Four VP&S Physicians Named 2022 Gerstner Scholars

Four physician-scientists were recently named 2022 Gerstner Scholars: Rebecca Muhle, MD, PhD; Jennifer Small-Saunders, MD, PhD; Neil Vasan, MD, PhD; and Peter Yim, MD.

The Louis V. Gerstner Jr. Scholars Program provides exceptional physician-scientists at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) with vital funding. Each scholar receives a stipend of $75,000 per year for three years for salary or laboratory support. The support allows early-career scientists to conduct pioneering research and gather the pilot data necessary to apply for grants from the National Institutes of Health and other sources. The Gerstner Scholars Program, established in 2008 by Louis V. Gerstner Jr. and the Gerstner Family Foundation, helps make VP&S a major engine of medical innovation.

The program also awarded the Gerstner Merit Award to 2019 Scholar Amélie Collins, MD, PhD. The Gerstner Merit Award, created in 2014, provides an additional year of funding and recognizes an exceptional third-year Gerstner Scholar who conducts innovative research, has shown significant growth as an academic medicine investigator, and is ideally positioned to secure a significant principal investigator award.

Read more about the awards below:

2022 Gerstner Scholars

Rebecca Muhle, MD, PhD

Dr. Rebecca Muhle

Rebecca Muhle

Assistant Professor, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry

Project: “Characterization of novel phenotypes resulting from loss of the autism risk gene CHD8.”

Muhle’s research will contribute to the medical community’s understanding of the developmental neurobiology of autism. She is board-certified in general psychiatry and child & adolescent psychiatry with a strong record of clinical work focused on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders, matched with research skills in functional genomics and molecular biology. The potential applications of her work to ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders are numerous.

Muhle also has an appointment as a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She earned her BA from the University of Texas at Austin and her MD and PhD degrees from Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Jennifer Small-Saunders, MD, PhD

Dr. Jennifer Small-Saunders

Jennifer Small-Saunders

Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine

Project: “tRNA reprogramming as a driver of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum.”

Small-Saunders’s investigation is a novel scientific direction that has the potential to illuminate an entirely new mechanism by which malaria parasites can acquire drug resistance. As an infectious diseases physician-scientist, she applies innovative gene-editing and mass spectrometry techniques to understand the molecular mechanisms of drug resistance in P. falciparum parasites.

She earned her BS in biochemistry from Georgetown University and her MD and PhD degrees in microbiology & immunology from Weill Cornell Medical College.

Neil Vasan, MD, PhD

Dr. Neil Vasan

Neil Vasan

Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine

Project: “Targeting SHP2 in EGFR+ metastatic triple negative breast cancer”

Vasan’s project will characterize and test a new therapeutic target in breast cancer. He is leveraging his bench and clinical research expertise to improve patient outcomes by developing a research program focused on how cell signaling and proteogenomic changes drive breast cancer growth and therapy response.

He graduated with an AB/AM in chemistry from Harvard University and MD and PhD degrees from the Yale University School of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program.

Peter Yim, MD

Dr. Peter Yim

Peter Yim

Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology

Project: “Endogenous ligands of opsin3 in human and mouse airways”

Yim’s research project will identify a unique, potential therapeutic target for human airway smooth muscle relaxation in asthma with potential applications to pathologic smooth muscle hypercontractile states in other organ systems.

He earned his BA in biomedical engineering at Columbia University and his MD at SUNY-Downstate Medical School. He completed an NIH T32 Fellowship at Columbia, followed by an anesthesiology residency and a neuro-anesthesiology and NIH T32 fellowship at Columbia.

2022 Gerstner Merit Awardee

Dr. Amélie Collins

Amélie Collins

Amélie Collins, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Through her research, Collins aims to develop new approaches for the treatment of preterm and term infants she sees in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Her interest in science was sparked by an immunology course at the University of Chicago, where she received her BS in biology. She earned her MD and PhD degrees at the New York University School of Medicine. Upon moving to Columbia University for her pediatric residency and neonatology-perinatology fellowship training, Collins developed an interest in the development of the hematopoietic system in the fetus. Collins’ work on the development of natural killer cells in the human fetus resulted in an insightful paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight.

Her goal is to gain in-depth expertise in hematopoietic stem cells and the biology of early multipotent progenitors to complement her immunology training and develop her independent research that integrates these two aspects.