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Meet Our Team | Overview

small - Annapurna Poduri, MD, MPH Annapurna Poduri, MD, MPH
Director/Attending Physician

 

Ann directs the Epilepsy Genetics Program at Boston Children’s Hospital as a clinician-scientist, with one hand in the clinic as a pediatric epileptologist and the other hand in the laboratory on a mission to identify the genetic underpinnings of epilepsy. She is a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, the Diamond Blackfan Chair of Neuroscience Research and the Director of the Neurology Department’s Neurogenetics Program at Boston Children’s.

Ann received her BA in Biology summa cum laude from Harvard University, her MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. She completed pediatric training at Boston Children’s Hospital, child neurology residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and clinical neurophysiology fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital. It was through her rich clinical training that she developed research hypotheses that she pursued as a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Christopher A. Walsh, where she received rich training and mentorship in dominant and recessive neurogenetics and pioneered the study of mosaic (post-zygotic) mutation in developmental brain disorders that lead to epilepsy. Ann started the Epilepsy Genetics Program at Boston Children’s in 2011 to create a translational infrastructure for clinical and research activities focused on epilepsy genetics. She started her independent research laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2013, integrating clinical research with bench laboratory research focusing primarily on the zebrafish model system.

Ann is a key participant in epilepsy genetics research at the local, national, and international level. She has been part of an international effort to understand the genetics of severe early-onset epilepsies; she served as the Boston Children’s Investigator for the NIH-funded Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP), a national, multi-centered research study, and Co-Investigator for the Epi4K follow-up study. She serves on the International League Against Epilepsy Genetics Commission and chairs the American Epilepsy Society/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Benchmarks Stewards Committee.
 

small - Beth Rosen Sheidley, MS, CGC Beth Rosen Sheidley, MS, CGC
Co-Director/Genetic Counseling Program Manager

 

Beth is a licensed genetic counselor with over 25 years of experience in clinical genetic counseling, research and teaching. Her areas of expertise include epilepsy, autism, psychiatric illness and both prenatal and pediatric genetic counseling. As Co-Director of the Epilepsy Genetics Program, Beth is involved in all aspects of program planning and development.

Beth provides genetic counseling to families seen in our Epilepsy Genetics Clinic, supervises the genetic counseling and clinic/clinical research staff, oversees the implementation of our research efforts, and coordinates our involvement in several collaborative research projects. She is a founding member and Co-Chair of EpiGC, an international network of genetic counselors who specialize in epilepsy genetics and who are dedicated to the education of both providers and families. Beth also serves on the Epilepsy Foundation’s Professional Advisory Board, and is the Co-Editor of genetics content for the Epilepsy Foundation’s website.

Beth received her BS degree from Cornell University in 1990 and her MS in Genetic Counseling from Brandeis University in 1994. She joined the Department of Neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2010. In addition to her role in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, Beth is a member of the Advisory Board for the Brandeis University Genetic Counseling Graduate Program, where she served as Professor of the Practice/Co-Director of Research and Professional Development from 2005 through June of 2014.

Beth received her BS degree from Cornell University in 1990 and her MS in genetic counseling from Brandeis University in 1994. She joined the Department of Neurology at Boston Children’s in 2010. In addition to her role in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, Beth is a member of the Advisory Board for the Brandeis University Genetic Counseling Graduate Program, where she served as professor of the practice/co-director of research and professional development from 2005 through June 2014.
 

small - Christelle Moufawad El Achkar, MD Christelle Moufawad El Achkar, MD
Attending Physician

 

Dr. Achkar is an attending physician in the Epilepsy Genetics Program and the Division of Epilepsy and Neurophysiology. She is fluent in English, Arabic, and French, and studied biology before attending the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) for medical school. Prior to coming to Boston Children’s for her child neurology residency, Dr. Achkar completed her pediatric residency at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland as well as a research fellowship on the use of scalp EEG recording of high frequency waves in mapping eloquent cortical areas at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. She completed an additional clinical fellowship year under Drs. Annapurna Poduri and Heather Olson in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, during which she focused on the diagnosis and management of multiple causes of epilepsy genetics. Her training also includes autism spectrum disorder clinics under the supervision of Dr. Sarah Spence.

Dr. Achkar’s main research and clinical interest is the connection between epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder, as well as other co-morbidities including developmental delays and behavioral problems. Currently, she is closely involved with clinical research projects involving genetic disorders that are known to cause epilepsy along with other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as 16p11.2 copy number variations and PCDH19.
 

small - Heather Olson, MD, MPH Heather Olson, MD, MPH
Attending Physician

 

Dr. Olson is a neurologist and epileptologist at Boston Children’s Hospital with board certification in neurology and special qualification in child neurology. She has fellowship training in epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology, as well as in neurogenetics, with a focus on epilepsy genetics. She also has experience and interest in neonatal neurology. She is an attending physician in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, through which she sees patients for consultations and management of epilepsy. She sees additional patients for consultation as part of the Brain Development and Genetics Clinic, and she is an attending physician in the Neonatal Neurology Follow-up Program with a focus on epilepsy and neurogenetics. Dr. Olson is also co-director of the CDKL5 Center of Excellence.

Dr. Olson has ongoing related research projects that focus on understanding and determining the underlying genetic causes of epilepsy, including the overlap of inflammatory and genetic mechanisms of epilepsy. She has expertise in both phenotypic and genotypic analysis. She is the local contact for the Rasmussen Encephalitis Research Consortium and neurologist for the Angelman Syndrome Natural History Study. In 2013, Dr. Olson was selected as the recipient of the Logan Infantile Spasms Award and Research Grant by the Child Neurology Foundation.
 

Catherine L. Salussolia, MD, PhD Catherine L. Salussolia, MD, PhD
Attending Physician

 

Dr. Salussolia is a neurologist and epileptologist at Boston Children’s Hospital with board certification in neurology and special qualification in child neurology. She has fellowship training in epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology, as well as in neurogenetics, with a focus on epilepsy genetics and tuberous sclerosis. She is an attending physician in the Epilepsy Genetics Program and the Tuberous Sclerosis Clinic, through which she sees patients for consultations and management of epilepsy.

Dr. Salussolia obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Biology from Swarthmore College. She completed a Masters in Science at Albany Medical College in the Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience, and then received her MD/PhD degrees through the MSTP program at Stony Brook University. Her doctoral work utilized molecular techniques to identify and characterize the biogenesis of ionotropic glutamate receptors (NMDA and AMPA receptors) and its effects on disease states. She completed her pediatrics training at Stony Brook University followed by child neurology residency and fellowship training in clinical neurophysiology and neurogenetics at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her current research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of inhibitory signaling, specifically parvalbumin interneurons, in tuberous sclerosis-associated epilepsy.
 

small - Kimberly Wiltrout, MD Kimberly Wiltrout, MD
Attending Physician

 

Dr. Wiltrout is a neurologist and epileptologist at Boston Children’s Hospital with board certification in neurology with special qualification in child neurology. Dr. Wiltrout obtained her Bachelor of Arts in neuroscience at Franklin & Marshall College and her MD degree at the University of Rochester. She completed her child neurology residency and epilepsy fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis before completing a fellowship in the Epilepsy Genetics Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. In addition to seeing patients in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, she is actively involved in clinical research projects with a focus on SYNGAP1 Related Disorder.
 

small - Christopher Yuskaitis, MD, PhD Christopher Yuskaitis, MD, PhD
Attending Physician

 

Dr. Yuskaitis is a neurologist at Boston Children’s Hospital with board certification in neurology and special qualification in child neurology. He obtained his bachelor of arts with high distinction in cognitive science with emphasis in neuroscience at the University of Virginia. He then received MD/PhD degrees through the MSTP Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His graduate work identified misregulation of glycogen synthase kinase-3 as a potential target for therapeutic intervention in fragile X syndrome. He completed his pediatrics training in the Boston Combined Residency Program, followed by child neurology residency and neurogenetics fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is member of the NIH-funded ClinGen Brain Malformations Gene Curation Expert Panel. He is the co-director of the Infantile Spasms Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. His current clinical research focused on predictors of outcomes in children with infantile spasms. His laboratory research focuses on how alterations to nutrient sensing genes (e.g. DEPDC5, NPRL2, NPRL3) leads to epilepsy and brain malformations, and targeting this pathway for therapeutic intervention. He sees patients for consultation in the Brain and Developmental Genetics Clinic and the Epilepsy Genetics Program.
 

small - Katherine (Katie) Kralik Katherine (Katie) Kralik
Genetic Counseling Assistant

 

Katie joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program as a Genetic Counseling Assistant in May of 2022. In this role, she serves as a liaison between providers, patients, insurance companies, and genetic testing laboratories. Additionally, she assists with clinical research within the program. Katie is originally from Pasadena, California. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2022 with a B.A. in English. In the future, Katie hopes to go to graduate school to attain her master's degree in genetic counseling.
 

small - Sonal Mahida, MGC Sonal Mahida, MGC, CGC
Genetic Counseling Program Manager

 

Sonal joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in June 2018. Her area of expertise is neurogenetics. She provides counseling to families seen in our Epilepsy Genetic Clinic as well as our Neonatal Epilepsy and Neurogenetics Clinics. Her research activities include coordinating and overseeing our KCNQ2 patient registry.

Sonal received her BS in biology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2012 and her master's degree in genetic counseling from the University of Maryland, Baltimore in 2014. She worked at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in the Department of Neurogenetics before coming to Boston Children’s.
 

small - Gillian Prinzing, MS, CGC Gillian Prinzing, MS, CGC
Genetic Counselor I

Gillian (she/her) joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in July of 2022. She provides genetic counseling to families in the Neurogenetics Program and Epilepsy Genetics Program clinics. Gillian received her BS in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her MS in Genetic Counseling from Boston University.


 

small - Lacey Smith, MS, CGC Lacey Smith, MS, CGC
Genetic Counseling Program Manager

 

Lacey Smith is a clinical and academic genetic counselor who joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in May of 2014, where she serves as the Genetic Counseling Program Manager for Epilepsy Genomics. She provides genetic counseling services to families seen in our Epilepsy Genetics Clinical Consultation Program. Her research interests aim to better understand the genetic contributions to the epilepsies, particularly through our genome-wide sequencing studies and collaborative gene discovery efforts. She is a coordinator of the ClinGen Epilepsy Sodium Channel Variant Curation Expert Panel, incorporating both gene- and disease-specific expertise into modifying variant classification rules. Lacey is a founding member of EpiGC, an international network of genetic counselors who specialize in epilepsy genetics and who are dedicated to the education of both providers and families, and is a member of the professional advisory board of the Epilepsy Foundation New England.

Lacey received her BS in Biological Science from the University of Vermont in 2009 and her MS in Genetic Counseling from Brandeis University in 2014.
 

small - Rozalia Valentine, MS, CGC Rozalia Valentine, MS, CGC
Genetic Counselor I

 

Rozalia Valentine joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in July 2021. As an expert in pediatric neurogenetics, Rozalia works with the families of children with neurological disorders to help find genetic etiologies.

Rozalia received her BA in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2015 and her MS in genetic counseling from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, in 2021. While earning her degree, she provided genetic counseling services to families of children with Angelman syndrome at the Center for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities. She credits her background in research in frontal lobe inhibition in ADHD with sparking her interest in neurogenetics.

In addition to her clinical work, Rosie volunteers in variant curation and looks forward to future research opportunities.
 

small - Julia Koh Julia Koh
Research Assistant

 

Julia joined the Poduri Lab and the Epilepsy Genetics Program as a Clinical Research Assistant in June 2021. She is currently recruiting and enrolling families and patients into research studies, including the PCDH19 and CACNA1A registries. She is also the co-director for PRADA, an employee resource group that aims to support research assistants in their professional growth and development. Julia graduated from Tufts University in May of 2021 with two majors: a BS in Mathematics and a BS in Biology. As an undergrad, she was a volunteer in the in-patient neurology unit at Boston Children’s, which sparked her interest in pediatric neurology. In the coming years, she plans to pursue an MD for a career in medicine.
 

small - Anastassiya (Anastasia) Kokhanova Anastassiya (Anastasia) Kokhanova
Program Coordinator


Anastasia joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in September of 2022. She manages the clinical program and is the primary point person for referrals and communicating with families about intake information. Anastasia was born in a city of Almaty in Kazakhstan. She received her B.S in Management with a minor in Psychology from Bridgewater State University in 2021. Anastasia aspires to pursue a Master’s in Administration.

 
small - Brandon Oby Brandon Oby
Research Assistant

 

Brandon joined the Poduri Lab and Epilepsy Genetics Program as a Clinical Research Assistant in June 2021. He is responsible for the recruitment and enrollment of patients and families in our research studies. Brandon graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2021 with a BS in neuroscience. He is excited to work with our genetic counselors and physicians who are building an understanding of the genetic factors related to epilepsy. In the coming years, he plans to pursue a career in medicine.
 

small - Rebecca Pinsky, MSN, RN, CPNP Rebecca Pinsky, MSN, RN, CPNP
Research Program Manager

 

Rebecca is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner who rejoined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in January 2020 as research program manager. She initially joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in 2013 as a research assistant prior to completing her master's in nursing science at Regis College. Rebecca manages the program’s research portfolio and ongoing projects.
 

small - Alissa D'Gama, MD, PhD Alissa D'Gama, MD, PhD
Research Fellow

 

Alissa joined the Poduri Laboratory and Epilepsy Genetics Program in 2021. She is a physician-scientist with interests spanning neonatology, developmental neuroscience, and translational genomics. She received her BA in molecular and cellular biology from Harvard College in 2011 and completed a combined MD-PhD program at Harvard/MIT, receiving a PhD in biological and biomedical sciences under Dr. Christopher A. Walsh from Harvard Medical School in 2016 and a MD from Harvard Medical School/MIT Health Sciences and Technology in 2018. She completed pediatrics residency training in the Boston Combined Residency Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center on the accelerated research pathway. She is currently a fellow in neonatal-perinatal medicine in the Harvard Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship Training Program. Alissa is co-mentored by Dr. Timothy Yu, and her research currently focuses on early onset epilepsies, somatic mosaicism, and neonatal genomics.
 

small - Hyunyonh Howard Koh, MD, PhD Hyunyonh Howard Koh, MD, PhD
Research Fellow

 

Hyunyong is from South Korea and joined the Poduri Laboratory and Epilepsy Genetics Program in September 2019. He is a physician-scientist working on genetic etiology of patients with epilepsy at Boston Children’s as well as on contributing to translational medicine closely with members of the laboratory’s zebrafish team. He was granted a PhD in translational neurogenetics and brain somatic mutation causing tumor-associated epilepsy under Dr. Lee Jeong Ho MD PhD at KAIST in 2019. Here at Boston Children's, Hyunyong is engaged in discovering novel gene variants that contribute to epilepsy and sudden death, using data collected from patients, with a focus on application to translational research. He is most excited when he communicates with the clinical and laboratory teams, discussing the clinico-genetic science of patients with epilepsy, with the hope that he can help provide improved patient care when he pursues a clinical residency training in the near future.
 

small - Chris McGraw, MD, PhD Chris McGraw, MD, PhD
Research Fellow

 

Dr. McGraw joined the Poduri Laboratory and Epilepsy Genetics Program in July 2018. He is a physician-scientist with interests spanning epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology and makes use of diverse animal models as well as human data to improve our tools for treating seizure disorders. Dr. McGraw received his BA in biochemistry and cell biology at Rice University in 2004 and he completed a combined MD/PhD program at Baylor College of Medicine, earning a PhD in developmental biology under Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi MD in 2012 before graduating in 2014. He attended residency in adult neurology at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where he was awarded an R25 supplement to study epilepsy in zebrafish with Dr. Scott Baraban, PhD. He is currently a fellow in epilepsy at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in addition to continuing basic science research in zebrafish through the Epilepsy Genetics Program at Boston Children's. Dr. McGraw is interested in developing novel models of epilepsy in zebrafish with high translational potential, with a special interest in high-throughput whole organism screening strategies using zebrafish.
 

small - Laura Turner, DVM Laura Turner, DVM
Research Lab Supervisor

 

Laura joined the Poduri Lab and Epilepsy Genetics Program in June 2018 as the research lab supervisor. In addition to her role managing the research laboratory, she also performs electrophysiological recordings on zebrafish in the lab. Laura graduated from Amherst College with a BA in psychology in 2008 and received her DVM from Tufts University in 2014. Prior to joining the Poduri Laboratory, she also worked with other zebrafish models of human disease in the laboratory of Dr. Leonard Zon here at Boston Children’s Hospital and the laboratory of Dr. Calum MacRae at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
 

small - Mark Lacoursiere Mark Lacoursiere
Laboratory Research Asssistant

 

Mark is the lead research technologist for the Poduri Lab and Epilepsy Genetics Program. In this role, he is responsible for conducting biochemical experiments to find novel genetic etiologies of epilepsy. He is currently screening large numbers of epilepsy genes in zebrafish models using high-throughput behavioral assessment and automated seizure detection methods. Mark joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in 2012 after graduating with a Wildlife Biology degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 2019, he completed a Master’s degree, with a thesis on the expression of immediate early genes in zebrafish larvae with seizures.
 

small - Cristina Baker Cristina Baker
Laboratory Research Assistant

 

Cristina joined the Poduri Lab and Epilepsy Genetics Program in September 2021. She develops zebrafish models of epilepsy using CRISPR/Cas9 and screens therapeutic compounds for future patient applications. Cristina graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in May 2021 with a BSc in Neuroscience, and she intends to pursue a PhD program.