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Featured Research Trainee: Untargeted Metabolomic Profiling With Arthur Lee, MD
Editor’s Note: Our Featured Research Trainee for September is Arthur Lee, MD. Dr. Lee is a postdoctoral fellow at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the Division of Nephrology, under the mentorship of Michelle Denburg, MD, MSCE. In this Q&A, Dr. Lee discusses his research, his experiences at CHOP, and his photography.
Can you tell us about the degrees you have earned, and where you went to school?
I completed my BS in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before completing medical school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. I did my general pediatrics residency training here at CHOP. During that period, I took an extra year of dedicated research time supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine’s R38-Stimulating Access to Research in Residency program. Now, I am a second-year fellow in the Division of Nephrology.
What is a research project you are working on, and why is it important?
Over the past several years, I have worked with my mentor, Dr. Denburg, to study untargeted metabolomic profiling in children with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Our patients with CKD experience a high burden of clinical complications, and we think much of it is mediated by metabolic changes related to CKD.
Untargeted metabolomic profiling allows us to gain a much better understanding of these metabolic changes, and thus identify what we could potentially treat to improve our patients' care. I have looked within the Chronic Kidney Disease in Children (CKiD) cohort to identify metabolic signatures of CKD etiology, neurocognitive dysfunction, and cardiovascular disease.
I am excited to build on our work studying metabolomics in CKD, and my K38 grant was recently funded by the NHLBI. In this project, we will study genomic and metabolomic data from CKiD. We are aiming to use multi-omics approaches to understand the causal effects of the metabolites we have studied. Ultimately, we are trying to answer the question: Which of these circulating substances are directly causing toxicity to the heart in children with CKD?
What are some of the most salient training experiences you have had at CHOP thus far?
I think my personal career track has reinforced the importance of having a clinician perspective in research. After spending the majority (and sometimes overwhelming) amount of my time during residency and fellowship in direct patient care, I gained the ability to recognize where our limits in patient care are. Identifying knowledge and care gaps helps me drill down into why we are investigating a certain research question, how it adds to our field, and ultimately what potential benefit it could bring to our patients.
The most rewarding thing is interacting with all the different minds at CHOP. Everybody brings their own priorities, background, and expertise. The most fun I have in research comes from being able to volley ideas back and forth, constantly teaching and learning.
Aside from research, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
I take pride in methodical incrementalism. I cannot think of any one thing that I look back on as the pinnacle or so much better than everything else. Maybe my biggest accomplishment is being able to tell myself: “What do you want to learn today? What do you want to practice and get better at? It is OK if progress is slow or stalled today, as long as I am moving.” It is not about how quickly I can get to a finish line.
What do you do for fun when you are not working?
I love tennis, CrossFit, and landscape and wildlife photography. My favorite animals to photograph are seals, but I have a natural affinity with moose. I have unintentionally stumbled upon moose more often than is probably safe. I think it’s probably because we share a mutual affection for areas where forests meet water at unreasonably early hours of the day.