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Jennifer Gilner, MD, PhD, Hosts 2019 Scholars’ Retreat for AAOGF

Wednesday, August 7, 2019
By Jennifer Gilner, MD, PhD

Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist Jennifer Gilner, MD, PhD, recently hosted the 2019 Scholars’ Retreat for the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Foundation (AAOGF) and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) at Duke. The annual retreat brings together Scholar Committee Faculty from across the nation with early-faculty awardees of Career Development Research Training Scholarships, as well as early-/mid-faculty awardees of Bridge Fund Grants. The retreat is a valuable element of the AAOGF scholar programs, allowing for productive exchange of ideas and research progress review with faculty leadership across the timeline of the awards. Attendees discuss scholar progress, advice in navigating academic medicine, and tips on successful translational research.

This year’s retreat was a great success, as 13 scholars and 14 visiting faculty enjoyed a productive exchange of ideas relating to ongoing scholars’ work, interspersed with an inspiring program of Duke faculty who were invited to showcase the renowned research and institutional support at Duke. The academic program was opened by a personal account by Chancellor A. Eugene Washington, MD, of his path into academic medicine, which set the stage for thought with the take-home message to “get uncomfortable and stretch yourself.”

Nimmi Ramanujam, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Global Health, shared her inspiration and path to invention of the Pocket Colposcope and Callascope, two technologies which have changed the landscape for cervical cancer screening in Peru and Ghana. Matthias Gromeier, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery, gave an overview of his pioneering translational research in the field of cancer immunotherapy, describing the development of oncolytic virotherapy of primary CNS tumors by exploiting unique properties of poliovirus and interferon gamma signaling. Duke OB/Gyn Reproductive Sciences Division Chief Susan Murphy, PhD, presented a portion of her enlightening data regarding epigenetic effects of cannabis/THC exposure and the implications they may have for reproductive health now and in future generations. Scholars also appreciated a brief faculty development session on the stages of an academic career from the leader of the Duke School of Medicine Executive Coaching Program, Sharon Hull, MD.

The academic program was complemented by opportunities to experience a few highlights of Durham, as most retreat attendees were new to the area. The meeting was hosted in the beautiful newly renovated Chesterfield building in downtown Durham, which is also the laboratory home of the Robertson Lab of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures (including Dr. Gilner) and the Duke Children’s Health and Discovery Institute. 

The weekend retreat was a collaborative way for Dr. Gilner to share the Duke environment that fosters her progress in research, which was initially made possible by AAOGF and SMFM. Dr. Gilner’s research in her first three years on faculty has been supported in large part by the AAOGF/SMFM Career Development Award; and Becca Previs, MD, MS, has recently been awarded the AAOGF/GOG Career Development Award for 2019-2022. Several Duke faculty have been supported by similar AAOGF programs in their early faculty years, including Andrew Berchuck, MD; Angeles Secord, MD, MHSc; and Laura Havrilesky, MD, MHSc.

More information about the Scholarships and Grants referenced in this report:

The AAOGF generously supports Career Development 3-year Research Training Scholarships annually, in collaboration with the Foundation for SMFM (1 award), the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ABOG, 1 award), and the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) Foundation (1 award). In addition, AAOGF makes available 1-year bridge funding awards in conjunction with ABOG and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The awards are highly competitive, and selections are made by faculty comprising Scholar Committees for each of the Foundations – but what makes these awards incredibly unique is the dedication of the Scholar Committee Faculty to provide guidance, advice, and mentorship throughout the award period (and beyond!). For more information: