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 physician scientists to perform innovative and high quality research. The Society includes pediatric residents, subspecialty fellows, and faculty who are interested in performing pediatric research. It 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 will honor his contributions by continuing to train the best pediatric physician scientists.

  • Program Goals
  • Our Team
  • Donnell Scholars
  • About the Donnell Program
  • Application
  • Resources
  • Mentors
  • The Donnell Society encourages networking and provides guidance for all pediatric scientist trainees 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.
  • Donnell Scholars choose their scientific mentors in consultation with the Donnell Society program director and their respective subspecialty program director. Scientific mentors receive an annual allowance to help cover training-related expenses.

Donnell Society Steering Committee

Rohit Kohli, MBBS, MS


Rohit Kohli, MBBS, MS, is the Director of the George Donnell Society for Pediatric Scientists at CHLA.

Dr. Kohli currently serves as the Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Associates and Affiliates Endowed Chair in Liver and Intestinal Research, and Professor of Pediatrics (Clinical Scholar) at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Dr. Kohli’s research has focused on the pathogenesis of obesity-related (nonalcoholic) fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and sheds light on bile acid signaling in the generation and regulation of the extreme stage of this disease: nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In addition to his research, Dr. Kohli brings his experience as a pediatric hepatologist and years of mentorship to this role.

As Director, Dr. Kohli ‘s vision for the Donnell program focuses on three key areas:

  1. Provide high-quality training and mentorship and promote educational excellence through development of core competencies, methodological skills, and the longitudinal support of residents on their quest to becoming independent pediatric academicians
  2. Create an outstanding learning environment that emphasizes practical and collaborative science leveraging existing advantages of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
  3. In line with the CHLA Enterprise Strategic Plan and DOP’s renewed DEI efforts, increase diversity in our pediatric-academician pool

Robert Adler, MD, MSEd


Bob Adler, MD, MSEd, serves as Senior Advisor to the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, Chief Medical Officer of the CHLA Health System. He is also a Professor of Pediatrics and former Vice Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Dr. Adler served on the ACGME Pediatric Residency Review Committee, which develops national training guidelines and policies and accredits all pediatric training programs in the U.S.

Serving previously as head of the Division of General Pediatrics, Dr. Adler was involved in primary care. He has served on the board of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and on the National Task Force on the Future of Pediatric Education. Dr. Adler has been listed in “Best Doctors in America,” “Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare,” “America’s Top Pediatricians” and “Who’s Who in Science and Engineering.” He serves on the Advisory Board of the Simms/Mann Institute, the Board of Trustees for the Good Hope Medical Foundation, and the Medical Advisory Board of The Painted Turtle Camp, a camp for children with chronic pediatric illnesses. He was the recipient of the USC Mellon Mentoring Award in 2011, the Los Angeles Business Journal Healthcare Executive Award in 2013, and the Robert M. McAllister Award for faculty mentoring in 2014. He was the inaugural recipient of the CHLA Alumni Recognition Award; in 2015 he was the first physician to receive the prestigious DAISY Award, which is typically bestowed upon exceptional nurses by leadership and their peers for compassionate care at the bedside of sick and injured children; and in 2016 he was the recipient of the AltaMed Healthcare Service Award and the annual Robert Adler Lectureship in Medical Education endowment.

Yves DeClerck, MD


Yves DeClerck, MD, is a Professor of Pediatrics and Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at the Cancer and Blood Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Associate Director at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. DeClerck is a physician-scientist leading a research program focused on the tumor microenvironment in cancer progression with a focus on neuroblastoma, the second most common solid tumor in children. He collaborates with colleagues at CHLA, USC, City of Hope, and Weill Cornell. His laboratory has been funded without interruption by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1986. He has published more than 145 papers and review articles and is nationally and internationally recognized as a leader in the field of the tumor microenvironment. He frequently lectures in the U.S. and abroad, and he is an active member of the American Association for Cancer Research, having served on its Conference and Publication Committees, contributing to its Cancer Survivor Outreach Program and organizing several conferences sponsored by the Association. He was a Senior Editor for Cancer Research and is currently Senior Editor for Molecular Cancer Research. Dr. DeClerck has served and continues to serve on multiple NIH review groups, the European Research Council, and the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute of Texas. He was the co-Chair of the National Cancer Institute Tumor Microenvironment Network, a group of 11 leading academic institutions focusing on the tumor microenvironment. At USC-Norris, he co-led the Tumor Microenvironment Program for 24 years and is now the Associate Director for Cancer Research Training and Education.

Dr. DeClerck has mentored multiple postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in his own laboratory as well as junior faculty members. Since 1991, he has been the Principal Investigator of a National Cancer Institute-funded postdoctoral training grant. He is the Research Director for the fellows at the Cancer and Blood Institute at CHLA and the Program Director of the Pediatric Scientist Program of the Department of Pediatrics.

Jennifer Dien Bard, PhD, D(ABMM), F(CCM)


Jennifer Dien Bard, PhD, D(ABMM), F(CCM), is an Associate Professor of Pathology with Clinical Scholar designation in the Department of Pathology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She is the Director of the Clinical Microbiology and Virology Laboratories at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Chief of Academic and Research Development in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at CHLA. Dr. Dien Bard is also the Program Director of the Medical and Public Health Microbiology postdoctoral fellowship program at CHLA. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Medical Microbiology. Dr. Dien Bard serves on committees and working groups for several organizations, including the National Academy of Science (NAS), the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) and the Antimicrobial Resistance Leadership Group (ARLG). Dr. Dien Bard also served on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology and was an Invited Editor for the Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine Sepsis and Infectious Diseases Special Issue. Dr. Dien Bard has published over 90 scientific papers and is a frequent speaker in the areas of rapid molecular diagnostics for the identification of infectious diseases pathogens. Her clinical research studies explore the application and effects of laboratory diagnostic, particularly molecular diagnostics, on patient diagnosis, antimicrobial utilization and overall clinical outcome.

Juan Espinoza, MD, FAAP


After completing his undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis, Juan Espinoza, MD, FAAP, received an Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) at the Immunotherapy Unit of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During his time at the NIH, Dr. Espinoza worked on small molecule design, developing new therapeutic and research tools. Successively, he attended the Keck School of Medicine of USC, receiving his medical degree in 2010. Dr. Espinoza completed his pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in 2013, and in 2014 he became an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He is now a practicing general pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Dr. Espinoza’s clinical time is focused on complex care coordination and obesity management, while his research focuses on digital health, health information systems and patient-generated health data. He is the CTSI Director of Clinical Research Informatics for CHLA, and Medical Director of the CHLA Innovation Studio. In 2016, he joined the team at CTIP (the West Coast Consortium for Technology & Innovation Pediatrics) and took over as Director and Principal Investigator in 2018 with a new $6.6 million grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The guiding principle of Dr. Espinoza’s work is that data and technology have the potential to narrow the health gap faced by underserved communities all over the world.

Juan’s academic interests are complemented by his experiences outside of medicine. In 2010 he co-founded GC/MDDM, a digital media production company that works with television, film, web and mobile technologies. Through this endeavor, he has partnered with both the entertainment and health care industries to create and implement technology and media solutions to health care and education problems. Dr. Espinoza utilizes these same skills in his teaching, research and clinical practice.

Lorraine Kelley-Quon, MD, MSHS, FAAP


Dr. Lorraine Kelley-Quon, MD, MSHS, FAAP, is a practicing general surgeon at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Assistant Professor of Surgery and Preventive Medicine at USC. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and cell biology at the University of California, San Diego, and completed her medical degree and general surgery training at the University of California, Los Angeles, followed by a fellowship in pediatric surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. During residency, she completed the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program and obtained a master’s in Health Services Research from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Kelley-Quon’s research interests include optimizing opioid prescribing for children undergoing surgery, identifying and eliminating health care disparities for children, and translating health services research into health policy.

Michael Neely, MD, MSc, FCP


Dr. Neely is a Professor of Pediatrics (Clinical Scholar) at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He is a Board-certified pediatric infectious disease specialist physician with more than 20 years of experience in patient care, research, and mentoring of more than 40 visiting scholars, fellows and post-docs in clinical pharmacology and pharmacometrics. He serves as the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the Director of the CHLA Laboratory of Applied Pharmacokinetics and Bioinformatics. Dr. Neely’s lab created and maintains the Pmetrics population modeling and simulation package for R and the BestDose software to optimize individual patient dosing through applied pharmacometric techniques. He has recently expanded his lab to include hollow fiber capabilities, focusing on optimizing treatment of serious infections in pediatric patients such as Mycobacterium abscessus, Staphylococcus aureus, and resistant Gram-Negative bacteria. He is a National Institutes of Health-funded researcher, lectures and conducts pharmacometric workshops internationally, and has published over 100 peer-reviewed publications and nine book chapters.

Christopher Russell, MD, MS


Christopher J. Russell, MD, MS, is an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Hospital Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He completed his undergraduate degrees in psychology and biology at Harvard University, his medical degree at Harvard Medical School, his pediatric residency at the University of California, San Francisco, and his Master of Science in clinical, biomedical and translational Investigations at USC. His clinical responsibilities including attending on the pediatric inpatient service at CHLA. His current research focuses on improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of bacterial respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia, in children with complex medical conditions. His research efforts have been supported through receipt of the USC Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s KL2 Mentored Research Career Development Award (2014-16); the Academic Pediatric Association’s Young Investigator Award (2015-16); the National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program through the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (2017-present); and the Gerber Foundation (2020-present). Outside of his clinical and research responsibilities, Dr. Russell focuses on research mentorship of medical students, pediatric residents and pediatric hospital medicine fellows as well as improving representation of underrepresented minorities in medicine throughout the continuum of physician training.  

Tamara D. Simon, MD, MSPH


Tamara D. Simon, MD, MSPH, is a practicing pediatric hospitalist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with an interest in improving the quality of evidence in the inpatient health care provided to children with medical complexity. She is a Professor of Pediatrics (Clinical Scholar) in the Division of Hospital Medicine and Department of Pediatrics at USC as well as Principal Investigator at The Saban Research Institute at CHLA. As Faculty Director for Training, Education, Career Planning and Development (TECPAD) and Associate Director for Training and Education at The Saban Research Institute, Dr. Simon assists the TECPAD team in the design and implementation of programs to promote research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and The Saban Research Institute.

Michelle Thompson, MD


Michelle Thompson, MD, is the director of the Pediatric Residency Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. She is Board-Certified in pediatrics and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Thompson has a long track record of academic excellence and leadership. She has instructed and mentored hundreds of students, residents and graduates of the program at CHLA, and has also published and developed articles and academic resources on a wide range of pediatric education topics. Dr. Thompson serves on the executive leadership team of the General Pediatric Service (GPS), directs the Pre-Med Observership program that CHLA runs in partnership with Caltech, and previously served as co-chair of Region 9 of the American Pediatric Association (APA). She is a recipient of CHLA’s Victor E. Stork Award, Community Teaching Award, Barbara M. Korsch Award for Excellence in Medical Education and Philip E. Rothman Teaching Award. Thompson was also named a “Top Doctor” by Pasadena Magazine.

John Wood, MD, PhD


John Wood, MD, PhD, is Professor of Pediatrics, Radiology and Bioengineering at USC. He also serves as the Director of Cardiovascular MRI and Medical Director of the Clinical Trials Unit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Wood graduated from the University of California, Davis, in 1984 (electrical engineering) and received his MD/PhD (Bioengineering) from the University of Michigan in 1994. He performed his residency and fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Yale University and joined Children’s Hospital Los Angeles/Keck School of Medicine of USC in 1999. Clinically, he specializes in the MRI assessment of congenital heart disease and iron overload syndromes.

Dr. Wood has been studying the cardiovascular consequences of hemoglobinopathies for almost a decade. He is one of the pioneers of MRI-based cardiac and liver iron measurements but also studies oral chelation strategies in animals and humans (NCT00447694). He was the Principal Investigator for the Early Detection of Iron Cardiomyopathy Trial (1 RO1 HL075592-01A1), whose goal was to identify earlier markers of cardiac dysfunction in thalassemia syndromes. Dr. Wood also has studied pancreatic and pituitary iron burden by MRI and their functional correlates (1 U 54 HL090511-01, 1R01DK097115-01A1, NCT01376622).

In the past eight years, he has been studying the mechanisms and treatment of peripheral (1RC HL099412-01) and cerebral vasculopathy (1R01 HL095647-01, 1RO1HL136484) in chronic anemia syndromes, exploring the links between abnormal red cell mechanics and vascular dynamics in hemoglobinopathy patients. Dr. Wood was a Principal Investigator of an Excellence in Hemoglobinopathies Award at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (1U01HL117718-01), and a follow-up R01 (1RO1HL136484) focusing on mechanisms and predictors of progressive white-matter damage in sickle cell and thalassemia major patients. He is now extending those studies to patients with acquired anemia syndromes as well as survivors of the Fontan palliation for single ventricle.


Jessica Haladyna, MD


Jessica N. Haladyna, MD received her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC.

Following her undergraduate career, Dr. Haladyna was employed in the lab of Scott Armstrong, MD, PhD at Boston Children’s Hospital training in leukemia mouse models and normal hematopoietic assays. She continued this research at Children’s Hospital Colorado in the lab of Kathrin Bernt, MD using in vitro assays, murine transplants, and genome-wide methods to further explore molecular mechanisms of childhood leukemia. Here, she was involved in several projects including 1. small molecule inhibition of an epigenetic modifier (DOT1L) as a therapy for fusion protein-driven AML, 2. mechanisms of cell resistance to the DOT1L inhibitor, and 3. therapeutic potential of a membrane ion channel (Trpm2) in AML.

In medical school, Dr. Haladyna joined the lab of Jeffrey Toretsky, MD exploring mechanisms of action for a novel therapeutic agent used in the treatment of Ewing Sarcoma. This experience helped to improve her proficiency in proteomic techniques and cell-cycle analysis.

Dr. Haladyna will pursue a fellowship in Hematology-Oncology with long-term aims in drug development and translational research. She looks forward to a well-rounded pediatric residency experience followed by rich collaboration at The Saban Research Institute developing critical thinking and project development skills for a research-immersed career in childhood leukemia.


Andrew Wei, MD


Andrew Wei, MD received his medical degree from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. 

As an undergraduate, Dr. Wei was involved in research at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago investigating primary hyperoxaluria, a rare pediatric kidney disease. Then at the Germany Hyperoxaluria Center in Bonn, Germany, he helped develop a clinical assay using IC/MS for the detection of hydroxy-oxo-glutarate (HOG), a metabolite found in patients with primary hyperoxaluria type III.

In medical school, Dr. Wei joined the Jin Lab at Northwestern University, a laboratory focusing on biochemistry/immunology. He contributed to a number of projects resulting in publications: developing personalized peptide arrays to detect HLA alloantibodies in kidney transplantation, investigating oxidative stress in preeclampsia and placental angiogenesis, and researching the effects of post-translational modifications of nuclear antigens in lupus.

Dr. Wei plans on pursuing a career in pediatric critical care, with a research interest in the body’s immune response in critical states, such as in acute respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis. He finds caring for medically complex patients and families a rewarding experience. He looks forward to collaborating with faculty at The Saban Research Institute to better understand and identify therapeutics that modulate the immune system during critical illness.


Christopher Kuo, MD


Christopher Kuo, MD received his medical degree from Rush Medical College, Chicago, Illinois. He hopes to make an impact in the field of pediatric hematology-oncology, specifically osteosarcoma. 

During his undergraduate training in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Kuo was involved with basic biochemical research for three years investigating the role of specific proteins (MMP2/9) in breast cancer metastases. He developed basic technical skills in performing genotyping, breeding and project development. After college, he was involved with clinical trials, particularly assisting staff physicians in the assessment of concomitant medication, adverse events and quality assurance. 

Dr. Kuo looks forward to developing clinical training during his pediatric residency. He plans to pursue a fellowship in Hematology-Oncology and envisions working closely with a mentor to perform prospective clinical research and conduct bench research/biochemical research in molecular targets and immunotherapies for osteosarcoma.


Eric Nickels, MD

Nickels head shot 2018 (1).jpg

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. 

Donnell Scholars:

  • Participate in physician-scientist lectures, didactic meetings, mixers and social events.
  • Develop an individual development plan (IDP), in consultation with the Scholar's mentor, subspecialty fellowship director and Donnell Society steering committee.
  • Receive educational and travel allowances to attend one national conference per year throughout residency and fellowship.


Any current resident in the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Pediatric Residency Program is eligible to apply for the Donnell Society.

Underrepresented minorities in research, per the National Institutes of Health definition, are encouraged to apply.


Applicants with prior research accomplishments and future potential for success as independent investigators will be prioritized.

Application Timeline

Applications may be submitted beginning Tuesday, June 15, 2021.

All applications must be submitted by end of day Friday, July 30, 2021.

Decisions will be communicated before the end of August 2021.

To submit an application, download and complete the application form. Once completed, email your application and CV to and by Friday, July 30, 2021.

Contact Information

For further information and to submit your application, please email:

Virginia Mason, MPH, Donnell Society Coordinator

Rohit Kohli, MBBS, MS, Donnell Society Program Director

Donnell Scholars 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

To view a list of CHLA researchers, please click here.

To view a list of researchers at USC campuses, please click here.