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June 8, 2016

We were honored to host Dr. Michael Choma, a pediatrician-engineer, who captivated us with his “big-picture view of small-scale physiology.” Not only is Dr. Choma passionate about improving the health of children, but he also believes this is a very exciting time for engineering as we apply well-established physical principles to design new technologies. And yet, he believes medicine is humbling because patients often have severe disease for which we lack technologies for adequate characterization and treatment.

Dr. Choma shared his recent work using and developing coherent imaging technologies to quantify cilia-driven fluid flow. He explained that cilia-driven fluid flow is a surface-driven flow responsible for clearing ~1 liter of mucus from the lungs. Defects in mucus clearance are important in a wide-variety of lung diseases, ranging from cystic fibrosis to primary ciliary dyskinesia to asthma. Coherent imaging methods such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) have the speed, resolution, and cross-sectioning ability to generate two- and three-dimensional maps of this important surface-driven fluid flow. So, what might this mean?  The exciting answer is that these methods not only have potential to contribute to a better understanding of basic mechanisms of various lung diseases, but the hope is that they will also  provide new clinical diagnostic metrics for assessing disease severity and tracking disease progress.

Dr. Choma believes that in order to better understand disease, we must bridge different approaches. As an engineer thinking about disease mechanism or developing new diagnostic technologies, he often focuses on flow, motion, and physical forces. As a doctor, his approach can include patient experiences, intuition, and lateral thinking. Not surprisingly, Dr. Choma is now deep in thought about combining the engineering approach and perspective with traditional biochemical and molecular genetic approaches to understanding disease. He believes that a connection can be made by adopting a hierarchal, multiscale view of disease. Dr. Choma is also hopeful that developing physical diagnostic metrics can form a bridge to biochemical and molecular genetic perspective of disease. Is this not “the art and science of medicine” at its best?

About the Presenter:

Dr. Michael A. Choma, MD, PhD is a Yale based physician-scientist with expertise in biomedical optics, biomedical engineering and pediatrics. Dr. Choma received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering and his MD from Duke University. His PhD thesis in optical coherence tomography (OCT), a non-contact optical imaging method that is the optical analogue of ultrasound imaging, contributed to next-generation OCT technologies that enabled a 100 to 1000-fold increase in clinical imaging speeds without compromising image quality or sensitivity. While Dr. Choma was a resident in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston, he pursued research in high-speed, high-resolution imaging of embryo hearts as a Visiting Clinical Fellow at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital. After training in Boston, Dr. Choma went to the Yale School of Medicine to start a biomedical optics lab in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology.

These experiences have given him the entrepreneurial bug to introduce innovations that become successful in the marketplace. The overall impact of Dr. Choma’s work is two-fold. First, he is developing core optical technologies that may find widespread use in microscopy. Second, his cilia and heart imaging research has the potential to personalize the diagnosis and treatment of a wide-variety of pediatric diseases.

To download “A big-picture view of small-scale physiology” by Michael A. Choma, MD, PhD, please click here.

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