Megan Ahern Sylvester

College of Medicine – Tucson
Year Entered Program: 
Grad Year: 
Degrees Received: 
  • BS in Public Health and Integrative Biology from the University of Colorado Denver
  • PhD in Physiological Sciences from the University of Arizona
Thesis Advisor: 
Heddwen Brooks, PhD
Thesis Research: 

The Brooks Laboratory uses a mouse model of ovarian failure to better understand the interchange between menopause (the natural loss of ovarian estrogen) and the development of hypertension. Prior to menopause, women are relatively protected from high blood pressure.  However, the rates of hypertension in postmenopausal women far surpass that of age-matched males.  Furthermore, clinical studies have shown that postmenopausal women are less responsive to anti-hypertensive medications compared to their male counterparts; suggesting a sex-specific mechanism not addressed by current therapeutics.

My dissertation work specifically focused on the role of T regulatory cells, an anti-inflammatory T cell subtype, in protecting premenopausal females from immune-mediated hypertension and how this protection is lost following menopause.  Understanding the mechanism by which these anti-inflammatory cells are able to mediate blood pressure and attenuate the associate end-organ damage, puts us one step closer to developing sex-specific anti-hypertensive therapeutics and clinical practice guidelines in the future.

About Me: 

Growing up in Colorado, the Rocky Mountains have always been my playground. Whether it is hiking 14ers, camping, fishing, mountain biking, or my absolute favorite—skiing—I love tackling new adventures in the great outdoors with my friends and family.  Even with the busy schedule of medical school and research, I spend every moment that I can exploring the natural wonders all around Arizona.

In the fall of 2020, my husband and I welcomed our first baby girl into the world.  She has been our greatest adventure yet and I already love sharing my passion for science and medicine with her.

Since beginning my training here at the UofA, I have fallen in love with all things women’s health—both clinically and scientifically.  Translational and basic science research pertaining to women’s health is historically very understudied, so I look forward to adding my contributions over the course of my career.  Following my MDPhD training, I hope to pursue an OBGYN residency and build a dynamic, ever-changing career in academic medicine.

Honors & Awards: 
  1. 2021 American Physiological Society Merit Abstract Award.
  2. 2019 Council on Hypertension Trainee Onsite Poster Award 
  3. 2018 American Physician Scientist Association Outstanding Poster Award
  4. 2018 The American Physiological Society Abstract Travel Award​​​​​ 
  5. 2017 – 2019 Jeffery-Bunt MD/PhD Scholarship, University of Arizona 
Selected Publications: 
  1. Sylester MA, Mintz G, Sisti, G. Maternal Outcomes Following Active vs Expectant Management of Previable Preterm Pre-Labor Rupture of Membranes: A Meta-Analysis. Children 2023; 10(8), 1347.
  2. Sylvester MA, Pollow DP, Uhlorn JA, Romero-Aleshire, MJ, Moffet C, Uhrlaub JL, Nikolich-Zugich J and Brooks HL.  Splenocyte transfer eliminates premenopausal female protection from Ang II induced hypertension.  Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2022; 322, F245–F257.
  3. Sylvester MA, Brooks HL.  Sex-Specific Mechanisms in Inflammation and Hypertension. Current Hypertension Reports. 2019; 21(53): 1-8.
  4. Pollow DP, Uhlorn JU, Sylvester MA, Romero-Aleshire MJ, Uhrlaub J, Lindsey M, Nikolich-Zugich J and Brooks HL. Menopause and FoxP3+ Treg cell depletion eliminate female protection against T cell-mediated Angiotensin II hypertension. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2019; 317(2): H415-H423.
  5. Ahern MA, Black CP, Seedorf GJ, Baker CD, Shepherd DP. Hyperoxia impairs pro-angiogenic RNA production in preterm endothelial colony-forming cells. AIMS Biophysics, 2017, 4(2): 284-297.  
  6. Ahern MA, Goodell DJ, Adams J, Bland ST.  Brain regional differences in social encounter-induced Fos expression in male and female rats after post-weaning social isolation. Brain Research 2016; 1630:120-133.
  7. Goodell DJ, Ahern MA, Baynard J, Wall VL, Bland ST. A novel escapable social interaction test reveals that social behavior and mPFC activation during an escapable social encounter are altered by post-weaning social isolation and are dependent on the aggressiveness of the stimulus rat. Behav Brain Res. 2016 Sep 12; 317:1-15.
MD-PhD Committee Student Rep: 
MD-PhD Committee Student Rep