2024 Annual Symposium Recap

May 9, 2024

The Jane Coffin Childs Fund for Medical Research 2024 Annual Symposium took place on Roosevelt Island in New York City from April 19th-21st. Below we broadly cover a few highlights from this science-packed and fun-filled weekend!


Dinner on Roosevelt Island with spectacular views of Manhattan.


Honoring a Legend

The Symposium opened on Friday evening with a panel discussion in honor of Dr. Joan Steitz. Steitz was a JCC Fellow in 1969 before starting her own lab at Yale University. In addition to leading her lab, Joan has generously assisted the Childs Fund for the last 55 years as a Scientific Advisor, Chair of the Board of Scientific Advisors, and now on the Board of Managers.


Celebrating Dr. Joan Steitz’s extensive service and extraordinary commitment to JCC.


The panel discussion featured a lineage of Childs Fellows:

See this blog post for more details on each of the individuals in this scientific lineage, the evolution of scientific ideas over time, and the consistent importance of mentoring throughout.


Fellows’ Scientific Presentations

3rd year Childs Fellows gave short talks on their research throughout the weekend. Topics ranged from microbiology to cancer research, and from structural and molecular biology to neuroscience. Many Fellows noted how they really enjoy the broad scientific subjects and the collaborative nature of the symposium.

For more details on 3rd year Fellows and their subjects check out the Childs Fund Twitter account which provided a live feed of events throughout the weekend.

1st and 2nd year Fellows gave poster presentations on Saturday afternoon.

As usual, there was lively discussion for both talks and posters, and at least one potential collaboration was established during the weekend!


Keynote Speaker – Dr. David Fajgenbaum

Dr. David Fajgenbaum was this year’s keynote speaker. Dr. Fajgenbaum is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also the Founding Director of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory and Associate Director of Patient Impact at the Penn Orphan Disease Center.

Fajgenbaum shared his personal battle with Castleman Disease, starting during his medical school training. This journey led him into working on rare diseases, more broadly, and now into repurposing FDA-approved drugs for all diseases that they might be useful in.


Dr. David Fajgenbaum gives the keynote address to JCC Fellows.


Fajgenbaum’s story is documented in his book Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope Into Action, which every JCC Fellow received during the weekend.


Realizing Your Potential Workshop

Sunday morning started off with a “Realizing Your Potential Workshop” led by Dr. Marquita Qualls of Entropia Consulting and featuring a panel of:

  • Peter Covitz, Executive Director at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, 1994 JCC Fellow
  • Nels Elde, HHMI Investigator and Professor at the University of Utah, JCC Scientific Advisor
  • Rachel Mitton-Fry, Associate Professor at Denison University, 2004 JCC Fellow
  • Anita Pepper, JCC Executive Director


The panel for the realizing your potential workshop.


Dr. Qualls made four main points that she wanted JCC Fellows to focus on to realize their potential:

  • Define or be defined! (Passion, Purpose, Profession)
  • Know your value, know your worth
  • Ask for … help, advice, support, tips, assistance, and guidance
  • Network to build your network

Qualls elaborated on these points during the session, and panel members drew upon their professional experience to provide lived examples of how these points factored in to their career and personal progression.

Similar to the scientific sessions this workshop also had lively questions from the Fellows throughout the workshop as participants and panel members discussed key issues in career progression, “alternative” careers, and topical issues in academic biomedical research.


See you in Chicago, 2025!

At the end of the symposium it was announced that next year’s gathering will be in Chicago on May 7th-9th, 2025. We look forward to seeing returning Fellows there and welcoming in a new class!