Showcasing Clinician-Researchers in Radiology

Published in Radiology Update - 2022

Since its inception, Johns Hopkins has pursued a tripartite mission — reflected in the three sides of Hopkins’ iconic triangle symbol — of research, education and patient care. It is a mission that continues today. Pursuing excellence as both a clinician and researcher is no easy feat. In Johns Hopkins’ Department of Radiology, however, it is a feat worth pursuing. As Karen Horton, Director of the Department of Radiology, states, “Research is a critical component of Johns Hopkins and, within our own department, we’re dedicated to advancing radiology through our dedicated research faculty as well as with our clinician scientists. These clinician-scientists offer a unique take on bench-to-bedside research, including cross-departmental collaboration, which can be seen in the work of three faculty members, Clifford Weiss, Lilja Solnes, and Shadpour Demehri.

“In the end, our goal is to treat people and make sure people are treated better.” CLIFFORD WEISS

Weiss serves as director of interventional radiology research, medical director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, director of the Johns Hopkins HHT Center of Excellence and director of the Johns Hopkins Vascular Anomalies Center. His clinical and research work centers on vascular and interventional radiology, with a focus on the diagnosis and treatment of vascular malformations. He is also working on development of bariatric embolization, a cutting-edge procedure for the treatment of obesity. According to Weiss, such work would not be possible without the support and value placed on clinicians pursuing research interests. For Weiss, the emphasis on research is critical for many reasons. Johns Hopkins’ reputation for both clinical and research excellence, as well as giving faculty the space to pursue their passions, is a key tool in recruiting the best and brightest to the institution.

"I'm here to really push the boundaries of medicine, new therapies, diagnostic agents – it really fulfills me." LILJA SOLNES

Ultimately, patients benefit from clinician-researchers who can treat them as a whole person, bringing treatments and therapies from research bench to patient bedside. It was this focus on clinician research that drew associate professor Lilja Solnes to Johns Hopkins. Solnes’ areas of clinical expertise include diagnostic radiology, oncology and nuclear medicine. She and her colleagues are building a theranostics clinic for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as prostate and neuroendocrine tumors. With her colleagues, she is working to bring novel theranostics agents from the lab into use in human trials. “I’m here to really push the boundaries of medicine,” Solnes says, adding, “New therapies, diagnostic agents — it really fulfills me.” One such novel therapy Solnes is working on with colleagues is the use of lutetium-177 to treat metastatic prostate cancer that has become resistant to other treatments. Lu177 PSMA therapy involves administering the radioactive agent intravenously to kill cancer cells while sparing normal cells in the surrounding area.

This agent was developed by Martin Pomper, Johns Hopkins “In the end, our goal is to treat people and make sure people are treated better" Clifford Weiss, radiology professor and director of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. It is such cutting-edge research, reinforced by a supportive department and world-renowned colleagues, that keeps Solnes passionate about her work at Johns Hopkins. “Hopkins is unique in the supportive environment they give you to pursue both clinical work and research,” she noted, continuing, “It is rooted in Johns Hopkins’ history of being at the cusp of medicine.”

The culture of Johns Hopkins is unique…the availability of other people in distinct fields with the same interests." SHADPOUR DEMEHRI

Shadpour Demehri is a professor specializing in diagnostic radiology and musculoskeletal radiology and is co-chair of the radiology physician-scientist incubator program. Demehri’s work focuses on advanced osteoarthritis imaging techniques, including using MRI to predict outcomes and using imaging to examine the effects of potential osteoarthritis drugs. More recently, he has worked with internists to examine musculoskeletal markers extractable from conventional chest CT imaging. For Demehri, the ability to collaborate with top experts from fields across medicine keeps him excited. He explained that while many institutions tout clinical or research excellence, Johns Hopkins can lay claim to both. “The culture at Johns Hopkins is unique,” Demehri said. He pointed to the ease at which he has collaborated with joint specialists, rheumatologists, orthopaedic surgeons, pulmonologists and cardiologists from across the institution. He added, “My main point of enthusiasm in this environment is the availability of other people in distinct fields with the same interests.” Ultimately, for all the clinician-scientists in the department and throughout Johns Hopkins, the goal is clear: Bring cutting edge ideas from the lab to the clinic for the benefit of patients. “In the end,” Weiss concluded, “our goal is to treat people and make sure people are treated better.”