Gary F. Clark, PhD

Gary F. Clark, PhD

Associate Research Professor

Bio

Gary F. Clark, PhD, is a researcher whose primary area of interest is glycobiology — the study of the structure, function and biology of carbohydrate sequences (glycans). He is focused on defining the role of carbohydrate recognition in mediating human and mammalian sperm-egg binding.

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Rene Cortese, PhD

Rene Cortese, PhD

Research Assistant Professor

Bio

Rene Cortese, PhD, studies epigenetics of complex diseases to detect and understand how complex diseases develop, progress, are inherited, and can be treated. His current research focuses on the functional study of epigenetic phenomena in genome regulation and the epigenetic mechanisms involved in children's and women's health.

Dr. Cortese’s doctoral research studied epigenetic profiles modulating phenotypes changes in tissue-specific DNA methylation profiles throughout the evolution, during embryonic development and in oncogenic and non-oncogenic diseases. As a post-doctoral fellow, he developed a method for genome-wide epigenetic profiling of tumor circulating DNA in plasma samples from cancer patients.

As a Research Associate (Assistant Professor) at the University of Chicago, Dr. Cortese conducted several research projects toward the study of epigenetic phenomena in complex pediatric diseases, with particular emphasis in the cardiovascular and metabolic consequences of sleep disorders.

Prior to joining the University of Missouri School of Medicine, Dr. Cortese served as Director of Product Development at MDxHealth, a molecular diagnostics company focused on urology oncology. He also worked as a program manager at Seven Bridges Genomics, leading the company’s efforts to develop and implement an analytical environment tailored to circulating DNA analysis using cloud computing.

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Erma Drobnis, PhD

Erma Drobnis, PhD

Assistant Professional Practice Professor

Bio

Dr. Erma Drobnis has studied sperm for several decades. Her early work determined the physical forces generated by sperm during fertilization. She also studied sperm freezing, performs sperm banking for cancer patients and authored a book reviewing medication effects on male reproduction.

In clinical andrology (medicine related to males), Drobnis has contributed book chapters and national guidelines on laboratory management and participates in writing the board exam for clinical laboratory directors. She established an MU program helping HIV-infected men safely father children, and she gives lectures and international webinars on this topic.

Through collaborative projects, Drobnis has shown that agricultural chemical exposure decreases semen quality, complex sugars protect sperm from the immune system and hormones at HIV transmission sites may increase infection risk with some contraceptives. Additionally, Drobnis found that chemicals near gas drilling sites impair reproduction in prenatally-exposed male mice; she is now investigating fertility of men living near drilling sites.

For many years, Drobnis has assisted department colleagues with experimental design and research logistics. She currently supports all clinical research as associate director of the Research Success Center.

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Raymond Foster, MD

Raymond Foster, MD

Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Bio

Dr. Raymond Foster has dedicated his entire career to helping women with urinary incontinence and vaginal prolapse. He joined the MU School of Medicine faculty in 2007, and as the first trained urogynecologist to work at the University of Missouri, he was charged to build a new program to help women with incontinence, prolapse and other pelvic floor symptoms. Foster now leads the Missouri Center for Female Continence and Advanced Pelvic Surgery, which exceeds 5,000 clinic visits and 450 surgical procedures per year.

The standard of care in urogynecology is rapidly changing as new research is published. Fortunately for mid-Missouri women, much of that research is completed by Foster and his team of physicians, advanced practice nurses and basic science researchers — including the new standard for using antibiotics after urinary incontinence surgery.

Foster also seeks to impact care through involvement in positions of national leadership. He currently serves as treasurer of the American Urogynecologic Society, the nation’s flagship organization for doctors committed to helping women with pelvic symptoms adversely impacting quality of life.

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Albert Hsu, MD

Albert Hsu, MD

Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology

Bio

Albert Hsu, MD, is a passionate patient advocate who prides himself on delivering cost-conscious personalized care. As a reproductive endocrinologist, he helps women and couples navigate numerous conditions, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, diminished ovarian reserve, hypothalamic pituitary dysfunction, hyperprolactinemia and disorders of the female reproductive tract.

Dr. Hsu has published papers on endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain, and he has earned multiple grants to study infertility and endometriosis. His recent research projects include investigating PCOS, vitamin D and infertility, markers of ovarian reserve, male factor infertility, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and more.

In his spare time, Dr. Hsu is working with the Missouri State Medical Association and Missouri ACOG to help address the epidemic of maternal mortality in our state. He also loves playing ultimate frisbee, reading about history and current events, playing piano, following football and spending time with his family.

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Mark Hunter, MD

Mark Hunter, MD

Associate Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology

Bio

Dr. Mark Hunter specializes in gynecologic oncology. With nearly twenty years in practice, he has expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian, uterine, cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers.

In addition to his clinical practice, Hunter also works to advance medical technology. Many women who develop uterine cancer require a hysterectomy, a removal of the uterus. Traditionally, the surgery leaves a large scar and results in several weeks’ recovery time. Hunter has developed a prototype surgical device that would allow hysterectomies to be performed less invasively.

Hunter has also been an early adopter of new medical innovations. For many of his cancer patients, he operates using the da Vinci Surgical System. This advanced device decreases incision size and reduces complications — in many cases, enabling the patient to go home the same day.

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Rose Li, MD, PhD

Rose Li, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor

Bio

Dr. Li’s research is primarily focused on studying the interaction of epigenetic mechanisms and environmental factors such as bioactive dietary compounds in human diseases including cancer, obesity and aging utilizing transgenic mice as main animal models. Nutrition is believed to be an important environmental factor that is involved in regulation of gene expression during disease development through impacting epigenetic pathways. In particular, her primary research strategy investigates epigenetics regulation of reproductive cancers and transplacental/transgenerational disease prevention as well as the interaction of environmental factors and gene regulation during development. Dr. Li is interested in translational studies and strives to apply her research in future clinical trials.

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Susan C. Nagel, PhD

Susan C. Nagel, PhD

Director, Research Success Center

Bio

Dr. Susan Nagel directs a basic and translational science research lab focusing on environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals and how they can program fetal development to alter the risk of adult disease. Her lab was the first to show that chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas extraction or “fracking” can disrupt the endocrine system and program development and reproductive endpoints in adulthood.

Dr. Nagel has received the Basil O’Conner Junior Faculty Award from March of Dimes and the Barry Commoner Science in Environmental Service Award for her work on environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals. She has held several leadership positions at the MU School of Medicine, including Director of Resident Research, Chair of Research Council, Founder and Director of the OBGYN Research Success Center, Women in Medicine and Medical Sciences Executive Board, and Council of Faculty and Academic Societies with the Association of American Medical Colleges. She is currently vice chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Environmental Endocrine Disruptors.

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Amanda Patterson, PhD

Amanda Patterson, PhD

Assistant Professor of Reproductive Biology

Bio

Research in the Patterson lab is focused on understanding mechanisms of uterine repair in health and disease. During pregnancy, the uterus is drastically remodeled to accommodate an embryo/fetus, and following parturition, the tissue must be repaired to allow for subsequent pregnancies. The repair process includes regeneration of the endometrium and likely involves multiple mechanisms including stem cells. We are interested in understanding how stem cells function in the repair process, what regulates their activity and what happens when they are mutated or not properly regulated. When stem cells and other mechanisms of uterine repair go awry, they may contribute to diseases such as endometriosis and endometrial cancer, and we want to understand how this happens so better diagnostics and therapeutics can be developed.

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Laura Schulz, PhD

Laura Schulz, PhD

Associate Professor

Bio

The placenta is a crucial part of pregnancy in humans and other mammals, acting as a lifeline that enables transport of oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus. Schulz works to understand how maternal hormones and nutrients affect placental function — and how that, in turn, affects the fetus’ development and future health. Through a study of mice, she has investigated the role of the hormone leptin in combating the effects of poor nutrition or diabetes. Additionally, she is part of multi-lab efforts to better understand how the placenta develops, as well as how the pre-birth environment affects bone health in offspring.

Schulz’s findings have appeared in many peer-reviewed journals. These include Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, Endocrinology and other prestigious publications.

Numerous professional organizations have recognized Schulz’s outstanding research. In 2009, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine honored Schulz with its New Investigator Award. She is a member of the American Diabetes Association and the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) and has served as chair of the SSR’s Public Affairs Committee.

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Danny Schust, MD

Danny Schust, MD

David G. Hall Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology

Bio

Dr. Danny Schust has dedicated his career to helping families with reproductive health and endocrine disorders. After training at Harvard Medical School and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he joined the University of Missouri medical school in 2006. His clinical interests include early pregnancy loss, as well as gynecologic and early pregnancy ultrasonography.

Schust’s research interests include early placenta function, modeling early pregnancy in humans and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and the Zika virus. He has authored or co-authored more than 160 manuscripts and book chapters as well as a medical textbook on reproductive physiology.

Schust impacts care on an international basis as he presents his research results at scientific meetings throughout the world. He is also involved in medical work in Central America and feeding, education and building projects in Eastern Africa.

For his achievements and expertise, Schust has received numerous honors, including Harvard Medical School’s Humanism in Medicine Mentoring Award and multiple recognitions from The Society for Gynecologic Investigation.

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Thomas Spencer, PhD

Thomas Spencer, PhD

Curators Distinguished Professor