AUA Meeting Highlight: Junior Faculty Research Award Winner Laura Zhang

This year’s AUA Junior Faculty Research Award winner in the Clinical Science Category was presented to Dr. Yiyang (Laura) Zhang, MD, PhD for her groundbreaking work on the connection between postoperative delirium and changes in the gut microbiome. Dr. Zhang is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and is the PI of a National Institutes of Aging grant on dysbiosis and postoperative delirium. She presented her work, along with other award winners, in a well-attended public lecture on April 13th at the AUA meeting.

Dr. Zhang’s team conducted a first-in-class clinical observational study between 2016 and 2020 in which fecal swabs were collected from patients undergoing knee or hip replacement surgery or laminectomy under general or spinal anesthesia. Standard high throughput microbiome 16S rRNA gene sequencing methodology was used, followed by analysis using a Dimension-reduction Algorithm in Small Human-datasets (DASH), which is a novel methodology to extract key signals from gut microbiome data. In the 10% of patients who developed postoperative delirium, Dr. Zhang found that higher levels Parabacteroides distasonis—a bacterium associated with gut wall health that has a varying role in different diseases—was positively associated with postoperative delirium after adjusting for age and sex. This represents the first evidence of a causal relationship between changes in the gut microbiota and postoperative delirium, and thus it holds great promise for further study and potential interventions.

Dr. Zhang commented on her meeting experience for AUA Update:

“This has been an extraordinary experience for me as it marks my first time attending the AUA meeting and being recognized as an award winner will be of great value as I seek to publicize my work and to find collaborators and mentors. It has provided an exceptional platform and opportunity to connect with fellow professionals and establish a valuable network, especially for junior faculty members like me. For example, I met Dr. Jeffrey Berger who kindly extended an invitation to present a talk at George Washington University.

Additionally, I was honored that Dr. Kumar Belani from the University of Minnesota generously provided me with the opportunity to showcase my work in the ASA Monitor.

Also I attended the Women in Academic Anesthesiology Networking Session, which has proven to be tremendously beneficial for me in my professional journey.”

Yiyang (Laura) ZhangYiyang (Laura) Zhang, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology,
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts