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Arlene Chung, MD, and Jiandong Liu, PhD, will use their four-year, $20,000 awards to further their research and scholarly work at the UNC School of Medicine.

Arlene Chung, MD, and Jiandong Liu, PhD, will use their four-year, $20,000 awards to further their research and scholarly work at the UNC School of Medicine.

Arlene Chung, MD
Jiandong Liu, PhD

June 12, 2019

The UNC School of Medicine has selected Arlene Chung, MD, MHA, MMCi, assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics, and Jiandong Liu, PhD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, as the 2019 Jefferson Pilot Award recipients. Each will receive $5,000 for each of the next four years to support their scholarly endeavors.

Chung was selected to receive the award for her research that seeks to develop new statistical and visualization approaches to enable precision lifestyle recommendations.

Her research is focused on patients with inflammatory bowel diseases and leverages prior work from IBD Partners, which is a PCORI-funded, patient-powered research network. Chung and her team plan to develop innovative preprocessing, machine learning, and visualization methods to leverage patient-generated health data more effectively. Additionally, she will develop a software platform called Precision VISSTA to allow for data exploration through interactive visualizations to examine various types of patient-generated health data from wearable devices and apps that measure physical activity and sleep.

Chung’s efforts will be valuable in combing heterogeneous data from numerous patients into an integrated platform to enable knowledge discovery at both individual patient and cohort levels. Precision VISSTA will present results in novel visual formats to make insights about individual patients more accessible to health care providers.

Chung, a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, is also associate director of the Program on Health and Clinical Informatics and maintains an active primary care clinical practice focused on the care of complex patients with cancer and multiple chronic conditions. She also serves as the Lead Informatics Physician for Patient Engagement for UNC Health Care.

Read more about her work.

Jiandong Liu, PhD, an associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and member of the McAllister Heart Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, conducts research to determine the role of neuroregulin in cardiac innervation and the potential role of loss of its function in the development of cardiac arrhythmias.

Congenital heart diseases are one of the most common birth defects in humans, and they arise from developmental defects during embryogenesis. Many of these diseases have a genetic component, but they might also be affected by environmental factors such as mechanical forces. The Liu lab combines genetics with molecular and cell biology to study cardiac development and function, focusing on the molecular mechanisms that link mechanical forces and genetic factors to cardiac morphogenesis. His lab uses zebrafish as a model system to address the key questions in cardiac development and function, and could provide novel therapeutic interventions for cardiac diseases.

In particular, the Liu lab investigates the role of ventricular innervation in ventricular structural maturation and how targeted genetic alterations of innervation of the developing heart leads to changes in the complexity of trabeculation of the ventricles.

Read more about his most recent publication on a molecular player in heart enlargement due to cardiac disease.