Biomedical Leadership Fellow/"Chief of Staff" Fellowship sponsored by HealthX and the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network

Driving forward strategic research internationally and translating research into a cure for Castleman disease and many more rare diseases

Background on Castleman Disease Collaborative Network (CDCN):

The CDCN is a Penn-based, international initiative dedicated to accelerating research to cure Castleman disease and create a blueprint for curing other rare diseases. The CDCN is currently funding 'omics' studies around the world. We’re looking for an entrepreneurial MS3 to take a year to serve as the 2019-2020 Biomedical Leadership Fellow/"Chief of Staff" to help translate promising research into life-saving therapeutics. You will work directly with Penn Med Assistant Professor and alum Dr. David Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSc (Penn Med faculty and alum), on all aspects of your leadership, project management, and translational work, and you will likely publish multiple papers that help to uncover insights into Castleman disease, immunology, and oncology as well as investigate ways to improve rare disease/biomedical research on a systems-level. You will also work with expert researchers and physicians, pharmaceutical companies, Castleman disease patients and a group of very dedicated volunteers who all share a common goal of better understanding and curing Castleman disease. Total stipend for one year: $32,000. 


The Chief of Staff for the CDCN plays an essential role in helping to accelerate research for Castleman disease, an inflammatory disease as rare as ALS and more deadly than lymphoma. We are looking for an MS3 to take a year out between 3rd and 4th year to work full time (and get paid $32,000 for the year) on the following combination of a) task execution, b) project management/employee management, c) strategic planning across divisions, and d) conducting research.

  1. The Chief of Staff will serve as the “right hand person” to and act as an extension of the CDCN Executive Director, Dr. David Fajgenbaum, who is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UPenn, Associate Director of the Penn Orphan Disease Center, and a member of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 healthcare list. The Chief of Staff will participate in meetings on behalf of Dr. Fajgenbaum, consult frequently with Dr. Fajgenbaum on strategic decisions and organizational priorities, and take on projects while Dr. Fajgenbaum is working on other projects.
  2. The Chief of Staff will also ensure that the members of the CDCN leadership team are working efficiently on their respective projects. The Chief of Staff will work with the five Managing Directors and 40+ Team members to follow up on deadlines and outstanding projects.
  3. The Chief of Staff will work with Dr. Fajgenbaum and the Managing Directors to think strategically about future projects/initiatives as well as internal projects to improve team efficiency. The Chief of Staff will not serve on a sub-team, but will think strategically across divisions: Research, Physician Engagement, Patient Engagement, Fundraising, and Communications.
  4. Based on interests, experiences, and availability, the Chief of Staff will conduct translational research, clinical, or epidemiological research into Castleman disease, or conduct research into ways to improve the translational research process for rare diseases.

Key characteristics for success:

  • Interest and passion in translating research into life-saving treatments
  • Critical thinker and strong problem solver
  • Serious attention to detail
  • Highly conscientious and very organized: projects/emails do not get dropped
  • Self-starter and interest in entrepreneurial pursuits
  • Strong at finishing tasks
  • Quick turn around time for email communications (24-48 business hours)


  1. Improve the speed with which projects go from concept to results by working with the Executive Director to improve organizational efficiency and by turning around tasks as quickly as possible
  2. Establish and execute a clear Project Management strategy
  3. Assist with all organizational operations, including talent planning and strategic planning
  4. Co-author at least one (hopefully more) article in a peer-reviewed journal

Funding: $32,000 over 1 year for MS3s (MS3s would be expected to take a year off to work full-time on this fellowship and research with Dr. Fajgenbaum starting in spring, summer, or fall 2019).

Application Process:

  • If interested, please fill out the application at
  • Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so you can apply at any time before the April 1, 2019 deadline for a September 1 (or earlier) start. However, the sooner you apply, the better, as another talented candidate may apply before the deadline and be selected.
  • Dr. Fajgenbaum will conduct interviews on a rolling basis.
  • The Chief of Staff will begin at a time that works well for them. 

If you have any questions, please email Dr. David Fajgenbaum at

About Castleman Disease:

Castleman disease describes a group of inflammatory disorders that vary from a single enlarged lymph node with flu-like symptoms to life-threatening multiple organ failure.

  • As common as ALS. CD incidence is estimated at 6,000-7,000 patients of all ages each year in the U.S.
  • As deadly as cancer. The most common CD subtype, Multicentric CD (MCD), has a five-year survival rate of 65%, which is the same as the average for all cancers combined and worse than lymphoma.
  • A wide-ranging and poorly understood disorder. CD can range from enlargement of a single lymph node with flu-like symptoms to multiple enlarged lymph nodes with failure of every vital organ (liver, kidneys, bone marrow).