USHA RAJ, MD
Anjuli S. Nayak Professor of Pediatrics
Head, Department of Pediatrics, University of Illinois at Chicago
Physician-in-Chief, Children's Hospital
University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System
Dr. Usha Raj came from the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in 2008 to head the Department of Pediatrics. Today she is the Head of the Children’s Hospital of the University of Illinois which became a member of NACHRI in 2010. She is a nationally and internationally renowned neonatologist and clinician/investigator with a research program in Pulmonary Vascular Biology that has been continuously funded by NIH for over 27 years. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics since 1981 and is actively involved in advocacy for children as a member of AMSPDC She was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 1994 and to the American Pediatric Society in 1996. She is an elected member of the Executive Council of the American Physiological Society. She has served twice as a regular member of the Study Sections of the National institutes of Health, and is called upon to serve on many review panels and workshops by the NIH. Over the past 3 years, she has recruited over 35 new faculty members and is working to enhance the clinical, educational and research programs in the Department.
Her research interests have been in Developmental Pulmonary Vascular Biology and her laboratory has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for over 27 years. As head of the Developmental Pulmonary Biology Research Group at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Raj is studying the mechanisms that control the pulmonary circulation in the fetus and newborn, and is trying to understand why some babies develop problems related to the lung blood vessels while others do not.
Her work has established and defined the very important role of pulmonary veins in regulation of microvascular pressures, fluid filtration and blood flow in the fetal and neonatal lungs. Another important contribution has been the discovery of an important role for platelet activating factor in the normal physiological regulation of pulmonary vasomotor tone in the developing lung. The contribution of this vasoactive compound and growth factor in the pathogenesis of chronic hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension is being currently studied. Her laboratory has identified the very important role of cGMP dependent protein kinase and its mechanisms of action on the pulmonary vasculature during the transition from fetal to neonatal life. And more recently, her group has identified a unique role for reactive species in protein modification and vascular function in the transition from fetal to neonatal pulmonary circulation.
Dr. Raj and other members of her research team, including Ram Ramchandran PhD, Qiwei Yang PhD, Tianji Chen PhD and Aarti Raghavan MD are researching the genetic and environmental basis of pulmonary vascular disease in the fetus and newborn. Guofei Zhou PhD, Deming Gou PhD,and Yuansheng Gao PhD are also actively involved with her research work.
She is also involved in fellow education and is very interested in increasing the number of pediatricians in the academic research track. Currently Neonatal Fellows Joyce Ibe MD and Rodica Popa MD are working in her laboratory. She has trained over 25 fellows, several of whom are pursuing academic careers. She welcomes students, residents and fellows into her laboratory.