The Pediatric Center of Excellence in Nephrology (PCEN) at UVA has been very productive. The PCEN has created and enhanced many educational activities within the Department of Pediatrics such as the Annual Pediatric Research Symposium, the Annual Trainee Competition, the Betsy and Stuart Houston Lecture, the Pediatric Research Seminar Series and Grant Review Sessions. Crucial findings have been made and novel methodologies have been established that were instrumental for the success of the program.

A website for the Center was developed and launched. This site includes an overview of the Center, summaries of the individual projects and short biographies of the main investigators. It also provides information about the enrichment programs for students and the public and a link to the NIDDK website. The Enrichment Program of the Center has been successful in attracting and supporting junior faculty through Pilot Projects, and retaining graduate students to research in Pediatric Nephrology. Most of the students that applied for rotations and our Summer Research Program learnt about us from the UVA PCEN website. A full progress report including publications can also be found at the Center website.

Seminar Series

The Seminar Series, directed by Dr. Sequeira-Lopez, consist on fully CME accredited educational lectures for medical professionals focused on Basic, Clinical and Translational Research topics to explore cutting edge developments that will ultimately benefit the diagnosis and treatment of childhood illnesses with a special emphasis on kidney disease. Speakers are from UVA and also include eminent national and international invited scientists. All seminars have a moderator assigned. Seminars are scheduled on Fridays at noon so that the residents and most pediatric faculty can attend, but it is open and free for all the School of Medicine and other faculty interested in research. The content is purposely broad to 1) allow residents expand their knowledge and vision about research and translational medical care and 2) learn about novel technologies in other research areas that can be applied to kidney research. The clinician-scientist role is critical to the future of health care, and a major goal of this Seminar Series by maintaining vigorous and diverse research topics is to motivate our young physicians to become Physician-scientists. The Seminar Series has been praised and very well attended. The full list of seminars can be accessed through our webpage

Annual Pediatric Research Symposium

Under the direction of Dr. Sequeira Lopez from 2014, and with the intellectual support from the PCEN members, the Annual Pediatric Research Symposium increased visibility of the Department of Pediatrics research groups, established new collaborations and attracted students at all levels. In addition to inviting prominent pediatric scientists to deliver the Keynote Lecture and interact with trainees during the poster session, we implemented the “Meet the speaker” Session, an educational activity oriented to trainees and young faculty. This consists on an informal open discussion about practical research topics aimed to guide attendees in the advancement of their academic careers. Please note below (in bold) that 3 out of the 4 speakers are Pediatric Nephrology Scientists.

Annual Pediatric Research Trainee Competition

Under the direction of Dr. Sequeira Lopez from 2014, the abstracts submitted by trainees to the Pediatric Research Symposium are evaluated and graded by a committee. The top scored (12) give an oral presentation 2 weeks before the Research Symposium, and then the top 3 winners present orally their abstracts at the Pediatric Research Symposium and receive an award.

In addition, we implemented in 2015 the UVA Lifetime Achievement Award in Pediatric Science.


(see progress report on Pilot and Feasibility Program)

Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira-Lopez are mentors on the T32 Training Grant: Kidney Disease & Inflammation (NIH DK072922,PI Dr. Mark Okusa). Dr Sequeira-Lopez is currently the mentor of a Pediatric Nephrology first year fellow (Dr. Tahagod Mohamed) as part of the T32. The three PIs of the PCEN mentor students (at all stages) and junior faculty.

Betsy and Stuart Houston Lecture

In 2016, Dr. Gomez established the Betsy and Stuart Houston Lecture, an annual event to invite renown scientists to give an illuminating scientific lecture and interact with our faculty and trainees. The first invited speaker was the 2007 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine Dr. Mario Capecchi. The title of his talk was: “Gene Targeting into the 21st Century: Mouse Models of Human Disease from Cancer to Neuropsychiatric Disorders.” His lecture filled the entire auditorium — leaving every chair filled, the stairs stacked on both sides, and the back of the room lined (see photo) — as well as provided a live broadcast to attendees in a separate study hall. We also organized a lunch session where faculty and students within the UVA School of Medicine met with Dr. Capecchi to have a general discussion about scientific research. The title was “The making of a scientist” and was moderated by Dr. Sequeira Lopez. For 2017 the speaker will be Dr. Johannes Carolus (Hans) Clevers, from Utrecht University.

Grant Review Sessions

Under the coordination of Dr. Sequeira Lopez from 2015, we established an educational activity to review grants proposals from our Junior Faculty in Pediatrics. We identify and invite specialists from within and outside Pediatrics to evaluate the proposals and give constructive feed back. The Specific Aims page is distributed a week in advance. A moderator is assigned, who within a week after the presentation will write and send the presenter a summary of the discussion and recommendations.

“Noninvasive MRI Techniques to Detect Pathology in Murine Models of Renal Disease” Jennifer Charlton, MD, Sep. 18, 2015. This proposal was awarded this year the Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant from the American Society of Nephrology and recently a 13 percentile on an RO1 submission.

  • “GSNOR/S-nitrosothiol Regulation of Vesicular Transport” Lisa Palmer, PhD, Sep. 25, 2015. This proposal was scored, not funded and recently resubmitted.
  • “Health and Development Improvements for Children in Rural Tanzania” Mark DeBoer, MD, Rebecca Scharf, MD, Nov. 6, 2015
  • “Immunomodulation through the O-glycome by Serine proteases of Enterobacteriaceae” Fernando Ruiz, PhD, Nov. 20, 2015
  • “A longitudinal study of trauma-alcohol conditioning and DNA methylation in posttraumatic stress disorder and alcohol use disorder symptoms” Erin C. Berenz, PhD, Dec.18, 2015
  • “Effects of Newborn Detergent Use on Allergic Diseases in Childhood” Julia Wisniewski, MD, Feb. 19, 2016
  • “Strategies of Pathogenic E. Coli to Colonize the Host” Jorge A Giron, PhD, May 6, 2016

Student Training

The PCEN is very successful in providing research exposure to high school and college students and attracting graduate and medical students to Pediatric Nephrology Research. In addition, the laboratories of each PCEN PIs hosted summer research students (in state and out of state) to pursue projects funded by the Administrative Supplement for Summer Students. Two predoctoral students Eugene Lin and Yan Hu from the UVA Department of Biology training in the laboratories of Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira-Lopez successfully completed their projects, received several awards (i.e AHA Junior investigator awards, Mid Atlantic forum) and obtained their PhDs in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Dr. Dr. El-Dahr has three predoctoral students from the interdisciplinary Biomedical Science Program at Tulane. We have already received applications from undergraduate students for next Summer.

PCEN Summer Students

Lectures at UVA and Tulane by the PIs of the PCEN

Public Engagement and Education.

  • The activities of the PCEN at UVA have been publicized through:
  • Poster presentation at the American Society of Nephrology meeting in November, 2014, Philadelphia, PA. Gomez RA, El-Dahr S, Chevalier R, Pentz ES, Sequeira Lopez MLS. Pediatric Center of Excellence in Nephrology. “Opportunities to learn methods in epigenetics, cell fate analysis and kidney injury/repair.”
  • Our website which is updated regularly to include the new pilot project and list the publications resulting from the Center research projects.
  • Weekly emails with Seminar announcements.
  • Kids Matter, the weekly newsletter of the UVA Children’s Hospital.
  • Lay presentations to the members of the UVA Children Hospital Committee, and laboratory tours to engage and educate our community members that can then further disseminate the importance of our program (on a yearly basis).