Hans Bjornsson, M.D., Ph.D.
Margaret Ellen Nielson Fellow 2007-08
in the Institute of Genetic Medicine:
Why did you choose to do a residency in genetics?
BJORNSSON: I chose to do a residency in genetics in 2000 after attending the Short Course in Medical and Experimental Mammalian Genetics. I also did a clinical rotation in McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine. Those two Hopkins experiences deeply inspired me and I was impressed by both the field and the faculty and have been on that training path ever since.
You earned a Ph.D. in Human Genetics at Johns Hopkins before entering the residency program; how does the residency complement your educational and professional foundation?
BJORNSSON: I believe the combined pediatric and genetics residency training will help ground me within these two clinical specialties and enable me to help bring some of the fruits of the Human Genome Project into clinical medicine.
What are your research interests?
BJORNSSON: My graduate work focused on developing methods to study epigenetic variation in populations. My current postgraduate research focuses on developing epigenetic therapies for a subgroup of Mendelian disorders that are associated with epigenetic abnormalities.
Why did you choose to study genetics here, at Hopkins?
BJORNSSON: The number of physician-scientist role models at Johns Hopkins, including the late Victor McKusick, Barton Childs, David Valle, Hal Dietz and others. My interactions with these individuals have far exceeded my expectations.
What do you envision yourself doing after completing the residency?
BJORNSSON: I hope to help set up one of the first epigenetics clinics in the world. We now know of a number of conditions for which changes in epigenetics contributes to pathogenesis. These conditions have many features in common affected patients might best be served by a clinic solely focused on epigenetic disorders given the complexities in the diagnostic workup. Such a clinic would also help develop the expertise needed to better classify these types of patients and help develop epigenetic therapies.
Do any special moments of your time spent in the residency program stand out from the rest?
BJORNSSON: My fondest memories have been private patient-related interactions, receiving the Margaret Ellen Nielsen Fellowship from the genetics residency program and receiving the Schwentker Award from the department of pediatrics. I am still amazed that I was awarded these two prestigious honors given the number of incredibly talented people in both departments that I have the fortune of training with.