Announcing New Pediatric Endocrine Fellow: Dr. Power

Dr. Power

Today we are thrilled to announce that Dr. Gregory Power has joined our division as a new pediatric endocrine fellow. He will serve three years in this role, after which he will be a full-fledged, board-eligible pediatric endocrinologist. Dr. Power received his Medical Doctorate degree from the University of Iowa having completed undergraduate studies at Iowa State University. He just completed a three-year pediatric residency at the Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University. While a resident he demonstrated an outstanding aptitude for and interest in pediatric endocrinology. In 2021, he was selected to join the PedsENDO Discovery Program administered by the Pediatric Endocrine Society. He graduated medical on the Research Distinction Tract, studying lung disease in premature infants. A warm welcome to Dr. Power!!

Dr. Curtis Promoted to Full Professor

Dr. Curtis

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Vanessa Curtis for her well earned promotion to full professor!! In brief, Dr. Curtis has been promoted in recognition of her clinical mastery and leadership, her teaching leadership, her skills in clinical communication, and her nationally recognized scholarship in several aspects of pediatric endocrinology. She joined the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in 2011, having just completed a pediatric endocrine fellowship at the University of Wisconsin. Since that time, she has become a nationally recognized clinical expert as regards the endocrinology of young athletes. Additionally, she built the leading state/regional clinic for obese youth. We are especially thankful for her leadership as the Director of our Division’s pediatric endocrinology fellowship program, ushering it into its most successful era. To boot, she is an outstanding physician and superb teacher. Earlier this year she was tapped to become the Director of the Child and Community Health Division, highlighting her leadership skills. Once again, congratulations Dr. Curtis!

Dr. Parra Villasmil Completes Pediatric Endocrine Fellowship

Dr. Parra Villasmil

We are extremely proud of Dr. Graciela Parra Villasmil. For the past 3 years, Dr. Parra Villasmil has been a pediatric endocrinology fellow in our program. Today she finishes this training and will officially become a “board eligible” pediatric endocrinologist. During these past three years, Dr. Parra Villasmil has been an exemplary fellow, delivering excellent clinical care and demonstrating exceptional clinical leadership. Her contributions include being an enthusiastic volunteer at Diabetes Camp Hertko Hollow. While a fellow, she has been a very energetic scholar, publishing several times, including a case report regarding the co-occurrence of hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state and diabetic ketoacidosis. She presented a roundtable lecture at the 2023 North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology meeting and a poster at the 2023 Pediatric Endocrine Society meeting. She has been named a 2023-2025 Collaborative Alliance for Pancreatic Education and Research (CAPER) scholar, and received an annual top research project award from CAPER. Several other of her awards received as a fellow have been previously mentioned in this blog. Dr. Parra Villasmil will be taking a position at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, joining their Pediatric Endocrine team. Her enthusiasm, patient care skills, and positive energy will be missed by our division. Congratulations Dr. Parra Villasmil!

Dr. Pinnaro Recognized for her Outstanding Teaching

Dr. Catherina Pinnaro

On May 31st, Dr. Pinnaro received the Excellence in Clinical Coaching award from the Graduate Medical Education office. This award is given to faculty who are distinguished as outstanding clinical teachers of resident and fellow physicians. Comments written about Dr. Pinnaro’s teaching include a reflection of her approach to hospital rounds where she is renowned for “probing each learner with thought-provoking questions to assess their understanding, empowering the learners to take ownership of the patients, and dropping clinical pearls about even the mundane patient.” Congratulations Dr. Pinnaro, and thank you for your outstanding clinical teaching efforts.

Drs. Curtis and Pinnaro Provide Invited Commentary on Pubertal Timing

A variety of pathological processes can induce puberty earlier than otherwise would normally occur. When a child enters puberty, an important question is whether the timing is abnormally early. Pediatric endocrinologists are often the arbitrators of this question. Data defining the normal ages of puberty start are thus important. Data suggests that normal timing varies depending on a child’s genetic, racial, and ethnic background. A recent publication in JAMA Network Open reports data collected from over 100,000 youth with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and/or Pacific Islander heritage (link to article). To help interpret the findings, Drs. Vanessa Curtis and Catherina Pinnaro from our division were asked to provide their commentary on the article. Their commentary can be found here (link, which has link to the open source full text). They conclude that “[the] study illustrates the diversity within populations that could easily and erroneously be grouped together and emphasizes the necessity for precision and the pitfalls encountered when using race and ethnicity as a proxy for genetic background.”

JDRF Diabetes Fundraising Walk

The JDRF is a philanthropic, nonprofit organization that raises funds to support research aimed at curing, preventing, and better treating type 1 diabetes. On Saturday, May 11, the JDRF held its annual fundraising walk in Cedar Rapids. Our Division, led by Drs. Pinnaro and Alexandrou, organized a team of walkers to help the cause. Walkers from our division on the team included Drs. Alexandrou and Pinnaro, nurse practitioner Alex, diabetes nurses Haylee and Sue, pharmacist Lisa, our administrator Teresa, and research coordinator Emma, as well as spouses, kids, and a few of our dogs! As an unexpected perk, team members got to meet Iowa basketball star forward Hannah Stuelke (pictured below with nurse Sue and Dr. Alexandrou).

L->R: diabetes nurse Sue, Iowa basketball star Hannah Stuelke, Dr. Alexandrou.

A Newly Identified Mechanism of Obesity-Induced Pituitary Dysfunction Contributes to Metabolic Dysfunction Associated Fatty Liver Disease

Dr. Norris

Obesity impairs various aspects of pituitary function. Perturbations in the thyroid, growth hormone, gonadal, and adrenal axes are well documented. However, the mechanisms involved are not well understood. Furthermore, it is possible that the pituitary dysfunction induced by obesity might contribute to the medical complications of obesity. Dr. Norris, from our division, recently assisted with new research that begins to address these knowledge gaps. The investigators found that obesity in mice impaired the ability of pituitary cells to activate their cellular unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR is a mechanism that helps protect cells against various stressors. Importantly, when the UPR was disrupted in pituitary cells by genetic manipulation, pituitary dysfunction similar to that in obesity resulted, especially in the thyroid axis. Furthermore, primary genetic UPR disruption in the pituitary resulted in UPR disruption in the liver in a manner that could contribute to fatty liver disease. The work will be published in Cell Metabolism and its abstract is available on PubMed (link). The work was conducted in the lab of Dr. Ling Yang in the F.O.E. Diabetes Research Center at the University of Iowa.

Our Division’s Scholarship Well Represented at National Pediatric Endocrine Society Meeting

Each year, pediatric endocrinologists from around the world attend the “PES Annual Meeting”, hosted by the Pediatric Endocrine Society (PES). The mission of the PES is primarily to “advance and promote the endocrine health and well being of children and adolescents“.  This year, several Division members submitted abstracts describing new research and advances for review by the PES. The following were selected for presentation at this years PES meeting, which was just held May 2-5 in Chicago.

  • Dr. Eirene Alexandrou: “Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Agonist Therapy in Patients Undergoing Dialysis – A Cautionary Tale!” – selected for a poster presentation. Co-author from our division on this work is Dr. Akhila Ramakrishna.
  • Dr. Ben Palmer: “Adolescent-driven Retrospective Glucose Data Self-Review is Associated with Improved Glycemic Control in Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus.” – selected for a poster presentation. Co-authors from our division on this work are Dr. Catherina Pinnaro, Dr, Andrew Norris, and Dr. Michael Tansey.
  • Dr. Catherina Pinnaro: “Influence of X Chromosome Parent-of-origin on Glycemia in Individuals with Turner syndrome” – selected for an prestigious oral presentation. Co-author from our division on this work is Dr. Andrew Norris.
  • Dr. Akhila Ramakrishna: “A rare case of a female with 47 XXY ovo-testicular DSD.” – selected for an prestigious oral presentation.

Congratulations to all for helping advance the field of Pediatric Endocrinology.

Dr. Ramakrishna Named Co-Chair of National Adrenal Endocrine Disease Interest Group

Dr. Akhila Ramakrishna

Dr. Akhila Ramakrishna has been elected to co-chair the Pediatric Endocrine Society Special Interest Group focused on adrenal hormones. This group is a professional network who help guide dissemination and review of progress in the diagnostic workup and treatment of adrenal disorders in youth. This aligns well with Dr. Ramakrishna’s role as the lead endocrinologist in our DSD (differences in sex development) clinic, as adrenal disorders are a leading cause of DSD conditions. Her term in this position starts this month. Congratulations to Dr. Ramakrishna for her ongoing hard work in this area.

Pediatric Research Day

Dr. Parra Villasmil

The 2024 Pediatric Research Day was held on the afternoon of April 12th, highlighting seven speakers , a data blitz, and a poster session. Our Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes was well represented. Dr. Parra Villasmil was selected as one of the three top abstract authors, and asked to present to her research work as a talk entitled “Dysglycemia in children with acute recurrent or chronic pancreatitis”. There were four posters that included authors from our Division as well.