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Biomedical Leadership Fellowship

Sponsored by HealthX and the CDCN

Biomedical Leadership Fellowship (BLF)/”Chief of Staff”


The Chief of Staff for 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 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 Chief of Staff 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 the Study and Treatment of Castleman and Inflammatory Lymphadenopathies [CSTL] at UPenn. The Chief of Staff 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 Chief of Staff will also ensure that the members of the CDCN leadership team are working efficiently on their respective projects. The Chief of Staff will work with the leadership team and 20+ volunteer members to follow up on deadlines and outstanding projects.
  3. The Chief of Staff 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 Chief of Staff will think strategically across major areas of engagement: Research, Physician Engagement, Patient Engagement, Fundraising, and Communications.
  4. Based on interests, experiences, and availability, the Chief of Staff 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

Learn more

Previous Biomedical Leadership Fellows:

Sophia Parente was the most recent CDCN Chief of Staff and Biomedical Leadership fellow. 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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