Dr Sonia Podvin was the recipient of the first ever TEAM HYDRO-sponsored research grant back in 2010. Since that time she has stayed close to hydrocephalus not only in the lab, but in her wetsuit as well — she’ll be taking the plunge in a few weeks (for the 3rd time!!) when Team Hydro swims from Alcatraz on June 4th! We caught up with Dr. Podvin to see how she was doing!
TEAM HYDRO: Could you tell us a little about your research, your interests in neuroscience, and how they relate to hydrocephalus?
Dr. Podvin: My research in neuroscience has focused on uncovering molecular mechanisms that can be a “switch” between brain health and brain disease. As a pharmacologist, I believe that identifying drugs that can help flip the switch to health can potentially be a huge benefit for hydrocephalus, by reducing brain inflammation and events that lead to progressive degeneration. As we all know hydrocephalus is more than just a “plumbing problem” it is a whole brain disease!
TEAM HYDRO: How did you get involved in hydrocephalus research?
Dr. Podvin: While working with three amazing mentors in the at UCSD, we identified a potential molecular switch that, in animals, behaved one way in the healthy brain, but differently in brain disease models. In one model, the result was enlarged brain ventricles. My mentors encouraged me to apply for the Mentored Young Investigator Award from the Hydrocephalus Association, which I was so honored to receive in 2010.
TEAM HYDRO: How has learning about hydrocephalus affected you personally and professionally?
Dr. Podvin: Learning about difficulties so many patients with hydrocephalus face every day was heartbreaking. It seemed that the reality of living with a shunt was never knowing when it could fail, and that could mean surgery or infection. The few drugs available to treat hydrocephalus were limited in effectiveness, not safe for more than a short time, or effected other organs. My hopes for my future in continuing hydrocephalus research is to apply advanced technology and innovative approaches in pharmaceutical sciences to identify safe, effective and specific drugs for treating hydrocephalus, that can reduce the number of surgeries, decrease complications or treat hydrocephalus without surgery.
TEAM HYDRO: How did your connection with TEAM HYDRO develop outside the lab?
Dr. Podvin: After I received the research grant enabled by TEAM HYDRO, I met the Finlayson family when they came to visit our lab at UCSD, and they invited me to become a member of Team Hydro to support research outside of the lab as well. It is a small thing I can do to help the community effort to continue critical research efforts. I was never on a swim team, I knew how to swim but that was the limit of my abilities. I started swimming about 100 yards at a time in the warm, calm San Diego bay with a friend from UCSD. S-L-O-W-L-Y, I worked my way up to swimming two miles. In 2015, I jumped into the (cold!) San Francisco bay with the other Team Hydro members for the first time. I have such admiration for our team members with hydrocephalus that swim through the rough, cold water effortlessly with incredible times!
TEAM HYDRO: Beyond the incredible people living (and swimming and thriving) with hydrocephalus, what motivates you to keep swimming with TEAM HYDRO?
Dr. Podvin: I continue to swim to support the research initiatives of the Hydrocephalus Association. The funding programs are focused to address critical needs in understanding mechanisms and outcomes of hydrocephalus, creating databases and biobanks, with the goal of finding a cure. These research programs help to generate the data necessary for researchers to obtain larger grants from federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and for young scientists to begin careers in hydrocephalus research. Swimmer or not, we can all help research efforts by getting involved in grassroots advocacy to educate our Congress members about hydrocephalus, request increased support for programs that fund hydrocephalus research, and to again designate hydrocephalus as eligible to receive Congressionally Directed Medical Research Funds.
TEAM HYDRO: Dr. Podvin, we certainly do not consider what you are doing as a “small thing.” To us at Team Hydro, and to ALL those suffering from hydrocephalus, you are TEAM HYDRO HERO! You’re seeking to help both inside AND outside the lab — we consider that a very BIG thing –for which we could not be more grateful!!
Thank you Dr. Podvin!! We are honored to have you as a part of the TEAM HYDRO family!!
Fellow swimmers–look for Sonia (aka Dr. Podvin) on swim day–not only is she a fabulous researcher–she is a great person to get to know!
Go Team Hydro! Together we can CURE hydrocephalus!