Department of Pediatrics

By: Ada Chong
November 2020

Meet fourth-year fellow and Instructor of Pediatrics, Dr. Malinda Wu, who is spending this year focusing on cystic fibrosis (CF) and metabolic bone disease research. She is also working on obtaining her Master of Science in Clinical Research.

Dr. Wu’s current research looks at better understanding women with CF and how estrogen supplementation may impact their health, especially bone health: she looks at bone turnover markers and bone mineral density. Results show that women with CF who take supplemental estrogen such as combined oral contraceptives have a higher quality of life.

During Dr. Wu’s fellowship, she published two papers. The first paper is a retrospective study that measures the bone mineral density in women with CF who had been prescribed supplemental estrogen. Dr. Wu and her co-authors took the data and made models to predict what their lumbar spine bone density would be depending on estrogen supplementation status. She found there was a difference between women taking and not taking estrogen. Results show that the women supplemented with estrogen had an earlier peak in their lumbar spine bone mineral density but did not sustain that peak.

Dr. Wu’s second publication is a cross-sectional study that screened women with CF for a potential pilot trial of estrogen supplementation. The study was observational and found women with CF taking estrogen supplementation had lower bone mineral density. Dr. Wu questions whether oral ethinyl estradiol is adequate to protect bone health and if there needs to be a higher dose of estrogen or a different route like a patch to make a difference.

On top of all the research Dr. Wu is conducting, she is also a CF Scholar. The CF Scholars Program is multidisciplinary with pre- and post-doctoral clinical and research fellows from multiple Georgia partners run by the Children’s + Emory CF Center of Excellence (CF@LANTA). As a scholar in the program, she participates in various seminars over two years to learn about CF and how to bridge the gap between translational and clinical medicine. Dr. Wu enjoys working with her fellow trainees and her goal is to become a CF researcher at the end of training.

Dr. Wu is also doing research that looks at the impact of COVID-19 on the quality of life of patients with osteogenesis imperfecta and their access to care. This survey went out in August 2020 and has had responses from people around the country describing their experiences. Many individuals had delays in accessing medical providers and services relating to their care. The preliminary findings have been accepted for presentation at the virtual International Conference on Children’s Bone Health forum.

Emory’s pediatric endocrine fellowship program appealed to Dr. Wu because of the strong foundation of clinical training, collegial environment and support of fellow-initiated research that it provides. Children's serves many children with endocrine conditions both common and rare. She was also drawn to the then recently established Pediatric Bone Clinic which has continued to grow in the years since. Emory continues to appeal to Dr. Wu because of its culture of supporting research dedicated to improving our understanding of disease and improving the lives of the community we serve, in addition to providing excellent clinical care. CF@TLANTA fosters a research environment bringing together researchers and clinicians from different disciplines and institutions and people with CF to answer important questions.

Dr. Wu’s aspiration to become a doctor started with her desire to help people and she’s a big fan of math and science. When she was a resident, she loved the way endocrinologists approached diseases. She says she saw how endocrinologists took a systematic, logical approach to understanding physiology. She also explained how disturbances in the normal physiology of hormone pathways results in the pathology that we see and she has an interest in understanding the pathophysiology so she can offer treatment to patients. Dr. Wu became interested in CF research because there are a lot of extra-pulmonary manifestations that are connected to the endocrine system. As there are advances in treatments for CF and people with CF are living longer, management of these endocrine complications is becoming more important to people living with CF.

In Dr. Wu’s free time, she enjoys hiking, baking and doing social ballroom dancing!