Shivani Sahni, Ph.D.
Institution: Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, Harvard Medical School
Career Stage: Assistant Scientist II, Instructor
Research Focus: Nutritional risk factors of osteoporosis
What brought you to the bone field and why have you stayed?
While studying at Tufts University in Boston, I was asked to conduct a seminar on controversies in nutritional epidemiology. I chose the topic of protein intake and osteoporosis for this seminar, which sparked my interest in osteoporosis research. In the seminar, I remember heavily citing the protein and bone loss work from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study conducted by Dr. Marian T. Hannan. Due to my interest in osteoporosis research, my PhD mentor at Tufts University, Dr. Katherine L. Tucker introduced me to the Framingham Osteoporosis Study group, including Dr. Marian T. Hannan and Dr. Douglas P. Kiel. It was so exciting to finally meet Marian and Doug who were also very keen in examining nutritional risk factors of osteoporosis. I continue to work with them in this area of research because nutrition is so vital for the prevention of age-related loss of bone and muscle. I truly believe that my research, along with that of others in this area, can improve the health of older adults. Constant encouragement from my peers and senior scientists working in this area motivates me to stay in this field.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?
The most memorable moment of my career happened when both NIAMS and ASBMR decided to fund the same grant at the same time. The two agencies then decided to jointly fund the grant. For a junior investigator struggling to get a foothold in research, that moment was such a confidence booster.
What has been your favorite ASBMR Annual Meeting moment?
My favorite ASBMR Annual Meeting moment was the first time I presented an oral presentation on protein intake and hip fracture risk. This presentation was attended by approximately 800 fellow members. It was scary and exciting at the same time.
If you knew at the beginning of your career what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
It's okay to say no to certain tasks to make time for tasks that you really enjoy doing.
How has membership or leadership with ASBMR helped you in your career? Why would you encourage others to get involved?
Membership with ASBMR has provided me with an effective platform where I am able to connect with fellow members to share my research, and gain important feedback. I also gain exposure to emerging and cutting-edge research in the area of musculoskeletal health. It is such an honor to be able to interact with senior scientists in a friendly environment provided by the ASBMR annual meetings. ASBMR has also provided me significant financial support in the form of travel awards to attend the annual scientific meetings, young investigator award and more recently the Junior Faculty Osteoporosis Research Award (JFOR), which has provided me funds for one year to conduct important research in the area of vitamin C, uric acid and bone health. ASBMR's commitment towards supporting junior investigators is extremely helpful considering the tough funding climate. I would encourage others to get involved.
Share a funny story from the lab.
I work in the musculoskeletal research center where I work with epidemiologists, geriatricians, statisticians, nutritionists, all working in the area of musculoskeletal research. We like to call ourselves "the boneheads". Anytime we see a funny picture with bones (very popular around Halloween time) we like to circulate the picture within our group for a good laugh. One Halloween, we even had a common headgear prominently featuring a bone.
What topic or session would you be excited to see at an upcoming ASBMR Annual meeting?
I would love to see sessions with a focus on nutritional risk factors of osteoporosis and age-related loss in muscle mass and strength.
How does your research make a difference?
I aim to contribute towards the emerging research in nutrition and musculoskeletal health, which would aid in establishing appropriate dietary and nutritional recommendations for healthy aging. Consequently, my work and that of others in this area help prevent and treat conditions related to the aging musculoskeletal system.