How I Became an Immunologist
Alexandra Filipovich, MD
Cincinnati Children's Hospital
What was your path to getting into Immunology?
As a medical student at the University of Minnesota (trying to make some money during the summer), I had the privilege to work in an Immunology lab directed by Edmond Yunis. Peter Nowell had just published a method to identify human T cells due to their property to bind sheep red blood cells to their surface, the so-called E rosette formation (1976), and I was charged with re-creating this phenomenon. At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that I had been imprinted. My first rotation as a pediatric intern was on the Heme Onc ward which had just been fitted with a laminar flow “tent” where I participated in the first two bone marrow transplants performed at the U of M. Tom Fleischer was my supervising fellow. After residency I elected to pursue research into preventing GvHD by T cell depletion ( my “personal Immunology fellowship”) under the tutelage of John Kersey, at a time when T and B cells were still being identified and sorted as T and B cell rosettes.
What do you think is important in immunology and/or medicine in the near future?
At a time when inflammation is widely recognized as the underpinning of a vast number of inherited and “acquired” disorders and conditions, immunology (and the genetics regulating immune responses) are proving key to improving human health .
Do you have any inspiring patient stories you would like to share?
Nine months ago I had the privilege of supervising the gene therapy of an 8 month old boy with X SCID (who is currently at home doing well). What was very inspiring about this experience was the privilege to work with very thoughtful, brave parents who are full partners in this effort, and to experience personal growth through the interaction with more than fifty colleagues in the gene therapy group at Cincinnati Children’s as well as an international consortium of investigators.