University of California -San Diego, School of Medicine
Changing women’s lives by uncovering the complexities of the female pelvic floor
Dr. Alperin’s expertise as a practicing, board-certified female pelvic medicine specialist places her in a unique position, in which her clinical and surgical understanding help guide the directions of the Alperin Lab’s basic science and translational studies to answer the most relevant questions. Alperin laboratory uses a multi-prong approach to study the impact of pregnancy, birth injury, and aging on the structure, function, plasticity , and regenerative potential of the female pelvic soft tissues. The results of our studies, facilitated by the interdisciplinary approach, will improve our understanding of the transition of female pelvic soft tissues from a physiological to a pathological state, which in turn will have major implications on the development of effective preventative and mitigating strategies. Ultimately, we hope that this research will help reduce the epidemic of pelvic floor disorders and improve the lives of millions of women.
Dr. Alperin is a practicing female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery (FPMRS) specialist with expertise in basic science and clinical research. Her overarching goal is to facilitate the highest quality patient care through mechanistic research and the cultivation of interactions between basic, translational, and clinical scientists and health care providers from various disciplines with a shared interest in women’s health. She completed residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard School of Medicine and FPMRS fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh, where she had also obtained a Master’s degree in Clinical Research. Throughout her career, she has actively pursued and organized multi-disciplinary research programs and has worked closely with experts from disparate fields from bioengineering to stem cell biology. Alperin lab aims to shift the current research paradigm in female pelvic medicine towards more mechanistic studies, ultimately improving the lives of women suffering from pelvic floor disorders through innovative preventative and therapeutic strategies.
Courtney Rundio, MS Staff Research Associate/Lab Manager
Courtney completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology at Point Loma Nazarene University in 2020, then completed her Master’s of Biomedical Sciences in 2021. Her interest in science and medicine led her to the Alperin lab where she is enjoying learning about pelvic floor disorders, birth injury, and muscle cell physiology. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends, reading, and traveling.
Francesca obtained her PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, after which she had joined the Alperin lab as a postdoc in 2018. She is interested in investigating the role of muscle stem cells in the pelvic floor muscles’ plasticity during pregnancy. When out of the lab, Francesca loves cooking for her friends and enjoys outdoor activities in beautiful San Diego.
Megan Routzong, PhD Post-Doctoral Scholar
Megan obtained her PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021 where she applied computational modeling to study female pelvic floor biomechanics and variation in pelvic morphology. She joined the Alperin lab in Fall of 2021 to evaluate the impact of pregnancy, childbirth, and aging on female pelvic floor skeletal muscles utilizing computational and experimental methods. Outside of the lab, Megan enjoys reading, writing, photography, and spending time outdoors with her fiancé and their dog.
Lindsey Burnett, PhD, MD Clinical and Research Fellow
Lindsey is a Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery Fellow. She completed her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology prior to medical school and most recently completed her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UC San Diego. When she’s not in the lab or the clinic she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.
Julie Suyama, PhD, MD Clinical and Post-Doctoral Fellow
Julie Suyama, MD, PhD is a clinical and post-doctoral fellow in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at UCSD/Kaiser San Diego. She is a “West Coast soul” who loves the outdoors and finally made her way to San Diego with her husband, daughter, and Bernadoodle for fellowship after spending her entire early life on the East Coast. Julie attended UNC Chapel Hill for college, where she double majored in Biology and Romance Languages. She then trekked northward, first to Virginia where she attended a combined MD-PhD program at Virginia Commonwealth University and then to Pennsylvania where she completed residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Julie’s research expertise is in Neuropharmacology, and her doctoral thesis investigated the abuse-related behavioral and neurochemical effects of synthetic psychostimulant drugs. Her current research interests lie in central mechanisms of bladder and pelvic floor dysfunction, particularly as it relates to bladder pain syndrome and overactive bladder. Julie is an eternal optimist and extrovert who loves connecting with other people – colleagues, patients, and researchers alike. She is passionately dedicated to empowering and improving the lives of women, one pelvic floor at a time!
John Rudell, PhD Laboratory Assistant
John earned his Ph.D. at UC Davis where he studied the molecular mechanisms of neuromuscular junction formation and stabilization. He is excited to be back in the lab studying pelvis floor muscles and associated muscle stem cells. In his free time John enjoys paddle-boarding, trying to surf, and being outside with his wife, daughters and dog.
Emma Zelus PhD Student
Emma has a B.S. in Bioengineering from UC San Diego. She is currently a PhD student in the UCSD Bioengineering Department. Her research is focused on the use of minimally invasive injectable biomaterials for the treatment of stress urinary incontinence. She enjoys board game nights with friends and visiting the beach.
Bianca Pena PhD Student
Bianca obtained her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. She is currently a PhD student in the UCSD Bioengineering Department. Her research is focused on advancing minimally invasive injectable biomaterials to mitigate childbirth injury. On her free time she likes to hang out with friends and family, visit the beach, and try new restaurants in San Diego.
Tatyanna Henderson, MD Resident Physician
Tatyanna is a current resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UC San Diego. She attended medical school at Duke University and prior to that earned her Bachelor of Science at Eckerd College. She is planning to pursue a career in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive surgery.
Kelsey Gallo, MD Resident Physician
Kelsey is a resident in Urology at UC San Diego Health. She completed medical school at Rush Medical College in Chicago, where she is from. She plans to pursue a career in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery upon graduating residency. Her research interests include the effects of radiation on bladder mechanics and antifibrotic therapy for the bladder.
Jolene Rudell, MD PhD Assistant Professor
Jolene is a board-certified pediatric ophthalmologist and a clinician scientist, bringing her research background in neuromuscular junctions in skeletal muscles into the field of pediatric eye disease and extraocular muscle disease including strabismus, or eye misalignment. She is currently an Assistant Professor at UCSD in the Department of Ophthalmology at the Shiley Eye Center. She graduated from Stanford University as an undergraduate, and then did basic science research with Nobel laureate David Baltimore at Caltech before completing her MD PhD degree and ophthalmology residency at UC Davis, and clinical fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at Seattle Children’s Hospital/University of Washington. In addition to her research background, she utilizes and applies the lab techniques in muscle in the Alperin lab into the field of extraocular muscles to answer clinical questions and to help understand and treat diseases in her patients.
Saya French Volunteer Lab Assistant
Saya is an undergraduate student at UCSD, majoring in Human Biology with a minor in Accounting. She is interested in learning about women’s health, specifically pelvic floor disorders following childbirth. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her daughter and teach her about the things her mom learned in lab and in class.
Pamela Duran, PhD
Pamela has a B.S. in Bioengineering from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, México. She completed her PhD in the UCSD Bioengineering Department, and is interested in developing novel biomaterials for the treatment of pelvic floor disorders. She likes to go to the movies with her family and enjoys doing handcrafts and working out with her friends.
Brittni Baynes, MS
Britta earned her B.S. from UCSD in Physiology and Neuroscience and her M.S. in Biomedical Science from LSU Health Sciences Center. Her research focused on the neuroscience of drug addiction and stress disorders. She is currently interested in investigating the effects of pregnancy on pelvic floor muscles. In her free time, Britta enjoys spending time in the outdoors with her two children.
Mary Rieger, MD
Mary is a female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery fellow at the University of California, San Diego – Kaiser San Diego program. Prior to starting her fellowship, she went to medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and completed residency training in OB/GYN at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas in Austin. Her research interests include studying the effects of mechanical load of pregnancy on the pelvic floor muscles. In her free time, Mary enjoys spending time at the beach with her husband and her son.
Emmy began research in the Alperin lab as an undergraduate student at UCSD majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. She recently completed her Masters and is interested in pursuing a career in biological research related to immunochemistry and women’s health issues. When not in lab, she enjoys cooking, being with family, and watching TV shows/movies with her dog.
Varsha is an undergraduate student at UCSD, majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. She is interested in learning biochemical techniques and how they apply to various fields such as women’s health, forensics and astrobiology. In her free time, she likes doing art and watching movies.
Manali is an undergraduate student at UCSD majoring in Bioengineering. She is interested in learning about women’s health and how medicine and engineering go hand-in-hand. In her free time she enjoys being outdoors playing frisbee, skiing, going to the beach, and traveling.
Michelle Wong, BS
Michelle earned her B.S in Biology from California Institute of Technology in 2017. Her research interest lies in the pathophysiology of pelvic floor dysfunction, and she currently studies the impact of age on pelvic floor muscles. She is currently attending medical school where she hopes she can continue addressing clinical problems through basic science research. In her free time, she enjoys basketball, hiking, and cooking.
Tatiana Catanzarite, MD MS
Tatiana completed her undergraduate studies at Stanford University and then medical school at University of California at Davis. She then pursued residency training in OB/GYN at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, followed by fellowship training in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS) at the University of California, San Diego – Kaiser San Diego program, after which she joined the FPMRS faculty at UCSD. During fellowship, she was delighted to have the opportunity to work in the Alperin lab studying mechanisms of muscle injury at the time of vaginal birth and hopes that this work will ultimately contribute to deeper understandings of the contribution of muscle injury/recovery in the development of pelvic floor disorders in women.
Amanda Artsen, MD
Amanda completed Ob/Gyn residency at the University of California, San Diego, where she studied the muscle architecture of rhesus macaque pelvic floor muscles and the human external anal sphincter. She is now at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center pursuing her FPMRS fellowship and is studying the immunology of polypropylene mesh complications. She loves long distance running and singing and dancing with her toddler.
Tim Kaddis, BS
Tim is currently a medical student at UCLA School of Medicine, He first got involved with the Alperin lab during his senior year at UC San Diego, and over the next couple of years he had worked on multiple projects designed to further understanding of the composition & physiology of the pelvic floor muscles. Through these projects, he was able to perfect a variety of laboratory techniques, learn a framework for effective research, and ultimately, contribute to the growing body of knowledge in the important field, such as female pelvic medicine.
Neil Aiad, BS
Neil graduated from UCSD with a B.S degree in Bioengineering. While in the Alperin Lab, he studied biomechanics with regards to active force generation in pelvic floor muscles. He enjoys running and listening to music in his free time.
Alperin M, Abramowitch S, Alarab M, Bortolini M, Brown B, Burnett LA, Connell KA, Damaser MS, de Vita R, Gargett CE, Guess MK, Guler Z, Jorge RN, Kelley RS, Kibschull M, Miller K, Moalli PA, Mysorekar IU, Routzong MR, Shynlova O, Swenson CW, Therriault MA, Northington GM. Foundational Science and Mechanistic Insights for a Shared Disease Model: An Expert Consensus. Female Pelvic Med Reconstr Surg. 2022 Jun 1;28(6):347-350. doi: 10.1097/SPV.0000000000001216. Epub 2022 May 24. PubMed PMID: 35609252; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC9248017.