Jonsdottir earns PhD midway through Hem/Onc fellowship

As she neared the end of her second year in the University of Iowa Health Care’s Hematology and Medical Oncology Fellowship, Gudbjorg Jonsdottir, MD, earned a PhD from the University of Iceland. In May, Jonsdottir, who now serves as the Chief Fellow, virtually and successfully defended her dissertation, “Second Malignancies in Patients with Multiple Myeloma: Risk Factors and Impact on Survival.” 

Jonsdottir’s dissertation examined long-term complications related to multiple myeloma, a malignant blood disorder characterized by clonal proliferation of plasma cells in bone marrow. One of the main concerns is the possibility of second malignancies developing in myeloma survivors.

“When we started the project, risk factors for this development were poorly understood, which motived us to investigate them further,” Jonsdottir said. “The aim of my thesis was to determine the impact of second malignancies on survival and identify risk factors for second malignancy development with focus on patients who developed acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.”

The results of the project found that treatment- and host-related factors might play a role in second malignancy development and that development of second malignancies was associated with inferior survival.

“Our findings highlight the need to develop better treatments and preventive strategies for patients with multiple myeloma and subsequent second malignancies,” Jonsdottir said.

Jonsdottir’s dissertation is part of a multi-institutional project that includes researchers from Karolinska Hospital in Sweden, Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, and the University of Iceland. The project resulted in three publications in Blood Advances, Haematologica, and the European Journal of Haematology.

In addition to the demands of her fellowship and PhD, Jonsdottir also prioritized her family, which consists of her husband Asgeir Masson, MD, who is a Chief Resident in Iowa’s General Surgery Residency Program, and their two children. While all these responsibilities required a lot of organization and determination, Jonsdottir found support within the hospital and the Iowa City community.

“I’m extremely grateful for all the support and encouragement I’ve received from faculty and mentors throughout my training here at UIHC, especially my program leadership and the [Physician Scientist Training Pathway],” Jonsdottir said. “I have found the stimulating research environment we have here at UIHC inspiring and it has pushed me to earn my PhD, as well as starting a new research project with UIHC researchers in both medical and surgical oncology.”

After her time as Chief Fellow, Jonsdottir hopes to work as a medical oncologist in an academic setting.

“I have enjoyed working with researchers from different institutions and countries and hope to be able to continue to pursue collaborative cancer research along with my clinical work,” Jonsdottir said. 

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