Newsletter Faculty feature

Faculty Feature Drew Schwartz

Drew Schwartz
Schwartz jumping over cross-country obstacles with his horse, Trace
Figure 1: Schwartz jumping over cross-country obstacles with his horse, Trace

Drew Schwartz, MD, PhD, was born in New Jersey, but his family rapidly relocated to Columbus, Georgia, to escape the cold. Thanks to his mother’s passion for horses, he began competing in the equestrian sport of three-day eventing at age 13. Schwartz dedicated his free time to his horses and was rewarded with winning the National Junior Training Rider of the Year at age 16 (Figure 1). His horses consumed much of his free time in high school and college and led to several romantic interests ultimately including his wife, Annie. During high school, Schwartz also fell in love with science and medicine thanks to the mentorship of an outstanding chemistry and neuroscience teacher, Dr. Epperson.

Schwartz attended Duke University where he became a diehard fan of the Duke University basketball team and majored in chemistry and biology on the side. While at Duke, Schwartz met the two things that would occupy the bulk of his next twenty years: his wife, Annie, and bacteria. Schwartz was fascinated by the host-pathogen interface after being introduced to the pathogenic actions of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis under the direction of Dr. Meta Kuehn. Heading straight to the source, Schwartz relocated to Washington University School of Medicine to join the Medical Scientist Training Program and the laboratory of Dr. Scott Hultgren, Dr. Kuehn’s PhD advisor. In the Hultgren lab, Schwartz studied the E. coli bacterial and host mechanisms leading to severe and chronic urinary tract infections.

After finally1 finishing his MD/PhD, WashU proved impossible to leave and Schwartz completed pediatric residency and infectious disease fellowship through the Pediatric Physician Scientist Training Program. One significant patient experience during fellowship both challenged Schwartz emotionally and motivated his current and future research. He was elated when one of his patients beat cancer twice after two bone marrow transplants and a lung transplant. His elation turned to despair when she becamebacteremic with multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium. Despite the highest standard of care and many antibiotic treatments, she succumbed to the infections. Unfortunately, the antibiotics used to combat her infections had also decimated her gut microbiome contributing to her untimely demise.

This experience ignited his passion for his fellowship research, as he opted to join the interdisciplinary team of Dr. Gautam Dantas, PhD, to investigate the role of the neonatal gut microbiome in late-onset sepsis in the neonatal intensive care unit with fantastic collaborations from Phil Tarr, MD, and Barb Warner, MD. Schwartz is launching his independent research program and laboratory in September 2022 in the Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research. Schwartz plans to use pediatric clinical cohorts and gnotobiotic mouse models to determine the risk factors and mechanisms of serious bacterial infections. He hopes to deliver personalized gut microbiome-based risk assessment and antibiotic stewardship for infants.

In Schwartz’s free time, he enjoys mountain biking with Annie (Figure 2), road cycling and beating Dr. Dantas — despite his strong prowess — at a variety of board games. Annie is the Associate Director of the Missouri Interscholastic Cycling League, and she and Schwartz coach mountain biking for middle and high school students. Schwartz tries to emulate his Duke basketball idols by playing pick-up basketball twice a week (now on his third ACL). Schwartz also enjoys naps with his Westie, Calla Lily (Figure 3), and dinners with his wife and friend/collaborator Dr. Kelsey Collins from Michelin-starred restaurants (Figure 4), including Taco Bell.

1added by reviewer #1, the always critical Annie Schwartz. PhD