Announcing the Recipients of the 2024 Ottawa Region Cardiovascular Research Trainee of the Year Award

May 2, 2024

Congratulations to the 2024 award recipients!

Yena Oh, Ph.D cadidate
Yena Oh, PhD Candidate
Ottawa Region Cardiovascular Research Trainee of the Year

Congratulations to Yena Oh, Ph.D. candidate, who was selected as an Ottawa Region Cardiovascular Research Trainee of the Year! Ms. Oh is recognized for outstanding research leadership and the courageous pursuit of challenging research questions. Her novel research in bioinformatics and heart physiology (under the tutelage of Dr. Kyoung-Han Kim) has generated fundamental knowledge of the molecular and cellular heterogeneities of the postnatal cardiac conduction system (CCS).

Currently in the final year of her Ph.D. program in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Ottawa, Ms. Oh has already demonstrated all the qualities and effectiveness of an independent investigator. Her leadership is outstanding, both in setting new scientific directions, and as a mentor and teacher.

For example, in her thesis project Ms. Oh identifyed transcriptomic heterogeneities in the CCS. She took on a particularly challenging study, involving a target cell population that is at most 0.1%  - about 500 - of the neonatal heart’s cells. She had to isolate and purify at least 15,000 to 30,000 conductive cardiomyocytes from different developmental stages of mouse hearts cells on the same date and subject those samples to single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq). Ms. Oh independently developed all her experiments and bioinformatic analyses, utilizing a spatial transcriptomic technology which was bioinformatically integrated into her scRNA-seq data. Furthermore, she’s verified these exciting findings using immunostaining and fluorescent in situ hybridization, and in vitro in cultured neonatal mouse atrial and ventricular myocytes, and was able to mimic regional heterogeneities of the CCS in a dish.

Ms. Oh’s exceptional research potential has been extensively recognized, from numerous prestigious post-doc offers to the Keystone Symposia-Heart Development and Disease: From Genes to Cures (2023), the AHA Basic Cardiovascular Science Scientific Session (BCVS, 2023), Gary Lopaschuk Graduate Students Awards Competition at the International Society for Heart Research, North American Section (ISHR, 2022) and the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress (2021). Moreover, her abstract won the ‘Paul Dudley White International Scholar Award’ in both 2023 and 2022 at the BCVS as the highest-ranked abstract in Canada.

With such high-caliber scientific skills combined with tremendous perseverance and positive leadership, Ms. Oh inspires her team to greater heights, and exemplifies the next generation of research leaders.

Pietro Di Santo, MD and PhD Candidate
Pietro Di Santo, MD and PhD Candidate
Ottawa Region Cardiovascular Research Trainee of the Year

Congratulations to Pietro Di Santo, MD and PhD candidate, who was selected as an Ottawa Region Cardiovascular Research Trainee of the Year! Dr. Di Santo is recognized for outstanding productivity and ingenuity in clinical trials, leadership in cardiac critical care and interventional cardiology (under the tutelage of Drs. George Wells and Benjamin Hibbert).

An interventional cardiologist with an unwavering commitment to advancing cardiovascular medicine through novel research endeavours, Dr. Di Santo is completing both additional fellowship training in Critical Care Medicine, as well as his PhD. He is currently leading multiple clinical trials, including the CAPITAL RAPTOR RCT examining arterial access site management in coronary angiography.

Dr. Di Santo has successfully obtained funding as a CIHR clinical trial co-investigator for CAPITAL DOREMI2, and the CCS-Bayer Vascular Award for CAPITAL RAPTOR. His leadership includes the Trial Steering Committees for 4 on-going RCTs, as well the Data Safety Monitoring Boards of two others. His accomplishments have been recognized through the 2022 Rick Hodder Day Scholarship Award and the 2021 Keon Award (awarded to UOHI’s most outstanding cardiovascular trainee).

Dr. Di Santo has unmatched research productivity, with over 80 peer-reviewed publications including 15 as first author/co-first author, four of those in 2023 alone. He has high-impact publications in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Circulation and CHEST. His paper examining renal function and injury in patients with cardiogenic shock treated with milrinone and dobutamine in JACC Advances was named one of the top 10 most-read articles in 2023. His colleagues laud him for constantly raising the team’s bar for productivity and ingenuity – as well as for creating an environment uniquely strong in kindness, warmth, and affability.

This extraordinary combination of scientific skills and personal attributes has led Dr. Di Santo to become an unofficial research mentor to innumerable trainees, from medical students to senior fellows. He is the first person that colleagues come to with research queries, and an unparalleled resource for the entire research team. Dr. Di Santo is poised to become an international star, and UOHI is thrilled he will be joining us in July as a Clinician Scientist and the Principal investigator of the CAPITAL Research Program.