Dr. Paul Monach starts the New Year with a new job. After four years treating patients at the Boston University Vasculitis Center, he assumes its directorship this month from long-time leader Peter Merkel. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I came here to work with Peter and learn about vasculitis care and research,” says Monach, assistant professor of medicine at BU’s School of Medicine. “Working side-by-side with him was an incredible opportunity. I’m honored to be taking over for him in the leadership role.”
Though he initially wanted to be primarily a research scientist, working in the lab to understand the immune system and autoimmune diseases, Monach ended up choosing a path enabling him to spend more time with patients. Undertaking translational research allows him to bring basic research to the bedside, accelerating understanding and affecting patient outcomes.
Research Benefiting Patients
“My main research interest is in biomarkers,” he says. “I’m looking for new or better blood tests that can help us take care of patients with vasculitis. We need them to help us understand how sick someone is right now, and help us predict who will stay in remission and who is more at risk of having a flare. This may help us manage the diseases more effectively.”
Monach’s participation in the Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium has also allowed him to study the genetic links between GPA (Wegener’s) and other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. He has planned larger-scale genetic studies in collaboration with Dr. Merkel and other colleagues. These studies will help understand and identify the genetic component of risk for these rare diseases. His research group also is investigating the biology of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell important in inflammatory diseases) and the discovery of auto-antibodies related to vasculitis.
A Calling for Patient Care
“I easily could be a pure lab scientist, but I love being a doctor,” Monach says. As a child, he knew he wanted to be a physician. He gravitated to the science side early on, but the personal side won out. “I like that the research I’m doing is potentially relevant to the patients we’re seeing.”
Monach says that caring for people who are very ill with a dangerous disease is challenging and gratifying. “It’s a challenge because there is still so much to learn about these diseases,” he admits. “But it’s rewarding to know that we can help most of our patients get better.”
Research Interests: Biomarkers, genetics of vasculitis, biology of neutrophils