Gillian R. Diercks, MD, MPH, and Eleni M. Rettig, MD, both Instructors in Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (OHNS) at Harvard Medical School, have been named recipients of 2022 Eleanor and Miles Shore Development Awards.
The awards are a part of the 27th annual Eleanor and Miles Shore Development Awards Program, which supports the academic success of junior faculty who are balancing early careers with significant responsibilities. Awards are funded by Harvard, affiliate institutions and private donors and may be used by a junior faculty to protect time from clinical, teaching, or other responsibilities while pursuing academic work.
Dr. Diercks, a clinician-scientist in the Department of OHNS at Mass Eye and Ear, was awarded the 2022 Mass Eye and Ear Fellowship Award, and Eleni M. Rettig, MD, was awarded the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Surgery Junior Fellowship Award in honor of Robert T. Osteen, MD.
Learn a little more about the intended work of each award recipient:
Dr. Gillian Diercks
The Mass Eye and Ear Fellowship Award will support Dr. Diercks’ clinical and research interests in tongue tie, a congenital condition that restricts an infant’s tongue movement. According to Dr. Diercks, clinicians have more frequently diagnosed breastfeeding difficulties associated with tongue tie over the past two decades, and this has led to an 800 percent increase in the number of surgical procedures, known as frenotomies, to treat the condition. Despite the popularity of the surgery, little evidence suggests it improves infant and maternal outcomes.
Through the funding of her award, Dr. Diercks will seek additional specialized training in the functional aspects of breastfeeding and oral tissue tethering. The funds will also support her research study on how comprehensive feeding evaluations, with or without tongue tie operations, affect patient-reported outcomes.
Dr. Eleni Rettig
In honor of Dr. Osteen, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Surgery Junior Fellowship Award will support Dr. Rettig’s work on a new saliva test designed to detect head and neck cancers using tumor-tissue-modified human-human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA. HPV-associated head and neck cancer is one of the fastest growing malignancies in the world, and a test that can accurately detect the cancer could help improve early interventions and subsequent outcomes.
Dr. Rettig will specifically work on a study, referred to as SPOT-HPV (Specificity of Oral Rinse Testing for HPV), focused on characterizing the test, which is designed to detect HPV DNA from head and neck cancers, and not from oral HPV infections. Depending on the results of the study, the new saliva test could develop into a diagnostic tool that could complement current blood tests for the diagnosis and monitoring of HPV-positive head and neck cancers.