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Mohanish Deshmukh, PhD

Director, UNC MD-PhD Program
Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology

Dr. Mohanish Deshmukh is the director of the UNC MD-PhD Program and a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology. Dr. Deshmukh joined the MD-PhD leadership team in 2013 as an Associate Director and brings invaluable basic sciences expertise to our program. Dr. Deshmukh received his PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 1994 and conducted his postdoctoral research at Washington University in St. Louis, where he pursued his interests in mechanisms of cell survival and death, focusing on this pathway in mammalian neurons. Dr. Deshmukh came to the UNC Neuroscience Center and the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology in 2000 and was promoted to full Professor in 2011.

Dr. Deshmukh has a highly active research program in which he investigates the mechanism of apoptosis in a variety of models including neurons, stem cells, and cancer cells. His lab also conducts translational research with projects that focus on strategies for preventing neurodegeneration and triggering apoptosis in brain tumors. His research on molecular pathways regulating cell survival and death has been well recognized with recent publications in Molecular Cell, Nature Cell Biology and Science Signaling, and Cell Host and Microbe. Dr. Deshmukh has served on multiple and diverse study sections including the NIH, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and the DOD Breast Cancer Research Program. He also currently serves on the Editorial Boards of Oncogene and Cell Death and Differentiation.

Prior to joining our leadership team, Dr. Deshmukh was the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. He is strongly committed to graduate training and education. Dr. Deshmukh has trained 11 PhD students and three of these students; Yolanda Huang, Adam Kole, and Ayumi Nakamura; are from our MD-PhD program. Dr. Deshmukh was Course Director for the Advanced Cell Biology graduate level course and participates in medical and graduate teaching in multiple classes. He brings great commitment and passion to his teaching and mentoring activities. In 2004, Dr. Deshmukh received a Teaching Excellence Award from UNC Medical School, and in 2012 was recognized by the Neurobiology Curriculum graduate students with the Mentor of the Year Award.

Visit Dr. Mohanish Deshmukh’s Lab Site

Toni Darville, MD

Director, MD-PhD Program
Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology & Immunology
Vice Chair for Research & Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases

Dr. Toni Darville is Director of the MD-PhD Program and a Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology & Immunology. She is also Vice Chair for Research and the Division Cheif of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Dr. Darville joined the MD-PhD leadership team in 2015 as an Associate Director. Dr. Darville has been an active member of the UNC clinical and research community since joining faculty in November 2013. Dr. Darville received her M.D. from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), and completed her Pediatric Residency and Infectious Diseases Fellowship at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where she became Division Chief and Director of the Fellowship Program of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

She began her research career at UAMS in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology under the mentorship of Dr. Roger Rank, studying the immunobiology of Chlamydia trachomatis. She developed an independent research career while at UAMS and made major discoveries related to innate immune mechanisms of chlamydial genital tract disease development using both murine and guinea pig models. She was recruited to the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in 2007, where she served as the Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program. Dr. Darville expanded her research program while at UPMC to include studies of adaptive T cell responses to Chlamydia in murine models for adolescent girls and women. She served as the Administrator of a NIH Sexually Transmitted Infection Cooperative Research Center while in Pittsburgh and continues her collaborative efforts with UPMC investigators to examine bacterial and immune factors contributing to pelvic inflammatory disease in women with the overarching goal to develop methods to prevent infection and disease.

Here at UNC, Dr. Darville and her research team continue to work to improve the reproductive health of women through determination of immune mechanisms operative during sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including C. trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Mycoplasma genitalium. Together with a team of collaborators and scientific trainees, Dr. Darville is dissecting innate and adaptive responses to these pathogens using in vitro polarized Fallopian tube organ cultures, human blood and tissue samples, and animal models. The goals of this research include the delineation of bacterial virulence proteins and how they induce disease and the discovery of bacterial antigens that drive protective T cell responses for vaccine development. Dr. Darville’s lab is also working to determine blood transcriptional responses and genetic markers of disease risk that can be used to provide targeted screening and facilitate vaccine efficacy studies. Her team is also working to determine molecular signatures associated with immune protection after natural infection and vaccination.

Dr. Darville is deeply committed to training graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in basic and translational research. She has served on multiple NIH study sections and is currently a standing member of the NIAID Host Interactions with Bacterial Pathogens Study Section. She also remains an active clinician and educator of medical students, residents and junior faculty. In her role as the Vice Chair of Pediatric Research, she seeks to facilitate the efforts of Clinician Scientists within the Department of Pediatrics and across the UNC campus who perform research related to children and adolescents. She developed and directs a “Move it forward, pay it forward” pediatric research proposal improvement program, provides oversight for a pediatric intramural grant program, and advises and facilitates collaboration between many junior faculty and fellows who seek careers as clinician scientists.

Visit Dr. Toni Darville’s Lab Site

Gaorav Gupta, MD, PhD

Associate Director, MD-PhD Program
Associate Professor, Radiation Oncology, Biochemistry and Biophysics

Co-Leader, UNC Lineberger Breast Cancer Research Program
Associate Chair for Research in Radiation Oncology

Dr. Gupta is the Associate Director of the MD-PhD Program, an associate professor in the departments of radiation oncology and biochemistry and biophysics, and a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.  He is also the associate chair for research in radiation oncology as well as the co-leader of the UNC Lineberger Breast Cancer Research Program.

Gupta received his MD and PhD degrees from the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program at Weill Cornell Medicine. His research lab focuses on genome integrity pathways in the context of breast cancer initiation, progression and response to therapy. He also has a clinical practice specializing in breast cancer radiotherapy through the Department of Radiation Oncology at the N.C. Basnight Cancer Hospital.


Alison Regan

Assistant Director

Alison Regan joined the MD-PhD Program Leadership Team in 2008, just after the submission of the program’s second competitive renewal. Ms. Regan brought to the MD-PhD program her prior experience working with numerous institutional training and career development awards, including: three T32s, one T35, three K12s, and one K30. In addition, Ms. Regan has also managed the Office of Medical Student Research, an umbrella program for five different funding sources that support approximately 50 medical students each summer as they engage in biomedical research. Ms. Regan has a BA in Psychology from Indiana University and has more than 15 years of experience in management and research administration.

Amber Brosius, MSW

Program Specialist

Amber joined the MD-PhD Program Team in 2019, after working with TEC Individualization Phase of the MD Program for a year. Ms. Brosius has a BS in Psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh.

Headshot of Andrew Mara-Williams.

Andrew Mara-Williams

Business Coordinator

Andrew Mara-Williams joins the MD-PhD team as the Business Coordinator, where he will be responsible for tracking various grants, assisting students with stipends, and providing financial support to the office.  He spent the past six and a half years with the UNC School of Nursing in various roles, most notably with the Office of Student Affairs and the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation. Originally from Western Massachusetts, he holds a BA in Archaeology, Technology, and Historical Structures from the University of Rochester.


MD-PhD Executive Committee

In addition to the leadership of Drs. Darville and Deshmukh, the UNC MD-PhD Program is advised by the MD-PhD Executive Committee. This small committee is comprised of Deans, basic science and clinical chairs, and current MD-PhD student mentors. They help guide the program leadership team on important programmatic issues and concerns.