D.s or M.D. Ph.Ds. and most recently co-chaired the Combatting Racial Inequities Committee for our graduate student and postdoctoral programs. She has been a strong advocate of promoting the retention and recruitment of diverse trainees and professors in academic research, and she devotes time to supporting and increasing racial diversity and equity in science.  She will contribute her talents in mentorship, advocacy, and science to creating and sustaining a more inclusive scientific community within MSTP.

Horace DeLisser, MD

Horace DeLisser, MD

Steering Committee Member
 delisser@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 215-898-4409

Faculty Profile »

Horace DeLisser, MD, received his BA from Temple University in 1981 and his MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1985.  He completed his internal medicine residency (1986-88), pulmonary medicine fellowship (1988-91) and post–doctoral research training (1991-1993) at the University of Pennsylvania.  Since 1993 he has been a faculty member of the Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Division of the Department of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.  Over the last 25 years he has had a program of research that has focused on endothelial cells and their role in angiogenesis and tumor metastasis, with particular attention to endothelial PECAM-1.  He is also currently the Associate for Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the Perelman School of Medicine where he leads the Program for Diversity and Inclusion (PDI).  In this role he has implemented innovative approaches for promoting a diverse and inclusive medical student community.

Bob Heuckeroth, MD, PhD

Bob Heuckeroth, MD, PhD

Steering Committee Member
 Heuckerothr@email.chop.edu
 215-590-1209

Faculty Profile »

Robert Heuckeroth completed his undergraduate training in chemistry at the University of Maryland, College Park (B.S. 1983) and then MD and PhD degrees at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (Biochemistry, Medicine, 1990). He trained in pediatrics (1990-1992) and pediatric gastroenterology (1993-1995) at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and continues to see patients as an attending gastroenterologist. Post-doctoral studies in developmental neurobiology led to an interest in neural crest and especially enteric nervous system (ENS) development when he opened an independent research laboratory (1998). The primary objective of our work is to define molecular and cellular mechanisms that cause birth defects with the ultimate goal of developing new treatment and prevention strategies. Studies in the lab encompass stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, embryology, genetics, and biochemistry and his research group has defined roles for more than 45 molecules that impact the ENS and other aspects of development. He remained at Washington University until 2013 when he was recruited to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Penn to build research programs that will lead to new treatments or diagnostic strategies for people with intestinal motility disorders. He is Research Director CHOP's Lustgarten Center for GI Motility and the Norman and Irma Braman Endowed Chair for GI Motility Disorders. He continues to train MSTP students in his lab, teaches in the first year MSTP TIMM course, is course co-director for the second year MSTP CSTR course and is committed to fostering career development for physician scientists. His work has been supported by the NIH, March of Dimes, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and other organizations. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and is delighted to be part of Penn’s MSTP steering committee.

Audrey Odom John, MD, PhD

Audrey Odom John, MD, PhD

Steering Committee Member
 JOHNA3@EMAIL.CHOP.EDU
 215-590-2457

Faculty Profile »

Audrey Odom John completed her undergraduate training in biology and chemistry at Duke University in 1996, followed by her MD and PhD at Duke University School of Medicine (PhD, Biochemistry, 2002). She trained in Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases through the Special Alternative Pathway at the University of Washington (Seattle, WA). Although originally interested in fungal pathogenesis, she became interested in molecular parasitology as an infectious diseases fellow, and her lab has largely focused on metabolism in the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The ultimate goal of these studies is to understand the fundamental biology of parasite metabolism, in order to inform new strategies to diagnose and treat malaria. Using forward genetic screening, enzymology, and metabolomics, her research group has discovered a new class of metabolic regulators and have multiple patents pending on new antimalarials and novel “breathalyzer” malaria diagnostics. With the emergence of SARS-Cov2 and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic, the lab has also recently initiated related studies in SARS-CoV2 diagnostics. A faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis from 2008-2019, she was recruited to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2019 to become Chief of Infectious Diseases. Her studies have been supported by the NIH, March of Dimes, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Doris Duke Foundation, and the Gates Foundation. As a long-standing advocate of physician-scientist training and first-generation college graduate, she is pleased to join the Penn MSTP steering committee.

Max Kelz, MD, PhD

Max Kelz, MD, PhD

Steering Committee Member
 kelz@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 215-573-8208

Faculty Profile »

Max Kelz graduated from Yale University in 1993 (Molecular Biology and Biophysics) and received his PhD (Neuroscience) and MD degrees from Yale in 1999 and 2000, followed by a residency in Anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania.  He currently serves as the Anesthesia Distinguished Professor.  Max practices as a neuroanesthesiologist, caring for patients requiring surgical interventions affecting the brain or spinal cord.  His research focuses on the regulation of arousal states. The Kelz lab seeks to understand the mechanisms through which drugs induce a reversible state of unconsciousness as well as the mechanisms by which the brain reconstitutes as it exits the unconscious state.  Max was awarded with the American Society of Anesthesiology’s Presidential Scholar in 2010. He serves as Penn’s founding director of the NEURRAL center dedicated to understand the Neuroscience of Unconsciousness and Reanimation. Max is a member of the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research Academy of Research Mentors.  He has published more than 70 manuscripts and has been continuously funded since joining the faculty at Penn in 2004.  He is a member of the Neuroscience, Pharmacology, and Bioengineering graduate groups.

Erle Robertson, PhD

Erle Robertson, PhD

Steering Committee Member
 erle@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 215-746-0116

Faculty Profile »

Dr. Erle Robertson received his B.S. in Microbiology from Howard University in 1987, and his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Wayne University in 1992. He moved on to Harvard Medical School to complete his post-doctoral training. Dr. Robertson was an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School before joining the University of Pennsylvania.Dr Robertson is a national and international recognized scientist in his field as he has received a great number of international and national honors and awards. He has continually received funds to support his research as PI, Director and Project Leader from NIH and Non-Federal/Industry foundations. He has also been a member of number of committees, scientific societies and currently serves as an Ad Hoc Reviewer of number scientific publications in high impact journals. He runs a Virology lab with post-doctoral fellows and has produced over 185 publications, including 8 books, and 9 patents.Since 1997 the Robertson lab has been dedicated to the study of virus-host interactions with a preference for viruses associated with cancers, two human gammaherpesviruses Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and Kaposi's Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV) and mechanisms of oncogenesis by these tumor viruses. In particular, by using genetic, genomic, proteomic and biochemical approaches to identify viral pathways involved in these cellular events to develop mechanistic models for transformation by gammaherpesviruses. Recent studies in his laboratory have also been geared towards understanding the role of the microbiome and its contribution to cancer. He is also working on developing preclinical datasets for therapeutic compounds with specificity for viral-associated cancers with the potential for moving into a phase I trial.

Maggie Krall

Maggie Krall

Director of Administration
 krall@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 215-898-8025

Maggie Krall graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1990 (BA in English). She began working at Penn in 1994 in the Biomedical Graduate Studies Office, and joined the Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs staff in 1996. In addition to supporting the MD-PhD program, she helps oversee MD-Masters and elective research opportunities for medical students. Maggie has been active in the national MD-PhD program Association and AAMC GREAT MD-PhD section, serving on numerous committees over the years.