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Vital Signs

Investigator Insight

In this section, we highlight the human side of biomedical investigation, putting a few questions to a researcher at DMS-DHMC.

Alix Ashare, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine and of Anesthesiology

Ashare studies the immune response to the bacteria Pseudomonas in humans with cystic fibrosis (CF). She joined the DMS faculty in 2009.

What got you interested in science?
I come from a family of lawyers, so going into medicine was probably a bit of an act of rebellion. In my immunology class as a first-year medical student, I became fascinated with the host immune response to illness and actually took a leave of absence from school the following year to pursue a research project in an immunology laboratory. After that year, I was hooked.

Can you describe your research?
It focuses on the host immune response of tissue macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to bacteria such as Pseudomonas in cystic fibrosis patients. One project I am working on involves looking at alveolar macrophages (tissue macrophages localized to the lung) that have been isolated from patients with cystic fibrosis. We are trying to determine why these macrophages do not function as well as alveolar macrophages from healthy patients.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be doing?
Trying to write the next great American novel.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?
I enjoy exploring the Upper Valley with my husband and our three-year-old son. We like to spend as much time outdoors as possible. We love to cross-country ski, hike, and spend time on the beach. And I enjoy reading—both fiction and historical fiction. I just finished The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian and thought it was awesome. I also really enjoy cooking. In a former life, I was an avid tennis player and hope to find time for that again some day.

What is stressful for you?
Clutter. I can't work if my desk is cluttered.

What do you admire most in other people?
Passion. I think it is amazing what people can accomplish if they are truly passionate about what they are doing.

What's one thing that you would change about yourself?
I would like to be more patient.

Do you use Twitter, Facebook, or other social media?
I am pretty much addicted to Facebook (but I'm really trying to cut back).

What three people would you like to have over for dinner?
John Irving because he is one of the most prolific writers of our time. Vince Vaughn because he is hilarious. And Emeril Lagasse because I can't think of anything cooler than cooking dinner with Emeril.

When you were very young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I have always loved animals, and I volunteered at the local animal shelter for a number of years.

What's hot in your field right now?
CF affects about 30,000 Americans and leads to a shortened life span. Most patients ultimately die from respiratory failure as a result of chronic infections. If we can figure out ways to decrease chronic infections in these patients, the hope is that this would prolong their lives.

What do you like most about your job?
The people I work with. There's a huge community of people working on clinical and scientific aspects of CF. They're all wonderful, and I feel inspired and challenged pretty much every day.

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