Christine Paula Lewis-de los Angeles, a seventh-year student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), studies the relationship between perinatally-acquired HIV and brain structure in adolescence in the laboratory of Lei Wang, PhD, associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Radiology.
Where is your hometown?
I was born in New York City and my family moved to Connecticut when I was young. Since then, I’ve lived all over the United States, including California and Massachusetts, and have spent some time living abroad, in Geneva, Switzerland. I have lived in Chicago for the past seven years.
What are your research interests?
I am fascinated by all aspects of the brain and have focused on studying the effect of adverse early experiences, biological and environmental, on developmental trajectories of the brain using neuroimaging in healthy and clinical populations. My research has focused on studying structure and function of the brain at both the individual region and network levels.
What exciting projects are you working on?
For my PhD, I worked in the Neuroimaging and Applied Computational Anatomy Laboratory directed by Lei Wang, PhD. Specifically, I investigated the relationship between perinatally-acquired HIV and brain structure in adolescence. I found that even if children had well-controlled perinatally-acquired HIV, there were lasting cognitive effects in adolescence, likely due to infection of the brain during a critical period of development. This work was done in collaboration with faculty from the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, as well as the NIH Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS). I was supported through individual fellowships, including an F30 research fellowship award for MD/PhD students through the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) as well as the Dr. John N. Nicholson Fellowship for Northwestern PhD students.
What attracted you to the MD-PhD program?
I was attracted to Northwestern’s MD-PhD program because of its ability to train well-rounded physician-scientists who are strong both clinically and scientifically. I also was drawn to the interdisciplinary approach to neuroscience in the Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience (NUIN) PhD program.
I also found that Chicago is a wonderful place to train. While the summer is lots of fun with the lakefront and almost daily festivals in various neighborhoods in Chicago, the winters in Chicago also offer their own charm, including Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights, Chriskindlmarket, as well as the Maggie Daley Park ice skating ribbon.
What has been your best experience at Feinberg?
One of my favorite experiences at Feinberg was serving as both a student director and mentor for a volunteer program called PRISM, which stands for Promoting Inner-City Youth in Science and Medicine. Every other Tuesday, MSTP students meet with high school students at one of the Boys & Girls Clubs in Chicago to teach them about science and medicine through experiments and clinical cases. I have also enjoyed being involved with various organizations encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM fields.
How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?
The faculty at Feinberg have been extremely supportive of me as an aspiring physician-scientist and parent. They have been there for me through both failed and successful experiments, every grant submission, challenging and rewarding patient cases on the wards, as well as through the milestones of my growing family. I know these mentoring relationships will last a lifetime.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband and my two-year-old daughter. Seeing my daughter grow and develop sparks of new understanding every day brings me joy. Together, as a family, we often walk from our apartment in Streeterville to local farmer’s markets, flower shops, museums and libraries. We also spend a lot of time in the kitchen at home, trying out new recipes for fun ice cream flavors or bread. Otherwise, I like to spend my time knitting, reading memoirs and solving puzzles.
What are your plans after graduation?
I am starting residency at the Brown University Triple Board Program, which is an interdisciplinary program that will train me to be a pediatrician and a child psychiatrist at the same time. I plan to continue my career as a physician-scientist, devoting time to both patient care and research. In the future, as a physician-neuroscientist with triple board training, my clinical and research focus will be on neurodevelopmental populations, adverse early experiences and brain development.
Connect with Paula on LinkedIn.