Charlotte Sumner, M.D.

Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship
photo of Charlotte Sumner
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Dr. Sumner’s trainees highlighted the depth with which she invests in their personal and professional lives, knowing that she cares deeply about each of them. Along with an active interest in communicating with the public and patients, Dr. Sumner utilizes community service to advocacy groups, student groups, and conferences as opportunities to showcase her junior scientists. Dr. Sumner works to have a lab based on curiosity, openness, and rigor, and she mentors individuals at all career stages, ranging from undergraduates to faculty in her lab, all with an emphasis on trust, accountability, a problem-solving attitude, and clear communication. She encourages novelty, creativity, deep thinking and ownership of projects by all trainees, and broadens the lab expertise by welcoming trainee-developed projects that deviate from ongoing lab projects. With her emphasis on patient-oriented training, scientific rigor, “scientific courage,” and creativity, trainees at all levels have gone on to productive scientific futures in a variety of settings. Dr. Sumner promotes a “work-hard, play hard” attitude within the lab, welcomes diversity in all forms, and insists on a well-balanced life, including significant vacations from work. Dr. Sumner's research program focuses on advancing therapeutics for two forms of spinal muscular atrophies (SMAs), which are monogenetic motor neuron (MN) diseases that cause debilitating muscle weakness and often early mortality. The overarching approach is to integrate findings from human patients with rodent and stem cell approaches to identify relevant mechanistic pathways and to identify promising therapeutic opportunities.