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Susan M. MacDonald, MD

Professor of Medicine


  • Professor
  • Associate Chair, Department of Medicine
  • Interim Director, Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
  • Professor of Medicine


Susan M. MacDonald, M.D. is currently a Professor of Medicine, the Associate Chair of the Department of Medicine and the Interim Director of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry, cum laude, from Regis College in 1972. She received her M.D. Degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1980. She did her residency training in internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1980-1983; a Fellowship in Clinical Rheumatology, 1983-1984; Assistant Chief of Service on the Osler Medical Service at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1984-1985 and a second postdoctoral research fellowship in the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Hopkins, 1985-1987. 

Dr. MacDonald joined the Faculty of the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor in 1987 and has remained at Johns Hopkins ever since.

Dr. MacDonald has enjoyed a distinguished career in academic internal medicine. Her laboratory was the first to clone a novel cytokine termed histamine releasing factor (Science 1995;269:688-690).  In vitro, her laboratory has demonstrated that this histamine releasing factor activates basophils, eosinophils and inhibits T cells. It is also found in vivo in biologic fluids in the late phase of an allergic reaction. Additionally, her laboratory uncovered a molecular basis forhyperreleasability of basophils from allergic and asthmatic subjects. She demonstrated that basophils from these subjects have decreased levels of the intracellular signaling molecule, SHIP, a phosphatase. These molecular studies define unique signal transduction events in the basophils from this population of patients. Her work also focused on producing an HRF inducible transgenic mouse that exacerbates signs of human allergic disease (PloS One: 2010, Jun 11; 5(6)e11077:1-12). Throughout all of this work she maintained her status as an active, NIH-funded investigator. 

Dr. MacDonald is a Fellow of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI), a Member of the American Association of Immunologists and was named to the Executive Council of the Collegium Internationale Allergolicum, a prestigious international allergy and immunology society with limited, elective membership. She has served as a Guest Editor for Springer Seminars in Immunopathology , a Guest Editor for Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America and has been a Guest Author for a chapter in Current Opinion in Immunology. She has served as a Scientific Program Chairperson for the AAAAI. Her accomplishment in academic allergic disease research was recognized by being one of the first recipients of the AAAAI Women Physician in Allergy Awards. Additionally, she received the Women’s Involvement in the AAAAI Committee Award and in 2008, she was the recipient of the Gail G. Shapiro Honorary AAAAI Special Recognition Award. She served on the FDA Allergenic Products Advisory Committee and the Academic Advisory Board for Pfizer’s Visiting Professorships in Allergic Diseases and Asthma. She was also elected to the prestigious Interurban Clinical Club a scientific club with limited membership that was started by William Osler in 1905.  

Dr. MacDonald’s scientific accomplishments are impressive enough, but they stand out especially in light of the fact that she has been able to build her scientific momentum while devoting substantial amounts of time, energy and creativity to issues of faculty development for both men and women. She was a key charter member of the Task Force for Women’s Careers in Academic Medicine. When she chaired this Task Force, she implemented a Mentoring Program for women fellows that was extended to all faculty in the Department of Medicine. She became Deputy Director for Faculty Development under Dr. Edward Benz, then Chairman of the Department. During that time, she developed the Career Development Guide for the Department of Medicine that described the steps in the process of academic promotion and the trajectory for junior faculty. That document was extended to the level of the School of Medicine and, working with Vice Dean, Dr. Janice Clements, developed the Professional Development Guide (The Silver Book) for the entire School of Medicine. She was also instrumental in reinitiating the Orientation for all new Faculty Members at the School of Medicine. She has subsequently assumed the position as the first woman Associate Chair in the Department of Medicine under Chairman, Dr. Myron Weisfeldt. In that position, she is responsible for faculty development and recruitment and retention.

 Susan’s passion is mentoring junior faculty and fellows, both men and women. To this end, she has been awarded the Women in Leadership Award from the Johns Hopkins University Women’s Network and is a recipient of the Department of Medicine’s David M. Levine Excellence in Mentoring Award. More recently, she has been named the first recipient of the Vice Dean’s Award for the Advancement of Women. This award recognizes the faculty member who has demonstrated commitment to recruitment, mentoring and advancement of women faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and will be presented in March 2009.

In April 2013 she became the Interim Director of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunolgy. This is one of the largest free-standing Allergy Divisions in the country and is nationally and internationally known for its focus on human allergic diseases.

With respect to the community Dr. MacDonald was one of 10 women leaders in the City of Baltimore and the only physician to receive the YWCA of Greater Baltimore Academy of Leaders Award for Science and Education.

Dr. MacDonald and her husband, David R. Herron, Ph.D. live in Severna Park, Maryland. Dr. Herron is the Editorial Assistant at the Maryland State Archives.


  • English
Additional Resources +
  • Education +


    • M.D., University of Massachusetts, Worcester, MA, 1980
    • B.A., Regis College, 1972


    • The Johns Hopkins Unversity School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1987, Clinical Immunology
    • The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1984, Rheumatology
  • Research & Publications +

    Research Summary

    Studies in my laboratory led to the cloning of a novel cytokine termed histamine releasing factor (HRF) (Science 269:688-690, 1995). HRF was shown to cause histamine release from a subset of allergic donors basophils. It was subsequently demonstrated that HRF enhanced IgE-dependent IL-4 and IL-13 secretion from all basophils. Additionally, HRF was shown to promote IL-8 secretion and a calcium response in purified human eosinophils and to downregulate cytokine production from human T cells. HRF, which was previously designated p23/TCTP, is a highly conserved molecule from humans to alfalfa plants. While originally described as a growth-related tumor protein, it has also been identified in healthy liver tissue and, more recently, in macrophages, platelets, keratinocytes, erythrocytes and hepatocytes as well as several parasitic organisms. Of note, a malarial homolog was identified from Plasmodium falciparum-infected cultured erythrocytes. This malarial homolog also has biologic activity and causes histamine release from human basophils and IL-8 production from human eosinophils.  After deciphering the signal transduction events associated with HRF-induced basophil histamine release, our laboratory made the first inducible -transgenic mouse model of HRF using the Tet-On system. When HRF was induced in this model, there was an enhanced asthmatic, allergic phenotype after ovalbumin challenge.

    Previously, HRF was thought to interact with a certain type of IgE on the surface of the basophil termed IgE+. While recent experiments have demonstrated that HRF most probably interacts with its own cell surface receptor, the nature of IgE+ needs to be defined. People with this type of IgE have basophils that release to different stimuli such as IL-3, D2O and HRF. The likely explanation for this releasibility might well be due to signal transduction events, in particular, a down regulation of the phosphatase, SHIP.  It has recently been discovered by the Mui laboratory that small molecule agonists of SHIP inhibit the PI3K pathway and are potent and specific agonists of SHIP. Our laboratory received these agonists and demonstrated that they inhibit IgE-mediated basophil induced histamine release. In clinical studies not associated with our lab, these agonists have been demonstrated in Phase I clinical trails to be safe and well tolerated. They are currently in Phase IIa studies for experimental therapy of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. These trials are being conducted by Aquinox Pharmeucutical, Inc. As disclosure, it should be noted that Dr. MacDonald is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Aquinox.

    Additionally, while pursuing her research interests Dr. MacDonald has become very interested in administration with particular emphasis on Faculty Development and Leadership.

    Selected Publications

    MacDonald, S.M., Rafnar, T., Langdon, J., Lichtenstein, L.M. Molecular identification of an IgE-dependent histamine releasing factor. Science 269:688-690, 1995.

    Schroeder, J.T., Lichtenstein, L.M., MacDonald, S.M. An immunoglobulin E-dependent recombinant histamine releasing factor induces IL-4 secretion from human basophils. J. Exp. Med. 183:1-6, 1996.
    View on Pubmed

    Kleine-Tebbe, J., Kagey-Sobotka, A., MacGlashan Jr., D.W., Lichtenstein, L.M., MacDonald, S.M. Lectins do not distinguish between heterogeneous IgE molecules as defined by differential activity of an IgE-dependent histamine releasing factor. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 98:181-188, 1996.
    View on Pubmed

    MacDonald, S.M. The IgE-dependent histamine releasing factor. ACI Int. 8/1:34-37, 1996.

    Dvorak, A.M., Schroeder, J.T., MacGlashan, D.W., Bryan, K.P., Morgan, E.S., Lichtenstein, L.M. and MacDonald, S.M. Comparative ultrastructural morphology of human basophils stimulated to release histamine by anti-IgE, recombinant IgE-dependent histamine-releasing factor, or monocyte chemotactic protein-1. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 98:355-370, 1996.  
    View on Pubmed

    MacDonald, S.M. Human recombinant histamine releasing factor (HrHRF). Int. Arch. Allergy Appl. Immunol. 113:187-190, 1997
    View on Pubmed

    Schroeder, J.T., Lichtenstein, L.M., MacDonald, S.M. Recombinant histamine-releasing factor enhances IgE-dependent IL-4 and IL-13 secretion by human basophils. J. Immunol. 159:447-452, 1997.
    View on Pubmed

    Bheekha-Escura, R., Chance, S.R., Langdon, J.M., MacGlashan, Jr., D.W., MacDonald, S.M. Pharmacologic regulation of histamine release by the human recombinant IgE-dependent histamine-releasing factor (HrHRF). J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 103:937-943, 1999. 
    View on Pubmed

    MacDonald, S. M., Chakravarti, A, Paznekas, W. A., Jabs, E, W. Chromosomal localization of tumor protein, translationally controlled 1 (TPT1) also called human histamine releasing factor (HRF) to 13q14. Cytogenetics and Cell Genetics. 84:128-129, 1999.
     View on Pubmed

    Wantke, F, MacGlashan, Jr., D. W., Langdon, J.M., MacDonald, S. M. The Human Recombinant Histamine Releasing Factor HrHRF): Functional Evidence that HrHRF Does Not Bind to the IgE Molecule. J. Allergy Clin, Immunol. 103:642-648, 1999. 
    View on Pubmed

    Bheekha-Escura, R., MacGlashan, Jr.,D.W., MacDonald, S.M. The Human Recombinant Histamine Releasing Factor (HrHRF) Activates Human Eosinophils and the Eosinophilic-like Cell Line, AML14-3D10. Blood 96:2191-2198, 2000.  
    View on Pubmed

    MacDonald, M.D., Bhisutthibhan, J., Shapiro, T.A., Rogerson, S.J., Taylor, T.E., Tembo, M., Langdon, J.M., and Meshnick, S.R.  Immune mimicry in malaria: Plasmodium falciparum secretes a functional histamine-releasing factor homolog in vitro and in vivo.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 98:10829-10832, 2001. 
    View on Pubmed

    Vonakis, B.M., Gibbons, S., Sora, R., Langdon, J.M. and MacDonald, S.M. Src homology 2 domain-containing inositol 5' phosphatase is negatively associated with histamine release to human recombinant histamine-releasing factor  in human basophils. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 108:822-31, 2001.  
    View on Pubmed

    Vonakis, B.M., Sora, R., Langdon, J.M., Casolaro, V. and MacDonald, S.M. Inhibition of cytokine gene transcription by human recombinant histamine-releasing factor in human T lymphocytes.  J. Immunol. 171:3742-3750, 2003.  
    View on Pubmed

    Langdon, J.M., Vonakis, B.M., MacDonald, S.M. Identification of the Interaction between the Human Recombinant Histamine Releasing Factor/Translationally Controlled Tumor Protein and Elongation Factor-1 delta (also known as eElongation Factor-1B beta). Bioch. Biophys. Acta. 1688:232-236, 2004.  
    View on Pubmed

    Vonakis, B.M., MacGlashan, Jr., D.W., Vilarino, N., Langdon, J.M., Scott, R.S., MacDonald, S.M. Blood. 111:1789-1796, 2008 
    View on Pubmed

    Langdon, J.M., Schroeder, J.T., Vonakis, B.M., Bieneman, A.P., Chichester, K., MacDonald, S.M. J Leuko Biol 84: 1151-1158, 2008
    View on Pubmed

    Yeh, Y.-C., Xie, L., Langdon, J.M., Myers, A.C., Oh, S.-Y., Zhou,,Z., MacDonald, S.M.  The Effects of Overexpression of Histamine releasing Factor (HRF) in a Transgenic Mouse Model. PLos One. Jun 11;5(6)e11077: 1-12, 2010 
    View on Pubmed

    MacDonald, S.M.  Potential Role of Histamine Releasing Factor (HRF) as a Therapeutic Target in Asthma and Allergy.  J. of Allergy and Asthma, 2:2:5, 51-59, 2012 (Invited Review)


    See above under resarch summary

    Clinical Trials

  • Academic Affiliations & Courses +
  • Activities & Honors +


    Baker Award for Clinical Excellence in Medicine, 1983

    Second Woman AElected to be an Assistant Chief of Service (Chief resident) on the Osler Medical Service, 1985

    Elected to the Medical School Council (Faculty Senate), 1995-1997

    Eleanor Hood Gross Volunteer Leadership Award, YWCA of the Greater Baltimore Area, Inc., 1996

    Women in Leadership Award, Johns Hopkins University, 2002

    Editorial Board of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 1997-2002

    The Johns Hopkins DoM David M. Levine Mentoring Award, 2003

    Women's Involvement in the AAAAI, Special recognition Award, 2005

    Gail Shapiro Honorary AAAAI Special Recognition Award, 2008

    International Editorial Board of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, Turkish National Society Journal, 2009

    Vice Dean's Leadership Award for the Advancement of Women at JHU SoM, 2009

    Professional Activities

    Chair, Leadership Institute, AAAAI 2012-present

    Mentor for the National Mentoring Program, AAAAI, 2012-present
  • Videos & Media +

    Lectures and Presentations

    Since 2008  

    TRIPPLE Course: Importance of Mentoring for Johns Hopkins Medical Students, 2008

    Mast Cells and Basophils: An Update on Their Role in IgE-Mediated Diseases and Beyond Recipient of the 2008 Gail Shapiro Memorial Lectureship, AAAAI, Philadelphia, 2008

    “Histamine Releasing Factor:Implications in Exacerbation of Allergic Disease," Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, November 2008

    “Academic Career/Positions and Promotion/Tenure," Johns Hopkins University Postdoctoral Fellows, November 2008

    Visiting Professor at Dartmouth Medical Center: “Trajectory of an Academic Career" and “Histamine Releasing Factor: Implications for Exacerbation of Human Allergic Disease." December 2008

    AAMC Workshop for Faculty on “Strategies, Skills Building and Best Practices in Philanthropy", Philadelphia, September 2009

    “Academic Career/Positions and Promotion/Tenure,"  Johns Hopkins University Postdoctoral Fellows, April 2009

    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Biennial/Department of Medicine. Tribute to Victor A. McKusick, M.D. - Susan M. MacDonald, M.D. June 5, 2009

    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: “Positions, Promotions and Tenure," November 3, 2009

    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Graduate Students: “Promotion Process," March 2010

    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University Nursing Graduate Students:  “Positions Promotion Process," November 2010

    University of Texas, Paul Foster Medical School, “Development of a Faculty Affairs Program ", January 2011

    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University Nursing Graduate Students: “Positions Promotion Process," April 2011

    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University Nursing Graduate Students: “Academic Pathways and Academic Positions Promotion Process," November 2011

    Discovery on Target, "SHIP 1 and Allergic Lung Diseases: Preclinical and Clinical Aspects," Boston, MA, November 2011

    Grand Rounds UMDNJ, “Histamine Releasing Factor-From Bench to Bedside and Faculty Development and Diversity-Committing to Those Responsible for Research, Education and Patient Care," December 2011

    AAAAI, Orlando, “Becoming a Leader for Life ", March 2012

    Resuscitation Science Program, American Heart Association, Los Angeles, California, “Leadership: How to Become a Leader for Life", San Diego, November 2012

    “Picking a Research Project and the Importance of Mentoring", San Antonio, February 2013

    Post-graduate lecture for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University Nursing Graduate Students: “Mentoring and the Promotion Process-What You Need to Know to Succeed,"  April 2013

    Recent News Articles & Media Coverage

    AAMC Women in Leadership Development Award for an organization, the Task Force for Women in the Department of Medicine, to be presented in Philadelphia, November 2013
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