Have Mentor, Will Travel 

Posted on May 04, 2018

Faculty Hematologist at Children’s Hospital of Orange County Receives Grant to Train with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Research Director

Arash Mahajerin, M.D., (left) with Neil Goldenberg, M.D., Ph.D.

The mentor/mentee relationship among doctors, scientists and researchers is a critical component of a successful medical career.

The opportunity to learn from and experience intellectual stimulation with someone who shares your interests and expertise is a mutually beneficial relationship that increases knowledge, productivity, ideas and ultimately success. 

For this reason, researchers and leaders at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and its Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute were pleased to learn that a grant was awarded to host an assistant professor from another institution to provide mentorship for one week in thrombosis and hemostasis. The “Travel-to-a-Mentor Award” is given by the Thrombosis and Hemostasis Societies of North America each year with the aim of providing promising early-career physician investigators with a more intensive and in-person training experience with leading mentors in the field of thrombosis and hemostasis (clotting and bleeding disorders) from throughout North America. Dr. Arash Mahajerin, assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of hematology at University of California-Irvine and Children’s Hospital of Orange County, California, was one of a few pediatric-focused recipients of the award, paired with Johns Hopkins All Children's Neil Goldenberg, M.D., Ph.D., as mentor.

“We’re pleased to be part of this award and to serve the field of pediatrics by enhancing and enriching the mentorship of, and collaboration with, the next generation of pediatric physician scientists,” explains Goldenberg, director of research at the hospital and professor of pediatrics and medicine in the divisions of hematology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “This is a core part of our mission at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. In addition, the project developed under this mentorship grant is a multicenter study; this further aligns with our research vision at Johns Hopkins All Children's, in which we will continue to expand our leadership role in designing, implementing and overseeing pediatric multicenter studies that have great potential to generate new knowledge, ultimately paving the path toward improved outcomes for children.”

It was no coincidence that Mahajerin selected Goldenberg as his mentor. Mahajerin first reached out to Goldenberg as a fellow seeking guidance on a thrombosis project he was initiating in Indianapolis. The two maintained a relationship and have had several collaborations together. Their main collaborative study has been going for four years. CHAT (the Children’s Hospital-Acquired Thrombosis study) is finding ways to predict blood clots (“venous thromboembolism," or “VTE” for short) in children. It is starting to see some results that the team hopes will eventually translate to improved outcomes for hospitalized children.

Mahajerin emphasizes that the goals of his mentorship experience with Goldenberg under the Society grant go beyond the specific design of the next phase of the multicenter study on validating a risk model for hospital-acquired VTE in children, to facilitate Goldenberg’s mentorship and collaboration in the design and oversight of multicenter precision medicine studies and clinical trials in pediatric clotting disorders. Goldenberg is also widely known in the field for his leadership of Kids-DOTT, the National Institutes of Health-funded, largest randomized, multi-national trial in pediatric VTE. Mahajerin and two of his junior faculty colleagues/co-founders of CHAT, Dr. Brian Branchford of Children’s Hospital Colorado and Dr. Julie Jaffray of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, have been applying lessons learned from Kids-DOTT to the design of the next stage of the CHAT study.

“The national registry idea for the first stage of the CHAT study started with three institutions, with Neil as one of the key overall mentors,” Mahajerin explains. “CHAT ultimately involved eight centers around the U.S. for the first stage (a registry), and 20 centers have committed to participate in the second stage of CHAT (a prospective cohort study).

“I knew this grant opportunity would give me the face-to-face time with Neil that would allow us to talk more in-depth about our existing and future collaborations,” Mahajerin explains. “We wanted to spend the week discussing our existing collaborations in greater depth, identify a few new priorities for collaborative research, and to begin writing a grant together to help launch CHAT-2 and continue a formalized mentorship relationship. I also want to learn how to build and sustain a multifaceted but highly-integrated clinical and translational research core on a departmental or institutional level the way he has done so successfully, with the programming and infrastructure that you really need.”

Goldenberg added, “Dr. Mahajerin already has as fantastic mentor in Dr. Diane Nugent at his home institution. Dr. Nugent is a world-renowned leader in the field of pediatric bleeding disorders. However, today’s research paradigms embrace not only a team-science approach but also a team-mentorship approach, leveraging the unique strengths and perspectives that each mentor can bring. Distance should not be a barrier in the modern era, and our current and future patients deserve all that the best collaborations can bring. It’s a real honor to be able to partner with Dr. Nugent to help advance Arash’s career development as a future leader in the field of pediatric thrombosis and hemostasis.

“An important benefit of this type of mentorship grant is for the mentee to see how things operate at the external mentor’s institution regarding research study design, planning and implementation,” Goldenberg explains. “Dr. Mahajerin has been able to appreciate first-hand the integrated model of our existing research infrastructure, including our pediatric-focused multicenter study clinical coordinating center, data coordinating center, and central biorepository functions, and he was also able to interact with expert personnel and leaders within each of our research cores. He will now be able to apply this knowledge to his own institution and the development of the prospective stage of the multicenter study that he co-leads with a few junior faculty colleagues at CHLA and Children's Hospital Colorado.” Goldenberg points out that the program also facilitates a more intensive mentor-mentee interaction for a week in order to help design and plan the mentee’s research.

Based on the value of the enhanced mentorship experience it has provided, Goldenberg is looking forward to encouraging his other mentees at Johns Hopkins All Children's and around the country who are doing early-career investigations to apply for this mentorship grant as well, in order to enhance existing distance-collaborations, stimulate new ideas, and foster career development in the growing field of pediatric thrombosis and hemostasis. 

“It’s a win for physician researchers, a win for science, and a win for our patients,” Goldenberg concludes.

Visit hopkinsallchildrens.org/research for more information on research and education at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.