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Susan M. MacDonald, M.D.

Photo of Dr. Susan M. MacDonald, M.D.

Associate Chair, Department of Medicine

Professor of Medicine

Research Interests: Strong proponent of women in medicine; Administration; Faculty development; Signal transduction; Histamine release factor

Contact for Research Inquiries

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
5501 Hopkins Bayview Circle
Baltimore, MD 21224 map
Fax: 410-550-1733


Susan M. MacDonald, M.D. is currently Professor of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. She joined the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology of the Department of Medicine in 1987 and became the Associate Chair of the Department of Medicine in 2002. She became Interim Director of the Division of Allergy & Clinical Immunology in the spring of 2013. She is a member of the American Association of Immunologists, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the Collegium Internationale Allergologicum, and the Interurban Clinical Club. She has served on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and the JAMA Asthma Website and has peer-reviewed many articles for the leading allergy journals. She has served on multiple advisory committees and review groups, including national and international study sections. She is a strong advocate for women in science in academia. Additionally, while pursuing her research interests Dr. MacDonald has become very interested in administration with particular emphasis on Faculty Development and Leadership.

Dr. MacDonald’s interest in administration began while she was Chair of the Task Force for Women in Medicine (1995-1997). During her tenure, and while she was a junior Assistant Professor, she initiated a Mentoring Program for Women Fellows that exists today. Then under the Chair of Medicine at that time, Dr. Edward Benz, she became the Deputy Director for Faculty Development (1997-2001). Her passion for mentoring was extended to all faculty, and she initiated a book that describes, “How to Get Promoted at Hopkins.” Her true intent was to make the implicit explicit. She extended this book designed for faculty in the Department of Medicine to the greater than 4000 faculty in the School of Medicine. Working with the Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs, Dr. Janice Clements, they launched the first edition of this “Silver Book” that is given annually to each faculty and now is online.

In addition to the Silver Book, and while working with Dr. Clements, she reinstituted a School-Wide Orientation for New Faculty and Parental Leave Guidelines. She continues to work with the Vice Dean’s Office in the Office of Women and Science. Also, during her tenure as Deputy Director for Faculty Development in the Department of Medicine, she initiated a Department Annual Review of all faculty with the signed report submitted to her Deputy Director’s Office.

Dr. MacDonald’s administrative responsibilities progressed when she became the first woman Associate Chair of the Department of Medicine under the Chief, Dr. Myron Weisfeldt (2002-Present). She has been charged with being the point person for all aspects of faculty development, as well as the sounding board for the Chair of Medicine. The Department of Medicine is the largest Department in the School of Medicine at Hopkins with greater than 550 faculty members. With respect to the faculty that she oversees, there are over 194 Assistant Professors, 110 Associate Professors and 104 full Professors. This is divided as 52% women Assistant Professors, 34% women Associate Professors and 20% women full Professors. The remaining non-tenured track faculty are Research Associates and Instructors for a total of 142. There is an emphasis on diversity for underrepresented minorities (URMs) with 25% of the new Assistant Professor hires being URMs. As Associate Chair, she has overseen annual reviews of all faculty irrespective of their academic direction, be it translational research, clinical research, clinical education, clinician or program building. She has partnered in recruitment and retention of faculty, investigated scientific misconduct and conflict of interest issues, has been an ombudsperson, monitored salary and chaired multiple Division Chief searches. During the last ten years, there have had 10 out of 16 Division Chiefs replaced. Dr. MacDonald is considered a transparent communicator, an effective, well-respected, explicit leader who is able to interact with the Chief of Medicine as well as 16 Division Directors and the faculty. Division Directors often come directly to her with problems to seek solutions before they discuss them with the Chair of Medicine. One change initiated by her and adopted by the Chair of Medicine was meeting in one half hour sessions with each Assistant Professor, both men and women, to get a flavor of their academic trajectory as well as to introduce them to the leadership of the Department both the Chair and the Associate Chair. While this was an extraordinary investment of time, it turned out to be extremely rewarding, laying the groundwork for strong team-building in the Department as the junior faculty were now able to identify with the departmental leadership. As the Associate Chair, not all situations are easy. Investigating scientific misconduct is a process that involves a committee appointed by the Dean of the School of Medicine, and she has been the person chosen to represent a faculty member in this instance. Additionally, with NIH funding at an all time low, she has had to instruct Division Directors how to best approach their own faculty about giving hard, realistic news. While she has received numerous awards, her commitment to faculty development resulted in her being the first recipient of the Vice Dean’s Leadership Award in 2009. She has given numerous talks concerning mentoring and promotion both at Hopkins and nationally and an international talk. more


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

Centers & Institutes


Additional Training

  • American Board of Internal Medicine (1983)
  • American Board of Medical Examiners (1984)

The Johns Hopkins University 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 her 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, her laboratory made the first inducible -transgenic mouse model of HRF using the Tet-On system (PloS One: 2010, Jun 11; 5(6)e11077:1-12). When HRF was induced in this model, there was an enhanced asthmatic, allergic phenotype after ovalbumin challenge. Throughout all of this work she maintained her status as an active, NIH-funded investigator.

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. Her laboratory received these agonists and demonstrated that they inhibit IgE-mediated basophil induced histamine release. In clinical studies not associated with her lab, these agonists have been demonstrated in Phase I clinical trails to be safe and well tolerated. They are currently in Phase II studies for experimental therapy of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. These trials are being conducted by Aquinox Pharmeucutical, Inc.


See above under research summary

Clinical Trials


Selected Publications

  1. MacDonald, S.M., Rafnar, T., Langdon, J., Lichtenstein, L.M. Molecular identification of an IgE-dependent histamine releasing factor. Science 269:688-690, 1995.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. MacDonald, S.M. The IgE-dependent histamine releasing factor. ACI Int. 8/1:34-37, 1996.
  5. 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
  6. MacDonald, S.M. Human recombinant histamine releasing factor (HrHRF). Int. Arch. Allergy Appl. Immunol. 113:187-190, 1997 View on Pubmed
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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)

Activities & Honors


  • Women in Leadership Award, Johns Hopkins University, 2002
  • Women's Involvement in the AAAAI, Special recognition Award, 2005
  • International Editorial Board of Asthma Allergy and Immunology, Turkish National Society Journal
  • Eleanor Hood Gross Volunteer Leadership Award, YWCA of the Greater Baltimore Area, 1996
  • Baker Award for Clinical Excellence in Medicine, 1983
  • Second Woman Elected to be an Assistant Chief of Service (Chief resident), Osler Medical Service, 1985
  • Elected to the Medical School Council (Faculty Senate), 1995 - 1997
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 1997 - 2002
  • DoM David M. Levine Mentoring Award, Johns Hopkins , 2003
  • Gail Shapiro Honorary Special Recognition Award, AAAAI, 2008
  • Vice Dean's Leadership Award for the Advancement of Women, Johns Hopkins University, 2009

Professional Activities

  • Chair, AAAAI, 2012
    Leadership Institute
  • Mentor for the National Mentoring Program, AAAAI, 2012

Videos & Media

Lectures and Presentations

  • Importance of Mentoring for Johns Hopkins Medical Students
    TRIPPLE Course (01/01/2008)
  • Mast Cells and Basophils: An Update on Their Role in IgE-Mediated Diseases and Beyond
    AAAAI , Philadelphia, PA (01/01/2008)
    2008 Gail Shapiro Memorial Lectureship
  • Histamine Releasing Factor:Implications in Exacerbation of Allergic Disease
    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, (11/01/2008)
  • Academic Career/Positions and Promotion/Tenure
    Johns Hopkins University Postdoctoral Fellows (11/01/2008)
  • "Trajectory of an Academic Career" and “Histamine Releasing Factor: Implications for Exacerbation of Human Allergic Disease"
    Dartmouth Medical Center , Dartmouth (12/01/2008)
  • Skills Building and Best Practices in Philanthropy"
    AAMC Workshop for Faculty on “Strategies , Philadelphia, PA (09/01/2009)
  • Academic Career/Positions and Promotion/Tenure
    Johns Hopkins University Postdoctoral Fellows (04/01/2009)
  • Tribute to Victor A. McKusick, MD
    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Biennial/Department of Medicine. , Baltimore, MD (06/05/2009)
  • Positions, Promotions, and Tenure
    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine , Baltimore, MD (11/03/2009)
  • Positions Promotion Process
    Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Graduate Students , Baltimore, MD (03/01/2010)
    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Positions Promotion Process
    Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University Nursing Graduate Students , Baltimore, MD (11/01/2010)
    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Development of a Faculty Affairs Program
    Paul Foster Medical School , Texas (01/01/2011)
    University of Texas
  • Positions Promotion Process
    Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University Nursing Graduate Students , Baltimore, MD (04/01/2011)
    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Academic Pathways and Academic Positions Promotion Process
    Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University Nursing Graduate Students , Baltimore, MD (11/01/2011)
  • "SHIP 1 and Allergic Lung Diseases: Preclinical and Clinical Aspects
    Discovery on Target , Boston, MA (11/01/2011)
  • “Histamine Releasing Factor-From Bench to Bedside and Faculty Development and Diversity-Committing to Those Responsible for Research
    Grand Rounds UMDNJ (12/01/2011)
  • Becoming a Leader for Life
    AAAAI , Orlando, FL (03/01/2012)
  • American Heart Association
    Resuscitation Science Program , Los Angeles, CA (11/01/2012)
  • Picking a Research Project and the Importance of Mentoring
    San Antonio, TX (02/01/2013)
  • Mentoring and the Promotion Process-What You Need to Know to Succeed
    Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University Nursing Graduate Students (04/01/2013)
    Post-graduate lecture for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Recent News Articles and 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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