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Cohn Fellowship

Group photo

Every year, the Cohn Family Foundation provides grant funding to support junior faculty at RUSH University who are mentees in the RUSH Research Mentoring Program.

The Cohn Fellowship allows mentees to gather preliminary data for research proposals and continue their research activities.

Class of 2024 Cohn Fellows

The following faculty members were selected as the Class of 2024 Cohn Fellows after a very competitive process.

Adrian Mansini, PhD

Adrian Mansini, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology at RUSH Medical College. He earned his PhD in molecular biology at the Universidad of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He completed his first postdoctoral fellowship at the Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, and his second postdoctoral fellowship at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

His research focuses on metastatic prostate cancer. He is particularly interested in developing novel biomarkers of prostate cancer progression and metastasis. Also, he is developing a new cell-based therapy for prostate cancer bone metastasis.

His Cohn Fellowship research will establish the significance of tumor MD2 as a predictor of aggressiveness and metastasis in prostate cancer and determine the efficacy of targeting MD2 as a therapeutic approach in two murine models of prostate cancer metastasis. The result will be novel and significantly impactful as these data will provide proof of principle for further development and future clinical trials.

Alia Obeidat, BDS, PhD

Alia Obeidat, BDS, PhD, is an Instructor and Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, RUSH Medical College. Her research focuses on characterizing the temporal and spatial neuroplasticity that occurs during osteoarthritis (OA), in addition to understanding the functional significance of these changes for OA disease, pain as well as joint integrity.

Her Cohn Fellowship research will investigate the role of mechanosensitive Mas-related G Protein-Coupled Receptor D (MrgprD) in weight bearing pain and knee hyperalgesia in murine post-traumatic osteoarthritis.

Brian T. David, PhD

Brian T. David, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery in RUSH Medical College. His research focuses on spinal cord injury (SCI) and other disease/disorders of the central nervous system. His most recent work investigates the neuroinflammatory response to traumatic SCI, with an emphasis on some of the secondary injury components that arise in both the acute and chronic stages (e.g., pain, autonomic dysfunction, bone loss, and gut dysbiosis). He also uses cell transplantation and biomaterial implantation to better understand the consequences of SCI-induced inflammation and promote functional recovery.

His Cohn Fellowship research will determine if in vitro preconditioning (through the application of hypoxia mimetics) will increase the survival of mesenchymal stem cells following their transplantation into the injured spinal cord, and if this enhanced survival will be better able to increase the cells’ ability to modulate the inflammatory response at the injury site. He will also determine if this reduction in inflammation translates into superior recovery of locomotor, sensory, and autonomic function.

Jonathan A. Gustafson, PhD

Chuka Nestor Emezue, Ph.D., MPH, MPA, CHES®, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Women, Children and Family Nursing at the RUSH College of Nursing. His research focuses on using community-based and technology-enhanced interventions to improve the health, wellbeing, economic stability, and prospects of young boys and men impacted by co-occurring violence, substance use, and mental health disorders.

For his Cohn Fellowship, he will begin developing and adapting a novel intervention called FatherlyACT -- a father-led relationship violence prevention program with violence-involved Black father-son dyads implemented with in-person and online components and based on the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is a trauma- and healing-oriented form of cognitive behavioral therapy. FatherlyACT aims to promote the safety and psychological wellbeing of Black mothers and children exposed to domestic violence by improving violent fathers’ parenting skills and reducing the intergenerational transfer of violence.   

Jonathan A. Gustafson, PhD, is an Instructor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Director of Research for the RUSH-IBTS International Fellowship Program. His research focuses on studying the mechanics of motion and how the aging process, as well as musculoskeletal injuries and diseases, impact joint mechanics. His long-term goal is to identify key modifiable risk factors that contribute to functional movement deficits and develop personalized intervention strategies to optimize joint health. His most recent work has been aimed at characterizing the in vivo behavior of both natural joints and orthopedic implants using experimental and computational biomechanical approaches.

His Cohn Fellowship research will determine the relationship between muscle-tendon quality, muscle strength, and self-reported shoulder joint function in patients with and without rotator cuff tear arthropathy undergoing reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. He will also investigate the interaction of varying implant, surgical, and patient-specific factors that drive post-surgical shoulder function in both high functioning and low functioning patients following reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. 

Sarah Sansom, DO, MS

Sarah Sansom, DO, MS, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases in RUSH Medical College. Her research focuses on the epidemiology and prevention of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens in healthcare facilities.

Her Cohn Fellowship research will investigate the impact of clinical decision support, implemented as a computerized Best Practice Alert, for the ordering of urine cultures from patients with a urinary catheter. Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) are common healthcare-associated infections, but inappropriate ordering of urine cultures can lead to overdiagnosis. False diagnosis of a CAUTI causes important patient harms, including unnecessary antibiotic exposure.

She will assess clinical outcomes, including both potential benefits and harms, as a result of this Best Practice Alert. If successful, this low-cost intervention can be easily translated to other healthcare settings to improve urine culture diagnostic accuracy and decrease unnecessary antibiotic use.

Uzma Akhtar, PhD, AuD

Uzma Akhtar, PhD, AuD, is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Disorders and Sciences department in the College of Health Sciences at RUSH University Medical Center. Her research focuses on healthy aging and hearing and factors that contribute to age-related hearing loss.

Her Cohn Fellowship research will focus on understanding if individuals exposed to loud noises show signs of age-related hearing loss sooner than individuals without a history of exposure to loud noises.

With this knowledge, Dr. Akhtar and her team will be able to design and test diagnostic protocols and individualized interventions to reducing the combined effects of noise- and age-related hearing loss.

Class of 2023 Cohn Fellows

The following faculty members were selected as the Class of 2023 Cohn Fellows after a very competitive process.

Adrienn Markovics, MD, PhD

Adrienn Markovics, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, RUSH Medical College. Her research focuses on inflammatory joint disease and newly orthopedic implant-associated infection. She is particularly interested in investigating if activation of a protein tyrosine phosphatase can be exploited to the treatment of inflammatory arthritis and in the development of local drug delivery systems to fight periprosthetic infection.

Her Cohn Research Fellowship will investigate the electrochemical deposition of pharmacological agents onto metal implants to treat and eradicate peri-prosthetic infection.

Amanda L Marzo, PhD

Amanda L. Marzo, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine (Division of Hematology, Oncology and Cell Therapy) in RUSH Medical College. Her research focuses on immune oncology with an emphasis on metastatic breast cancer. Her most recent work uses a combination of agents including the seasonal influenza vaccine in combination with immunostimulatory agents to potentiate the effectiveness of immune checkpoint inhibition therapy in metastatic triple negative breast cancers that are resistant to current therapies.

Her overall goal is to overcome the resistance and promote the rapid restimulation and generation of tumor-killing immune cells capable of driving tumor clearance and durable antitumor immunity to improve the outcomes of patients with metastatic breast cancer.

Her Cohn Fellowship research will determine the impact of tumor growth and breast cancer metastasis has on atrial fibrillation, the most common cardiac arrhythmia. She will also quantify the impact immunotherapies have on atrial pathophysiological remodeling.

Chundo Oh, PhD

Chundo Oh, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, RUSH Medical College. She received a PhD in Life Science from GIST in Korea and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Genetics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her postdoctoral training with Dr. Benoit de Crombrugghe, MD, identified important genome-wide transcriptional regulation during bone development.

Currently, she is a member of International Spine Research & Innovation Initiative, which is an interdisciplinary team of clinicians and scientist whose goal is to understand and treat spine related disorders and its associated pain. She is a member of the Orthopaedic Research Society and the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

She received the 2022 Cohn Fellowship Award for her studies to help to determine the regulatory mechanisms of beta-catenin and CCL2 in disc degeneration and back pain to develop biological strategies in these animal models that can ultimately be translated to benefit patients with back pain.

Xiaoran Liu, MSc, PhD, FAHA

Xiaoran Liu, MSc, PhD, FAHA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine. She is also a nutritional epidemiologist and clinical trialist at the RUSH Institute for Healthy Aging.

Her research focuses on diet and lifestyle intervention to prevent cardiometabolic diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline. She received this year’s Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant. Her current research investigates the link between dietary antioxidants and risk of cognitive decline among population with varying genetic risk profiles.

Her Cohn Fellowship research will investigate the impact of nutrients in modifying the relation of blood biomarkers of neurodegeneration and risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The investigation will facilitate in informing when to introduce dietary intervention for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Class of 2022 Cohn Fellows

  • Puja Agarwal, PhD
  • Lauren E. Bradley, PhD
  • Kajal Gupta, PhD
  • Alana E. Kirby, MD, PhD
  • Carrie Richardson, MD, MHS

Class of 2021 Cohn Fellows

  • Vaskar Das, PhD
  • Klodian Dhana, MD, PhD
  • Frank C. Ko, PhD
  • Colleen Stiles-Shields, PhD
  • Lai Wang, MD, PhD

Class of 2020 Cohn Fellows

  • Faraz Bishehsari, MD, PhD
  • Lionel C. Clement, PhD
  • Kristen Haut, PhD
  • Kevin C. Jones, PhD
  • Lauren M. Little, PhD, OTR/L
  • Dominika A. Winiarski, PhD

Class of 2019 Cohn Fellows

  • Dawn Bounds, PhD, APRN, PMHNP-BC
  • Shannon Halloway, PhD, RN, FAHA
  • Meghan Moran, PhD
  • Robin Pourzal, PhD

Class of 2018 Cohn Fellows

  • Sandra Gomez-Perez, PhD, RD, LDN
  • Nelia Jain, MD
  • Tieshi Li, PhD
  • Amanda L. Persons, PhD
  • Antonia Zaferiou, PhD

Class of 2017 Cohn Fellows

  • Christopher Ferrigno, PhD, PT
  • Philip Held, PhD
  • Gian Pal, MD
  • Ryan Ross, PhD
  • Allison Wainer, PhD

Class of 2016 Cohn Fellows

  • Jamie Cvengros, PhD
  • Mahboobeh Mahdavinia, MD, PhD
  • Rachel E. Miller, PhD
  • Natalie Stevens, PhD
  • Jitesh Pratap, PhD

Class of 2015 Cohn Fellows

  • Aimee Hodowanec, MD
  • Joan O'Keefe, PT, PhD
  • Tochukwu M. Okwuosa, DO
  • Latha Soorya, PhD
  • Christopher Stewart, PhD

If you are interested in applying for the Cohn Fellowship next year, email us at