Epilepsy Genetics Program | Meet Our Team

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Contact Epilepsy Genetics Program

  • 1-617-919-6917
  • International: +1-617-355-5209

Annapurna Poduri, MD, MPH
Attending Physician/Director

Dr. Poduri directs the Epilepsy Genetics Program as a clinician-scientist, with one hand in the clinic as a pediatric epileptologist and the other hand in the laboratory on a mission to identify the genetic underpinnings of epilepsy.  Here at Boston Children's, she is also the Co-Director of the Neurology Department's Program in Neurogenetics and serves on the BEST Committee for standardizing laboratory practices.

Dr. Poduri is a key participant in epilepsy genetics research at the local and national levels. She is the Epilepsy Genetics Benchmark Steward to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the Boston Children's Principal Investigator for the NIH-funded Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP), a national, multi-centered research study. She has been actively involved in data quality review and publications from the phenotyping phase of that project, and is now involved in the genotyping phase. In addition, Dr. Poduri is part of an international effort to understand the genetics of severe early-onset epilepsies.

Heather Olson, MD
Attending Physician 

Dr. Olson is a neurologist and epileptologist at Boston Children’s Hospital with board certification in neurology and special qualification in child neurology.  She has fellowship training in epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology, as well as in neurogenetics, with a focus on epilepsy genetics.  She also has experience and interest in neonatal neurology.  She is an attending physician in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, through which she sees patients for consultations and management of epilepsy.  She sees additional patients for consultation as part of the Brain Development and Genetics Program, and she is an attending physician in the Neonatal Neurology Follow-up Program with a focus on epilepsy and neurogenetics.  Dr. Olson is also Co-director of the CDKL5 Center of Excellence.

Dr. Olson has ongoing related research projects that focus on understanding and determining the underlying genetic causes of epilepsy, including the overlap of inflammatory and genetic mechanisms of epilepsy. She has expertise in both phenotypic and genotypic analysis. She is the local contact for the Rasmussen Encephalitis Research Consortium and neurologist for The Angelman Natural History Study. In 2013, Dr. Olson was selected as the recipient of the Logan Infantile Spasms Award and Research Grant by the Child Neurology Foundation.

Christelle Moufawad El Achkar, MD 
Attending Physician

Dr. Achkar is an attending physician in the Epilepsy Genetics Program and the Division of Epilepsy and Neurophysiology. She is fluent in English, Arabic and French, and studied Biology before attending the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) for medical school. Prior to coming to Boston Children’s for her child neurology residency, Dr. Achkar completed her pediatric residency at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital-Case University in Cleveland as well as a research fellowship on the use of scalp EEG recording of high frequency waves in mapping eloquent cortical areas at University Hospitals of Cleveland- Case Medical Center. She completed an additional clinical fellowship year under Drs. Annapurna Poduri and Heather Olson in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, during which she focused on the diagnosis and management of multiple causes of epilepsy genetics. Her training also includes autism spectrum disorder clinics under the supervision of Dr. Sarah Spence. 

Dr. Achkar’s main research and clinical interest is the connection between epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder as well as other co-morbidities including developmental delays and behavioral problems. Currently Dr. Achkar is closely involved with clinical research projects involving genetic disorders that are known to cause epilepsy along with other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as 16p11.2 copy number variations and PCDH19

Beth Rosen Sheidley, MS, CGC
Licensed Genetic Counselor/Co-Director 

Beth Rosen Sheidley is a licensed genetic counselor with 22 years of experience in clinical genetic counseling, research and teaching. Her areas of expertise include epilepsy, autism, psychiatric illness and both prenatal and pediatric genetic counseling.  As Co-Director of the Epilepsy Genetics Program, Beth is involved in all aspects of program planning and development.

Beth provides genetic counseling to families seen in our Epilepsy Genetics Clinical Consultation Program, supervises the genetic counseling and clinic/clinical research staff, oversees the implementation of our research efforts, and coordinates our involvement in several collaborative research projects including the Epilepsy Genetics Initiative (EGI) and the Genomics Research and Innovation Network (GRIN). She is a founding member and Co-Chair of EpiGC, an international network of genetic counselors who specialize in epilepsy genetics and who are dedicated to the education of both providers and families.  Beth also serves on the Boston Children’s Hospital BEST committee, which reviews the use of genetic tests by physicians at Boston Children's Hospital. 

Beth received her BS degree from Cornell University in 1990 and her MS in Genetic Counseling from Brandeis University in 1994.  She joined the Department of Neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2010.  In addition to her role in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, Beth is a member of the Advisory Board for the Brandeis University Genetic Counseling Graduate Program, where she served as Professor of the Practice/Co-Director of Research and Professional Development from 2005 through June of 2014. 

Lacey Smith, MS, CGC
Licensed Genetic Counselor

Lacey Smith joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in May of 2014. She provides genetic counseling to families seen in our Epilepsy Genetics Clinical Consultation Program. In addition to her clinical work, Lacey also coordinates our PCDH19 Epilepsy Patient Registry and assists in our ongoing research efforts.

Lacey received her BS in Biological Science from the University of Vermont in 2009 and her MS in Genetic Counseling from Brandeis University in 2014.

Alan Taylor, MS, CGC
Licensed Genetic Counselor 

Alan Taylor joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in April 2016. He holds a joint position between Boston Children’s Hospital and Claritas Genomics. His role in the clinic is to provide genetic counseling to patients and families seen in the Epilepsy Genetics Clinical Consultation Program. In addition to his clinical work at Boston Children’s Hospital, he is also responsible for coordinating the Epilepsy Genomics Initiative at this site. In his position at Claritas Genomics, he is responsible for the interpretation and reporting of genomic test results.

Alan received his BS in genetics from University College Cork, Ireland in 2007 and his MS in Genetic Counseling from Northwestern University in 2016.

Tsega Mekonnen Meshesha
Clinical Program Coordinator

Tsega Mekonnen Meshesha joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in July 2015 as our first program coordinator. She manages the clinical program and is the primary point person, both for referrals and for communicating with families about scheduling and providing intake information.

Tsega graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2013 with a BA in Sociology and is a qualitative researcher by training. Prior to joining our team she worked with The Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and the University of Gonder on a project in Gonder, Ethiopia that looked at the mental health needs of rural Ethiopian women affected by obstetric fistula. Tsega’s goal is to be a researcher that bridges the gap between access to health services and care while creating culturally sensitive interventions that addresses mental health needs among vulnerable populations.

McKenna Kelly
Research Assistant

McKenna Kelly joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program as a Research Assistant in June of 2015.  She is responsible for recruiting and enrolling families to participate in research studies aiming to investigate and better understand genetic factors of epilepsy.  McKenna graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY in 2015 earning a BA in Biology and being elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  In the coming years, she plans to pursue a medical degree. 

Catherine Shain, MPH
Research Program Manager 

Catherine Shain joined the Epilepsy Division in 2009 and the Epilepsy Genetics Program in 2011 at its inception. In her role as Research Program Manager, she manages the program’s research portfolio and ongoing projects. She is also responsible for establishing and maintaining clinical trials.

Catherine received her BS in Public Health Sciences from Clemson University’s Honors College in 2007 and her MPH in Epidemiology from Boston University in 2012. 

Laboratory Team

Jeremy Ullmann, PhD 
Research Fellow 

Dr Ullmann joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in January of 2016. He is a neuroscientist with extensive experience in imaging and zebrafish models of neurodegenerative disease. Dr Ullmann received his BSc in Biology from Brandeis University in 2003 and a PhD in neuroscience and bio-imaging at The University of Queensland in Brisbane Australia in 2010. He completed his first post-doc at the Centre for Advanced Imaging (The University of Queensland) under Prof. David Reutens where he developed the world’s highest high-resolution models of pre-clinical animal models and examined the correlation of febrile seizures and temporal lobe epilepsy later in life. As part of the Epilepsy Genetics Program he will be performing high-throughput genetic screens to validate candidate epilepsy genes.

Mark Lacoursiere
Laboratory Research Assistant

Mark Lacoursiere is a research assistant for the Epilepsy Genetics Program. He is responsible for conducting biochemical experiments to find novel genetic etiologies of epilepsy.  Mark joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in 2012 after graduating with a Wildlife Biology degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He plans to attend graduate school for environmental biology with a focus on population genetics.

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