Meet two PH Researchers!
In 2012, PHA established the Robyn J. Barst Pediatric PH Research and Mentoring Fund in memory of Dr. Barst, a pioneer in the field of pediatric pulmonary hypertension (PH) research and treatment. The Barst Fund provides grants to researchers who want to study PH in children.
Dr. Mehdi Fini has been awarded the Cordelia's Pediatric Mentoring and Research Grant through the Barst Fund.
Dr. Melanie Nies has been awarded the Matthew and Michael Wojciechowski Pulmonary Hypertension Pediatric Proof-of-Concept Grant through the Barst Fund.
What made you want to research pulmonary hypertension?
Mehdi: Pulmonary hypertension (PH) in children could be caused by multiple factors. I am very interested in understanding what makes someone with PH get better or worse, which can ultimately result in better treatment of PH from the early time when it is diagnosed.
Melanie: I first became interested in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension (PH) in premature infants (babies who are born too early, called “premies”). An echocardiogram showed that these premies had PH, but there was no way to tell if they were responding well to treatment unless they had multiple cardiac catheterizations. I started reading about how PH works, and I wanted to learn more about the differences between patients (of all ages) who got better with treatment and those who did not. I wanted to find a protein that was different in the blood of people who have PH from people who don’t have PH. Even better, I wanted to find a protein that would change if a patient’s PH got better or worse. By checking how much of that protein is in someone’s blood with a simple blood test, a doctor could change the type of medication the patient was on to help them feel better.
What advice would you give to a kid who wants to become a researcher someday?
Mehdi: Good research comes from good imagination and curiosity. These two are the source of important questions, answering which leads to great discoveries. Never stop asking questions!
Melanie: Read about what interests you! For me, this started when I saw a patient with a disease and had a specific question about treatment. Then talk to someone who has knowledge about what you are interested in. Ask this person to suggest ways you can get involved in researching what interests you. Someone with experience in research is so helpful to starting you on your way.
What is your favorite part about being a researcher?
Mehdi: The best part of being a medical scientist is that not only do I find joy and excitement in finding an answer to my research questions but I get to see these results applied to help diagnose and treat diseases.
Melanie: The sense of unlimited possibility! I love being part of a research community that is dedicated to improving health and outcomes. Breakthroughs are discovered everyday, and technology improves by the minute.