The George Donnell Society for Pediatric Scientists
The George Donnell Society for Pediatric Scientists is dedicated to improving the health of children by training pediatric scientists to perform innovative and high quality research. The Society includes pediatric residents, subspecialty fellows, graduate students, research post-doctoral fellows and faculty who are interested in performing pediatric research. The Society provides mentorship, infrastructure and a community for pediatric scientists in training.
George “Nino” Donnell, MD, was Physician-in-Chief and Chair of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles from 1971 through 1984. Dr. Donnell’s commitment to the teaching and mentorship of pediatricians, as well as his numerous clinical and scientific achievements, has shaped a generation of pediatric physicians and scientists at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The George Donnell Society and Fellowship will honor his contributions by continuing to train the best pediatric physician scientists.
- Program Goals
- Our Team
- Donnell Fellows
- Donnell Members
- Society Activities
- About the Donnell Fellowship
- Train high-quality physician scientists within Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Pediatric Residency and Fellowship programs.
- Provide an infrastructure and environment to ensure that physician scientists-in-training can learn and produce innovative, high-impact research.
Steven Mittelman, MD, PhD is the founding director of the Donnell Society. His laboratory in The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles explores the mechanistic links between obesity and cancer. Mittelman is also the head of the hospital's Diabetes and Obesity Program and director of the MD/PhD Program at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
Giovanna Alvarado is the program coordinator of the Donnell Society. She joined Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in January 2016.
Steven Mittelman, MD, PhD
Robert Vasko, MD
Dr. Robert Vasko, MD, comes to us from the University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio, already with extensive research experience. During his undergraduate training in Cell and Molecular Biology at San Diego State University, Dr. Vasko worked in the lab of Shelli R. McAlphine, PhD, where he synthesized anti-cancer drugs and investigated their mechanisms. This work resulted in five publications, with one as a first author. He was named the Most Outstanding Graduate in the Biology Department at San Diego State, and received a number of other honors including membership in Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and an NIH Fellowship.
Between undergraduate and medical school, Dr. Vasko continued to pursue research. He worked with engineers at Cynvenio BioSystems in Westlake Village, CA, to create an automated device to capture circulating tumor cells from patient whole blood. These “liquid biopsies” could provide mutational profiles of the cancer cells to be targeted, facilitating improved cancer treatment and potentially better outcomes.
Dr. Vasko is excited to join the pediatric residency program here at CHLA. He hopes to use his research experience to help develop targeted cancer therapies for children. After residency, he will join the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology fellowship program and pursue his research and clinical interest in targeted cancer treatment as a physician-scientist.
Lisa Kohn, MD, PhD
Dr. Kohn received her MD and PhD degrees from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, where she was enrolled in the Medical Science Training Program. Dr. Khn has extensive research experience, working previously at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, studying pathogenic interactions between different organisms. During her PhD work at UCLA she studied how stem cells become immune cells in humans with normal immune systems and in those with immune deficiencies.
Dr. Kohn looks forward to her clinical training during pediatric residency, which will serve as the foundation for her clinical work. After residency, she will continue her training in either Allergy/Immunology or Infectious Diseases, where she will explore her research interests in pathogen/host interactions.
Eric Nickels, MD
Dr. Nickels received his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He developed an interest in oncology as an undergraduate majoring in genetics. In medical school, Dr. Nickels was drawn to research in the area of familial cancers, in particular, hereditary forms of leukemia.
Dr. Nickels will continue to hone his clinical skills during pediatric residency. He is interested in further training in pediatric Hematology-Oncology, and plans to pursue research while maintaining and developing significant patient relationships. He envisions a career where he is able to maintain a dynamic interaction between clinical management of patients and work in the laboratory.
Jennifer Miller, MD, PhD
We are pleased to announce that Jennifer C. Miller, MD, PhD, was selected as the 2014 Fellow of the CHLA George Donnell Society for Pediatric Scientists!
The Society, led by Steven Mittelman, MD, PhD, sponsors one fellow each year and provides the infrastructure to train pediatric scientists to perform innovative and impactful research. As a Donnell Fellow, Miller will receive mentorship, educational opportunities and administrative support for grant and manuscript submissions, aiding in the ultimate goal to improve the health of children.
Miller began her research career early in high school, where she studied the embryonic development of catfish brain nuclei. Her research interests evolved throughout her undergraduate career at Georgetown University and graduate education at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. For her thesis, Miller studied dendritic cells, a type of cell that monitors the juncture between tissue and the external environment for the immune system. Miller hopes that a better understanding of the diversity of dendritic cells will allow researchers to manipulate the immune system into either an activated response, to help fight off tumors and infectious disease, or a diminished response, to curb the effects of allergies and autoimmunity.
Miller plans to participate in the American Board of Pediatrics Accelerated Research Pathway, and completing a fellowship in cardiology to further study the role of inflammation in cardiovascular disease.
Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition
Hematology Oncology (BMT) / Cardiology
- David Harrison, MD
- Emily Gillett, MD, PhD
- Hanna Hong, MD, FAAP
- Ajay Kasi, MD, FAAP
- Invited physician scientist speakers.
- Chalk talks /education activities.
- Mixers, social events, offsite educational opportunities.
- Administrative support for:
- Grant preparation, manuscript submission, society memberships, license renewal, certifications, etc.
- American Board of Pediatrics guidelines for Accelerated Research Pathway and other pathways.
- Available training and educational opportunities at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, USC, CalTech and other local programs.
The Donnell Society sponsors one Donnell Fellow per year, who is chosen at the beginning of their pediatrics internship year.
- Residency applicants who are interested in being considered for the Donnell Fellowship fill out a brief supplementary application. Donnell Fellowship applicants are interviewed on specific days, when they meet with the designated physician scientists as well as faculty from their subspecialty of interest, including the program director.
- Donnell Fellows are admitted into the fellowship of their choice at the time they are selected as Donnell Fellows. The Society covers 50% of fellows’ salaries during research years of fellowship (years two to three or two to four of fellowship).
- An individual development plan (IDP) is developed by each Fellow, in consultation with the Fellow, Mentor, Fellowship Director and Steering Committee.
- The option to participate in the American Board of Pediatrics' Accelerated Research Pathway.
- To enhance academic needs identified by the IDP, tuition for outside coursework will be covered by the Donnell Society (up to eight credits/year).
- Fellows are given a travel allowance to attend one national conference per year throughout residency and fellowship. They also receive an educational allowance for purchase of books, software, etc.
Donnell Fellows choose their scientific mentors in consultation with the Donnell Society director and their subspecialty training director. Scientific mentors receive an annual allowance to help cover training related expenses.
Scientific Mentor Requirements
- Demonstrated track record in training scientists
- Extramural funding
- Participation in Donnell Society events
- A commitment to training pediatric physician scientists
In addition to Scientific Mentors, Fellows are required to choose at least one clinical and/or career mentor. Our scientist mentors are experts in the following areas: