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January 16, 2018
Media Contact: Leigh DeLozier, 404-778-3711,

Jessica Shantha, MD, selected to participate in prestigious BIRCWH research program

BIRCWH data bar Jessica Shantha, MD

(Atlanta) Emory Eye Center ophthalmologist Jessica Shantha, MD, has been chosen to participate as a scholar in the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Program. Emory University’s program—one of twenty active BIRCWH programs—will train eight scholars selected from Emory’s Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing over a five-year cycle.

Shantha’s selection to participate in the highly competitive career development program comes after an extensive application submission process and a scored review and selection period.

BIRCWH is one of the National Institute of Health’s Office of Research on Women’s Health mentored career-development programs that pairs junior faculty with senior faculty who share research interest in women’s health and/or sex/gender life science. The program was created in 2000 and has provided 77 grants to 41 institutions to date, supporting more than 600 junior faculty. Throughout the course of the program, scholars participate in mandatory intensive courses related to human subject research, further advance their research and academic survival skills, and produce a mentored research project.

Shantha became an Emory Eye Center (EEC) faculty member in September 2017. Prior to her employment with EEC, Dr. Shantha completed a transitional year program at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and her ophthalmology residency at Emory. After residency, she became a clinical and research fellow in medical retina disease at Retina Consultants of Hawaii; additionally, she was the Heed Ophthalmic Foundation clinical uveitis fellow with the Francis I. Proctor Foundation for one year.

During her Emory residency work with Dr. Steven Yeh, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Shantha became interested in uveitis, a subspecialty discipline that treats complex inflammatory and infectious ocular disease. She was involved in the treatment of Dr. Ian Crozier, a patient in recovery from Ebola virus disease (EVD) who developed an aggressive form of uveitis. It was subsequently discovered that Ebola virus persisted in his ocular fluid.

“Caring for Dr. Crozier was a pivotal point in my career, as it represented a unique opportunity to learn about this rare disease entity and raised urgent questions about potentially blinding disease in EVD survivors in West Africa and public health implications of EBOV persistence in ocular fluid,” Shantha says.

BIRCWH Program is allowing Shantha to document and determine the pathogenesis of ophthalmic sequalae of EVD, evaluate risks factors associated with ocular disease among EVD survivors, evaluate gender disparities, and identify means to address unmet vision care needs in women and barriers to health care. 

“The BIRCWH program gives you the tools and resources to develop into a clinician scientist, including enrollment into the MSCR program, mentorship, and the time to successfully complete a research study. It is these tools that will lay the ground work for future clinical research,” says Shantha. “I am committed to a career in academic medicine as an educator and clinician-scientist.”

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