Kjersti M. Aagaard, MD, PhD
Photo: Kjersti M. Aagaard
Elected 2019

Since her initial faculty appointment at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Childrens in 2007, Dr. Aagaard has worked to “live the physician scientist dream” through research, clinical care, education/mentorship, and public health advocacy. She is a practicing Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist, Vice Chair of Research, and holds the Henry and Emma Meyer Chair in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Her highly collaborative laboratory and clinical research programs are dedicated to (1) discovering the genomic, epigenomic, and metagenomic mechanisms underlying perinatal health and disease, and (2) executing clinical trials to bring these discoveries to the bedside of pregnant women and their infants. She is currently funded by, or recently completed funded work with, the NIH, the Burroughs Welcome Fund, the Gates Foundation/USAIDS (Malawi), Thrasher Foundation, and March of Dimes. Dr. Aagaard has been previously recognized with receipt of the NIH Directors New Innovator Award (2007), the Michael E. Debakey Medal for Excellence in Research (2015), and the Nature Award for Scientific Mentorship (2018).

Dr. Aagaard’s seminal contributions have enabled us to move beyond ascribing genomic variation as a primary source of generational diversity and adaptation. Her innovative primate models revealed the molecular mechanisms (e.g., predictable histone, methylome, and metagenome modifications) underlying fetal programming of adult disease. In so doing, she shifted our paradigm of a “sterile womb” with landmark metagenomics work on the placental, neonatal, and pregnancy microbiome, and demonstrated the importance of early commensal microbes in metabolic programming. Her work has not been limited to the benchtop, however. Dr. Aagaard has a high degree of dimensionality in her research portfolio. This includes multiple clinical trials which are natural extensions of her scientific research, as well as nearly a decade of spanning efforts in Malawi. Each of these efforts links to her primary interest of “how”, “when”, and “why” pregnancy and early infant exposures shapes and molds the next generation.