Q&A with New Research Fellow, Dr. Hui Shi

U-M Division of Rheumatology, Dr. Hui Shi
Hui Shi, MD, PhD

Hui Shi, MD, PhD is a new research fellow and the latest addition to Dr. Jason Knight’s lab. Prior to coming to Ann Arbor, Dr. Shi worked as a rheumatologist at Shanghai Ruijin Hospital, a well-known hospital in China. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Nanjing Medical University in Clinical Medicine. She then went on to receive her PhD degree in Rheumatology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

Learn more about Dr. Hui Shi.

Why did you decide to go into the field of rheumatology?

I was attracted to it when I was an intern. Rheumatology is a complicated and challenging discipline, especially for beginners. I found myself becoming passionate about the many difficult and sometimes rare diseases in rheumatology. At that time, I thought it was really cool if I could diagnose the rare diseases like a detective. I also liked “Dr. House” very much, which inspired me a lot.

What made you decide to come to the University of Michigan?

It happened at the 2017 American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting. I was attracted by a poster that was presented by Dr. Gautam Sule (now my colleague in Dr. Knight’s lab). He told an interesting story about neutrophil adhesion to endothelial cells in Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS), although I didn’t understand it totally. However, I did not know Dr. Knight well at that time. After I went back, I read all of his papers, which amazed me a lot because he has been a top researcher in the area of APS even though he is young. Dr. Knight focuses on neutrophils and endothelial cells in APS which are my interests too. I decided to write to him asking for training as a research fellow. He was really nice and patient, and we discussed different projects which broadened my knowledge. I feel honored that I can be a research fellow in this excellent research group and I love working at the University of Michigan.

What interests you about Antiphospholipid Syndrome?

APS is a leading cause of acquired thrombosis and pregnancy loss worldwide, and many patients (perhaps 1 in 2,000) suffer from it. The pathogenesis is complicated, which makes research on Antiphospholipid Syndrome really a challenge. For example, it is an autoimmune disease that can cause thrombosis and fetal loss. We know the pathogenesis between these two subgroups is different, but we can’t explain exactly now. Adding to the difficulty, it is often accompanied by other autoimmune diseases, especially Lupus. To this day, we don’t know the exact relationship between Antiphospholipid Syndrome and Lupus. That’s why Antiphospholipid Syndrome interests me. There are so many unknown stories waiting to be told.

What are you hoping to achieve with your research?

During my time in Dr. Knight’s lab, I will focus on endothelial cells and their interaction with neutrophils. I hope I can draw a picture of the specific role that endothelial cells play in the pathogenesis of thrombosis. I will perform certain types of functional assays on endothelial cells that have never been done in APS research. With the help of Dr. Elisa Tsou, I will also isolate and characterize the endothelial cells from skin biopsies of APS patients. My hope is to get closer to APS, know it more, and eradicate it someday.

Other than Antiphospholipid Syndrome, what are your research interests?

Adult Onset Still’s Disease is another rare disease that interests me a great deal. For clinicians, it is very hard to diagnose, as it has a very broad differential diagnosis (we need to exclude all other etiologies before we can make the diagnosis). Few researchers focus on its pathogenesis and as such we know very little about what causes it. I did some work on it when I was in China, giving me the opportunity to think more about how to explore this unknown area.

What do you like about being here?

I have been here for more than a month. I really enjoy the work and life here. My colleagues in the lab are dedicated, thoughtful, and hardworking. I have learned a lot in my discussions with them. They are also very helpful which has allowed me to adapt quite quickly. Dr. Knight is very smart and hardworking, and gives me a lot of guidance. I appreciate that I can be a member in this highly efficient and united group. I will cherish every day I am here.