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  February 25, 2021

Congratulations to these 10 AGA women named Maria A. Leo-Lieber Scholarship recipients

The award aims to foster career advancement for women in academic research.
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The Maria A. Leo-Lieber Scholarship was established to support women in academic research with leadership training and networking opportunities for career advancement in gastroenterology or hepatology. This year’s recipients will receive free registration to the 2021 Women’s Leadership Conference, a professionally enriching opportunity for the women of AGA led by trailblazers and rising stars. 

Congratulations to the inaugural cohort of the Maria A. Leo-Lieber Scholarship!

2021 Maria A. Leo-Lieber Recipients

Dr. Ameena is professor of pediatrics (gastroenterology), cellular and molecular physiology at the Yale University School of Medicine. She has led an NIH-supported laboratory for over two decades and trained multiple undergraduate students, post-docs, medical students and research scientists — the majority of whom come from underrepresented backgrounds. Dr. Ameena’s research interest is focused on mechanisms responsible for diarrheal diseases. Her lab primarily investigates mechanisms regulating the CFTR chloride channel in the intestine and how these are linked to genetic, and non-genetic diarrheal diseases and cystic fibrosis (CF). They elucidated trafficking mechanisms regulating CFTR that are implicated in diarrhea that are the basis for successful drug therapies to treat constipation and increase intestinal fluidity (Linaclotide, Lubiprostone). Currently, they are investigating kinase signaling mechanisms responsible for regulating CFTR in genetic and non-genetic diarrheal diseases and CF affecting newborns and children. 


Dr. Cummings is a gastroenterologist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and an associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Cummings completed a four-year gastroenterology fellowship, during which she obtained a master’s degree in clinical research. She is a Fellow of the AGA, ASGE and ACG. Dr. Cummings’ clinical interests include cystic fibrosis, small bowel capsule endoscopy and colorectal cancer screening. She specializes in caring for adult patients with cystic fibrosis and received a grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to gain expertise in the GI care of cystic fibrosis patients. Dr. Cummings was awarded a 2014 ACG Junior Faculty Development Grant to support her research. Her research has involved the use of large databases to assess outcomes after surgical and endoscopic procedures as well as prospective translational studies, including a Barrett’s esophagus chemoprevention trial and a study recently funded by NIH assessing a biomarker of Lewy body dementia in the colon. She is the recipient of the 2020 Helen Evans Mid-Career Faculty Development Award from the Women Faculty of the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

Dr. Kao is an associate professor at the University of Alberta Hospital. Her clinical interest is in recurrent C difficile infection and is involved in clinical research in both investigator-initiated and industry trials in this area. Dr. Kao has most recently been asked to become the GI clinical site at the University of Alberta Hospital.

Dr. Law is a therapeutic endoscopist with an interest in hereditary cancer syndromes, pancreatic cancer and pancreatic cysts. She is also a new mother of a baby boy born at the beginning of the COVID pandemic and has quickly learned to juggle motherhood and career with variable success (and many laughable failures).


Dr. Xiuli Liu is professor of pathology and director of GI and Liver Pathology at the Division of Anatomic Pathology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. She completed medical school in China in 1990. She obtained a PhD degree in Toxicology from University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2002. She completed her AP and CP residency and GI pathology fellowship at University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB), Alabama in 2007. Dr. Liu’s clinical interest is in inflammatory disease in the gastrointestinal tract, liver, and pancreas and their non-neoplastic and neoplastic complications, particularly their early diagnoses of Barrett’s esophagus and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)-associated neoplasia. Dr. Liu’s research interests are in the area of improving histologic diagnosis, identifying new markers, and validating new therapies and advanced technologies in gastroenterology and hepatology.


Dr. Morinville is an associate professor of pediatrics within the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH), McGill University, Montreal, Canada. She obtained her Medical Degree at McGill University in 1999, followed by a residency in General Pediatrics at the MCH. Her subspecialty training in pediatric gastroenterology was undertaken at the MCH, followed by additional fellowship training at the University of Pittsburgh in the field of pancreatology as “The Henry E. Haller, Jr. and Marjorie Burns Haller Advanced Fellow in Pancreatic Medicine.” Subsequent to this, Dr. Morinville returned to Montreal as attending staff in pediatric gastroenterology at the MCH/ McGill University in 2006. Dr. Morinville’s clinical and research interests have centered around pancreatology and cystic fibrosis, following children with acute and chronic pancreatitis, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and cystic fibrosis. Dr. Morinville was one of the founding members and sits on the Executive Committee of the international study consortium, INternational Study group of Pediatric Pancreatitis: In search for a cuRE(INSPPIRE), and was the first chair of the Pancreas Committee for the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) between 2014-2017. With respect to educational leadership roles, she was training program director for pediatric GI at McGill University from 2006 to 2017 and has been a member in residency training and promotions/competence committees for general pediatrics, pediatric surgery, neonatal medicine and pediatric GI — several of these positions into 2021. In 2020 she became the first Pancreatology Associate Editor for the NASPGHAN open-access journal JPGN Reports.


Dr. Neshatian is clinical assistant professor, Medicine – Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Stanford Hospital and Clinics. During her graduate training at the University of Toronto, she was introduced to GI motility disorders. The desire to provide specialized care to this vulnerable patient population convinced her to complete a gastroenterology fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, where she worked with leaders at the forefront of GI motility. Dr. Neshatian pursued focused training in pelvic floor disorders through an American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society Scholarship Award (2015). With her subsequent specialized pelvic floor practice at Houston Methodist/Weill Cornell Medicine and now Stanford University, she continues to develop longitudinal caring relationships with these patients, imparting knowledge on the care of these patients to trainees and engages in meaningful research to impact outcomes of care in benign pelvic floor disorders.


Dr. Shingina is assistant professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She successfully completed the full course load towards a Masters in Clinical Epidemiology at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, where she completed her gastroenterology fellowship and won a competitive Clinical Investigator Funding ($68,000).  She has produced multiple first-author publications in high impact journals and has previously carried out research projects from conception to publication of the manuscript. She also serves as a peer reviewer for Liver Transplantation and Digestive Diseases and Sciences journals and was invited to write editorials on liver transplant-related subjects.


Dr. Short is research instructor in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Her research focuses on a family of antioxidant proteins known as the glutathione peroxidases and how they modify intestinal stem cell function, immune responses, and epithelial restitution using a variety of mouse models, as well as novel 3D patient-derived organoids. Ultimately, this work will yield a greater understanding of how individual antioxidant proteins modify redox homeostasis and contribute to intestinal health.


Dr. Venkatesan is professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The primary focus of her clinical and scientific work is in cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS). She established a clinic for care of these patients in 2007, which attracts patients from all over the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada and is one of the chief medical advisors to the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Association (CVSA), a non-profit organization that offers support for patients with CVS and promotes research and education in this area. Dr. Venkatesan works closely with the CVSA and helps support their mission of education and research. She initiated and chaired a committee to develop the first-ever guidelines for management of CVS in adults which was published in 2020. She also served as a GI fellowship program director for about seven years.

Women across work settings and experience levels will benefit from attending this year’s 2021 Women’s Leadership Conference, taking place March 5 and 6. Registration closes Friday, Feb. 26. Learn more and register to reserve your spot today.

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