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Meet the researcher: Dr. Grace Makari-Judson

October 21, 2019
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Name: Grace Makari-Judson, MD

Title/Academic Rank: Professor of Medicine at UMMS-Baystate, Co-Director of The Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research, and Chair of the Baystate Health Breast Network and Baystate Regional Cancer Program.

Number of years at Baystate: 30 years

What got you interested in research overall? Part of being a cancer specialist is trying to connect molecular findings to clinical applications. Although we usually think of translational research as the bench findings informing the clinic, I like to focus on how clinical observations can inform laboratory directions.

What is your area of research? I am the principal investigator for breast cancer clinical trials. I co-direct, with Joe Jerry, PhD, the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research, which is how translational research comes into play. We developed a Breast Research Registry, now with over 1,000 participants, that links clinical information with tissue to serve as a resource for investigators. Most recently, we started the Metastatic Breast Cancer Registry to explore predictors of response to therapy.

How do you see your research improving care for patients? Clinical trials have provided our patients with opportunities to receive new treatments before they become mainstream. The translational research, for example our NIH grant to study estrogen and the environment, will hopefully contributes to our knowledge about what causes breast cancer.

Favorite research projects? One of my areas of interest is weight change in women following a diagnosis of breast cancer. This has led to collaborations with UMass Amherst investigators interested in metabolism, exercise and survivorship issues.

Do you have any awards? The awards that have meant the most to me reflect my impact on the community in influencing women’s health and women in the sciences. Examples include Pioneer Valley Women of Vision Award and Bay Path Women Leaders Hall of Fame. In 2013, I was awarded the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane letters and delivered the commencement address at Bay Path University.

What do you like the most about your job? The people I work with, the patients I am privileged to care for, and having the support of our community through Rays of Hope. It is extraordinary to be able to say that our community is cheering us on and has raised over four million dollars to support breast cancer research.

What do you do to unwind outside of work? With two sons on the West Coast and two sons on the East Coast, traveling is a must. Wherever we are, my husband and I like to try out new cuisines and get inspired. To balance out the gourmet meals, I enjoy yoga, tennis, golf and being outdoors.