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Nicholas William Shworak Faculty Member


National and international grants in excess of $5,000,000 have supported my biomedical research, which focuses on how a heparin-like polysaccharide regulates critical functions of the cardiovascular system in health and disease. I previously isolated several novel genes involved in generating specific polysaccharide structures and generated a knockout mouse deficient in a heparin-like structure (HSAT+). Our recent analysis of this mouse indicates that HSAT+ controls a natural anti-inflammatory pathway of blood vessels that protects against acute inflammatory diseases such as sepsis. This pathway may also protect against chronic inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease; we have identified human genetic variants that associate with reduced HSAT+ expression and increased severity of coronary artery disease. Current research is directed at determining if mutations in this pathway truly cause human cardiovascular disease. We have ongoing collaborations that focus on a newly discovered cell type (an innate immune lymphocyte that expresses HS3ST1) and examine its role in the physiology/pathophysiology of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases. Since arriving at GW SMHS in 2016, I have been developing a novel research program in medical student education. My current working hypothesis is that preclerkship medical students do not fit into classic child teaching philosophy (pedagogy) nor newer theories of adult education (andragogy). Rather, I propose a new teaching paradigm (ambigogy), which recognizes preclinical medical students as a transition stage between the well-defined student population targets of pedagogy and andragogy. In addition, my working hypothesis posits that preclinical medical students are such exceptionally high performing learners that one must consider completely novel teaching approaches to accommodate the high informational bandwidth that our students can accommodate. Thus, I seek to identify teaching strategies that are truly optimized for preclerkship medical education. To this end, I am presently working on a Master of Education degree. This year I have completed the first half of the research project for this degree. For more than a decade, I have been extensively involved in teaching doctoral and medical students pharmacology, drug development, vascular biology and cellular/molecular approaches to translational research. During this period we created a new graduate program in translational research, which included de novo curriculum development. In addition, I was Director of Medical Pharmacology and was actively involved in curriculum redesign and the LCME accreditation process. I have also mentored >35 individuals (from undergraduates to postdoctoral/clinical fellows to junior faculty) across a range of research projects. I am now teaching GWU medical students (in three MS1 blocks and one MS2 blocks, physician assistant students and graduate students pharmacology & physiology in several areas including antibacterial agents, anticoagulants, antiarrhythmics, heart failure treatments, renal physiology and diuretics. I facilitate small group activities such as sessions on cardiopulmonary physiology and autonomic control of cardiovascular homeostasis. I serve as Co-Director of the Cardio/Pulm/Renal (CPR) block of the pre-clerkship medical student curriculum. This year I taught >52 h of classes.. I have served on numerous departmental and institutional committees for activities such as faculty searches, curriculum development, student conduct and performance, facilities infrastructure, internal grant reviews, and the Dean’s advisory board. I presently serve on several MD program curricular committees and have served on faculty recruitment committees including the Search Committee for the Assistant Dean of Preclinical Education as well as medical education task force committees. My regional contributions include serving on the Board of Directors of the NH American Heart Association, and participating in public outreach seminars. Nationally, I have participated in a range of NIH study sections (NHLBI, NCI, NCRR) for Program Project and minor/ major infrastructure grants. Internationally I have reviewed grants from Belgium, Canada, Japan, Qatar, and the UK. I have reviewed manuscripts for ~20 journals, including Nature Medicine, Journal of Clinical Investigation and PNAS. I have contributed to national/international conferences by serving on scientific program committees and chairing sessions. This year, I have additionally served on new task forces and committees focusing on strengthening nutritional content as a component of the preclinical curriculum and integrating antiracism content into the entire 4 y MD program. I have received awards throughout my career including the prestigious Centennial Fellowship (Medical Research Council, Canada), the Kenneth M. Brinkhous Young Investigator Award in Thrombosis (American Heart Association), Best of AHA Specialty Conferences Poster Sessions, and I was elected Chair of the 16th Gordon Proteoglycan Conference, which is the premier conference in the proteoglycan field. In 2018 I received the Golden Apple award from the GWU MSI class and in 2019 I received the GWU SMHS Distinguished Teacher Award for Basic Sciences. This year I was selected as the Keynote speaker for PA class of 2021 Commencement White Coat Ceremony.

Research Areas

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