Alumni and Friends

Alumna Kelly McCall veered into a research career fighting autoimmune and inflammatory diseases

Ohio University alumna Kelly McCall thought she was headed to dentistry school. But as graduation loomed her senior year, she changed her major to biological sciences and found herself on a very different health-care related path.

McCall traded thoughts of a medical practice for a prolific career in biomedical research.

Dr. Kelly McCall
Dr. Kelly McCall

Now she's a professor in OHIO's Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and associate chair of the Department of Specialty Medicine, where she's doing ground-breaking research, discovering a compound that can possibly help protect against a plethora of autoimmune-inflammatory diseases.

"The greatest success in my career is playing a role in advancing our medical knowledge on the pathogenesis of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and developing novel therapeutics with the hope that my scientific advances will help people improve their quality of life or extend their lives," said McCall, who followed up on her B.S. in Biological Sciences with a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from OHIO's College of Arts and Sciences.

Her research includes a multitude of autoimmune-inflammatory diseases, including both type I and type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a variety of human cancers (i.e. thyroid, pancreatic, prostate, breast, colon, and malignant melanoma), colitis, toxic shock, and atherosclerosis.

"Specifically, my current research focus is on toll-like receptors and inflammation and their involvement in the pathogenesis and progression of these types of diseases," said McCall, who is also a member of the Diabetes Institute at OHIO.

McCall, who credits her mentors at OHIO with guiding her research careers, now mentors graduate students in several programs, including biological sciences, biomedical sciences, biomedical engineering, molecular and cellular biology, and translational biomedical sciences, as well as medical students from HCOM. Her research publications often include faculty from multiple OHIO departments, and she jointly holds three patents. Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the American Diabetes Association.

OHIO Professor Kelly McCall

Q: What path did you follow to get where you are today?

A: My journey has been quite unconventional. I was a pre-dentistry major at OHIO as an undergraduate and changed my major to biological sciences the quarter before graduation. I was engaged in undergraduate research, and Dr. Linda Ross was my mentor. After graduation I took a technician position at the Edison Biotechnology Institute, where Dr. Thomas Wagner convinced me to get my Ph.D.

After graduation with my Ph.D., I took a post-doctoral fellowship position with Dr. Leonard Kohn at OHIO, followed by a second post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Frank Schwartz (at the time it was with the Diabetes Research Initiative). I then became an assistant professor (non-tenure track) at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine for a few years before securing a tenure-track position at HCOM in the Department of Specialty Medicine. I have since worked my way through promotion to associate professor with tenure and promotion again recently to full professor.

Kelly McCall in 2003, just after finishing her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Kelly McCall in 2003, just after finishing her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life?

A: Dr. Thomas Wagner was the reason I pursued my Ph.D., and Drs. Leonard Kohn and Frank Schwartz were the reason I pursued a career in biomedical research.

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? 

A: Probably the toughest hill I had to climb was trying to finish my Ph.D. studies as a newly divorced single mom.

Dr. Kelly McCall in her laboratory in 2012.
Dr. Kelly McCall in her laboratory in 2012.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

A: My favorite memories at OHIO are hands down the memories I have made with my students and colleagues at HCOM and OHIO. Whether it be in the classroom, the laboratory, or through my wide-spread administrative roles.

Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss? 

A: The cherry blossoms along the river in the spring.

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December 21, 2022
Staff reports