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Biomedical Leadership Fellowship

Sponsored by HealthX and the CDCN

Biomedical Leadership Fellowship (BLF)


The Biomedical Leadership Fellow, sponsored by Penn HealthX and the CDCN, plays an essential role in helping to accelerate research for Castleman disease, an inflammatory disease as rare as ALS and more deadly than lymphoma. We have had amazing Penn medical students contribute to our research since 2016. We are looking for an MS3 to take a year out between 3rd and 4th year to work full time (and get paid $32,000 for the year) on the following combination of a) task execution, b) project management/employee management, c) strategic planning across divisions, and d) conducting research.

  1. The Biomedical Leadership Fellow will serve as the “right hand person” to and act as an extension of the CDCN Executive Director, Dr. David Fajgenbaum, who is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UPenn, Associate Director of the Penn Orphan Disease Center, and Director and Principal Investigator of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory [CSTL] at UPenn. The Biomedical Leadership Fellow will participate in meetings on behalf of Dr. Fajgenbaum, consult frequently with Dr. Fajgenbaum on strategic decisions and organizational priorities, and take on projects while Dr. Fajgenbaum is working on other projects.
  2. The Biomedical Leadership Fellow will also ensure that the members of the CDCN leadership team are working efficiently on their respective projects. The Biomedical Leadership Fellow will work with the leadership team and 20+ volunteer members to follow up on deadlines and outstanding projects.
  3. The Biomedical Leadership Fellow will work with Dr. Fajgenbaum and the CDCN leadership team to think strategically about future projects/initiatives as well as internal projects to improve team efficiency. The Biomedical Leadership Fellow will think strategically across major areas of engagement: Research, Physician Engagement, Patient Engagement, Fundraising, and Communications.
  4. Based on interests, experiences, and availability, the Biomedical Leadership Fellow will conduct translational research, clinical, or epidemiological research into Castleman disease, or conduct research into ways to improve the translational research process for rare diseases.

Key characteristics for success

  • Interest and passion in translating research into life-saving treatments
  • Critical thinker and strong problem solver
  • Serious attention to detail
  • Highly conscientious and very organized: projects/emails do not get dropped
  • Self-starter and interest in entrepreneurial pursuits
  • Strong at finishing tasks
  • Quick turn around time for email communications (24-48 business hours)
  • Is a Penn Med student


  1. Improve the speed with which projects go from concept to results by working with the Executive Director to improve organizational efficiency and by turning around tasks as quickly as possible
  2. Establish and execute a clear Project Management strategy
  3. Assist with all organizational operations, including talent planning and strategic planning
  4. Co-author at least one (hopefully more) article in a peer-reviewed journal


  • $32,000 over 1 year for MS3s
  • MS3s would be expected to take a year off to work full-time on this fellowship and research with Dr. Fajgenbaum

Application process

  • Contact Dr. David Fajgenbaum to express your interest and ask questions (optional)
  • Fill out the Biomedical Leadership Fellowship application
  • Dr. Fajgenbaum will conduct interviews on a rolling basis
  • Applications are accepted on a rolling basis October 2020 until September 2021; early applications strongly preferred, and the winning BLF may be selected before the deadline.
  • Start date: Flexible—Start date anytime between November 2020-September 2021.

Learn more

Previous Biomedical Leadership Fellows:

Alexis Phillips was the CDCN Biomedical Leadership Fellow (BLF) from 2020-2021. In her role as BLF, she participated in research projects investigating the involvement of mTOR-complex 2 in idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease (iMCD) and studying quantitative characteristics of iMCD lymph nodes. She also led the CDCN’s All in Movement (AIM) 2021 to crowdsource research ideas from the Castleman disease community and co-led phase 2 of the CORONA project to identify and prioritize promising COVID-19 drugs for investigation in randomized controlled trials. Alexis hopes to use the leadership and research skills she gained as BLF in a future career in academic medicine.

Sophia Parente was the CDCN Biomedical Leadership fellow from 2018-2020. She took time between her 3rd and 4th years of medical school at the Perelman School of Medicine (University of Pennsylvania) to help further the mission of the CDCN. Previously, she earned her Bachelor of Music degree in Oboe Performance from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and later completed her premedical requirements at Johns Hopkins University.


Daniel J. Arenas, PhD is a Colombian immigrant, medical student, and researcher. He received a BS in physics. He received a Physics PhD in 2009 from University of Florida and subsequently became a faculty member at the University of North Florida. In 2016 he began medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently on a research gap year working at the CDCN. He hopes to contribute the research skills he obtained in physics to the fight against Castleman Disease.


Dale Kobrin, MD was a Biomedical Leadership fellow for the CDCN from 2017-2018. He graduated from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and began his residency in internal medicine in July 2019.




Helen Partridge, MD was the CDCN’s first Biomedical Leadership fellow for the CDCN in 2016-2017. She graduated from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and began her residency in psychiatry in July 2018.






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