Heather Stevenson-Lerner

Heather Stevenson-Lerner, MD, PhD
Associate Professor

Director of Transplantation Pathology
Pathologist, Department of Pathology
Liver and Transplantation Pathologist
I. Emil Carroll, MD Professorship in Pathology

Phone: (409) 772-8554
Email: hlsteven@utmb.edu
Twitter: twitter.com/drhslovesliver

Heather Stevenson-Lerner, MD, PhD

  • Heather Stevenson-Lerner is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology, Division of Surgical Pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch.  Her clinical focus includes liver, transplantation, and gastrointestinal pathology.  Prior to becoming faculty at UTMB in 2014, she completed a fellowship in the Transplant Pathology Division at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  Dr. Stevenson-Lerner leads UTMB’s Liver Diseases Diagnostic Management Team, which is popular with hepatologists, transplant coordinators, fellows, and residents. 

    Heather is actively involved in several grant-funded clinical research projects including studies in patients with chronic hepatitis C (HCV), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).   Primary research interests include studying the role of the hepatic immune response, including macrophages and lymphocytes, in fibrosis and HCC development.  Her laboratory has also developed a Spectral-imaging platform to characterize and quantify these populations in human formalin-fixed liver biopsy tissue. 

    Dr. Stevenson-Lerner earned her BS from Colorado State University and worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prior to coming to UTMB for her training in the combined MD/PhD program.  Her PhD training was in the department of experimental pathology under the guidance of Dr. David Walker.  She completed residency training at UTMB in 2013 and is board-certified in anatomic and clinical Pathology.

    Dr. Stevenson-Lerner received a University of Texas Rising STARs award, is on the executive committee for medical school admissions, and received the Best Anatomic Pathology Faculty Award from UTMB’s pathology residents and fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year.  She is also a recent recipient of a career development award from the Institute for Translational Sciences' KL2 (ITS Scholars) program (https://its.utmb.edu/learning).

  • My primary research focus is hepatic immunology and how dysregulation of the immune response leads to fibrosis development. I am also interested understanding how the phenotype of a person's hepatic macrophages determines downstream immune activation and how they respond to liver injury.

    My laboratory is currently working on three main projects:

    1. We are currently conducting a clinical study to better understand viral hepatitis C infection by collecting blood samples and liver biopsies in patients before and after treatment with the recently developed IFN-free antivirals. We are using multi-spectral imaging to analyze macrophages, lymphocytes, and liver sinusoidal endothelial cells, before and after treatment, and will use this technology to see how the various cell phenotypes change in the presence of absence of the virus. These results will be correlated with peripheral blood mononuclear cells and RNA sequencing analysis.

    2. We are using the above patient samples to determine why some patients have liver biopsies showing persistent chronic hepatitis, even though they have supposedly been "cured" and have obtained systemic viral resistance (SVR).

    3. We are using multi-spectral imaging and digital microscopy to phenotype and quantify lymphocytes, macrophages, and liver sinusoidal endothelial cells in patients with chronic liver disease, including HCV.


    Stevenson-Lerner Laboratory Team:

  • MD-PhD University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston 2002-2009
    Resident Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Residency, University of Texas Medical 2009-2013
    Fellowship Fellowship, Liver and Transplantation Pathology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh 2013-2014

    Clinical focus

    Anatomic and Clinical Pathology (AP-CP), Board Certified
    Transplantation Pathology (heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, small intestine)
    Gastrointestinal Pathology

  • December 2018 Selected to attend the 2018 AAMC Women Faculty Leadership Development Seminar, Atlanta, Georgia
    September 2018 Awarded the I. Emil Carroll Professorship in Pathology, UTMB, Galveston, TX
    August 2018 Abstract selected as “Presidential Poster of Distinction,” American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), The Liver Meeting, San Francisco, CA
    July 2018 Awarded as Mentor for Emerging Liver Scholar Program, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). Mentee: Adam Booth. The Liver Meeting, San Francisco, CA
    June 2017 Awarded Anatomic Pathology Faculty of the Year by the Pathology Resident/Fellows Training Program, UTMB, Galveston, TX
    September 2016 Nominated as UTMB's annual attendee to the nationally recognized Promoting Professionalism program held at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
    May 2016 Awarded Anatomic Pathology Lecturer of the Year for 2015-2016 by the Pathology Resident/Fellows Training Program, UTMB, Galveston TX
    February 2016 University of Texas Systems Rising STARs Award, received prestigious funding award to obtain laboratory equipment, UT Systems, Austin, TX
  • Hans Popper Hepatopathology Society (HPHS)
    American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)
    Texas Society of Pathologists (TSP)
    College of American Pathologists (CAP)
    The United States & Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP)
    American Association of Immunologists (AAI)
    1. Baliss, M., Kline, K., Khan, K., and H.L. Stevenson. The Great Spiral Masquerader: A Unique Case of Concurrent Secondary Syphilis and Autoimmune Hepatitis. ACG case reports. Accepted. Sept 2020.
    2. Saldarriaga, O.A., Freiberg, B., Krishnan, S., Rao, A., Burks, J., Booth, A.L., Dye, B., Utay, N.S., Ferguson, F., Akil, A., Yi, M., Beretta, L., and H.L. Stevenson. Multispectral imaging enables characterization of intrahepatic macrophages in patients with chronic liver disease. Hepatol. Commun. Mar 3;4(5):708-723. 2020.
    3. Booth, A.L.,  Merwat, S., Merwat, S. and H.L. Stevenson, Cholangitis lenta: What hepatologists need to know. Clin. Liv. Dis. Jun 30;15(6):236-238. 2020.
    4. Simoes, C.C., Saldarriaga, O.A., Utay, N.S., Stueck, A.E., Merwat, S.K., Merwat, S.N., Schiano, T.D. Fiel, M.I., and H.L. Stevenson.  Direct-acting antiviral treatment of patients with hepatitis C resolves serologic and histopathologic features of autoimmune hepatitis. Hepatol commun. Jun 8;3(8):1113-1123. 2019.
    5. >George, B., Rivera Rolon, M.D. Sharma, M. and H.L. Stevenson.> Epithelial to mesenchymal transition in endomyocardial biopsies from orthotopic heart transplant recipients.  BMJ case reports. Aug 22;12(8). 2019.
    6. Kline, K., Al Hanayneh, M., and H.L. Stevenson. Portal vein thrombosis leading to pre-sinusoidal non-cirrhotic portal hypertension resulting in decreased synthetic function in the liver. Gastroenterol Hepatol Bed Bench. 2019 Spring;12(2):174-177. PMID: 31191844; PMCID: PMC6536011.
    7. Zhao, J., Olino, K., Low, L.E., Qiu, S. and H.L. Stevenson. Hepatic inflammatory pseudotumor: An important differential diagnosis in patients with a history of previous biliary procedures.  ACG Case Reports. 2019. Jan 6(1):e00015. (Impact factor: n/a) (Citation index: n/a)
    8. Yassi, U. and H.L. Stevenson.  IgG4-related sclerosing pericarditis in a young male with recurrent chest pain.  Ann Thorac Surg. 2019 Oct;108(4):e261-e263. (Impact factor: 3.849) (Citation index: n/a)
    9. Akil, A., Endsley, M., Shanmugam, S., Saldarriaga, O., Somasunderam, A., Spratt, H., Stevenson, H.L., Utay, N.S., Ferguson, M. and M. Yi. Fibrogenic gene expression in hepatic stellate cells induced by HCV and HIV replication in a three cell co-culture model system. Sci Rep. Jan 24;9(1):568. 2019. (Impact factor: 4.122) (Citation index: n/a)
    10. Diab, K., Kochat, S., McClintic, J., Stevenson, H.L., Agle, S.C., Olino, K., Tyler, D.S., and K.M. Brown.  Development of a model for training and assessing image-guided liver tumor ablation. J. J Surg Educ. Mar - Apr;76(2):554-559. 2019.(Impact factor: 2.302) (Citation index: n/a)
    11. Nguyen, J., Jiao, J., Smoot, K., Watt, G.P., Zhao, C., Song, X., Stevenson, H.L., McCormick, J.B., Fisher-Hoch, S.P., Futreal, A., Zhang, J., and L. Beretta. Toll-like receptor 4: a target for chemoprevention of hepatocellular carcinoma in obesity and steatohepatitis.  Oncotarget.
    12. Tayyem, O. Saraireh, Al Hanayneh, M., and H.L. Stevenson. A Heart Transplant Recipient with Mycophenolate Mofetil-Induced Colitis: The Great Imitator.  Accepted. 2018.
    13. Jiao, J., Watt, Gordon, P., Stevenson, H.L., Fisher-Hoch, S.P., Ye, Y., Wu, X., Vierling, J.M. Moore, and L. Beretta.  Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase Mutations in Plasma DNA in Patients with HCC or Cirrhosis: Prevalence and Risk factors. Hepatol comm. Apr 27;2(6):718-731. 2018.
    14. Moreno Prats, M., Sasatomi, E., and H.L. Stevenson.  Colorectal liver metastases: A pathologist’s guide to creating an informative report and improving patient care.  Arch path lab med. May 23. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2017-0505-RA. [Epub ahead of print]. 2018.
    15. Stevenson, H.L., Moreno Prat, M. Isse, K., and A.J. Demetris.  Isolated vascular “v” lesions in liver allografts: Approach to this puzzling finding. Amer. J.
    16. Booth, A.L., Osehobo, P., Rodgers-Soriano, D., Lalarukh, A., Eltorky, M.A., and H.L. Stevenson.Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis secondary to unknown underlying Hodgkin’s lymphoma Presenting with a cholestatic pattern of liver injury. Case Rep Gastroenterol. 2018 Apr 24;12(1):99-108. 2018.
    17. Simões, C.C., Ghouri, Y.A., Merwat, S., and H.L. Stevenson. Budd-Chiari Syndrome: a rare and life-threatening complication of Crohn’s Disease. BMJ Case Rep. Jan 17;2018.
    18. Jiao, J., Weibo Niu, W. Wang, Y., Baggerly, K., Ye, Y., Wu, X., Davenport, D. Almeda, J.L., Stevenson, H.L., McCormick, J.B., Fisher-Hoch, S.P. and L. Beretta. Prevalence of aflatoxin-associated TP53 R249S mutation in HCC in Hispanics in South Texas. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). Feb;11(2):103-112. 2018.
    19. Jiao, J., González, Á., Stevenson, H.L., Gagea, M., Sugimoto, H., Kalluri, R., and L. Beretta.  Depletion of S100A4+ stromal cells doesn’t prevent HCC development but reduces the stemlike phenotype of the tumors. Exp mol Med. Jan 50(1):e422. 2018.
    20. W. Yoo, D. Gjuka1, Stevenson, H.L., X. Song, H. Shen1, S. Y. Yoo, J. Wang, M. Fallon, G. N. Ioannou, S. A. Harrison, & L. Beretta.  Fatty acids in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis: focus on pentadecanoic acid. Dec 15;12(12):e0189965. 2017.
    21. Pinkaew, D., Chattopadhyay, A., Zhihe, L., Stevenson H.L., Chen, Y., and K. Fujise. Fortilin binds IRE1a and prevents ER stress from signaling apoptotic cell death. Nat Commun. May 26;8(1):18. 2017.
    22. Booth, A.L., Boor, P., Al Dossari, G. and H.L. Stevenson. Abundant dystrophic calcifications mimicking aortic valve abscess in a patient undergoing elective aortic valve replacement. BMJ Case Rep. Jul 19 bcr-2017-220368. 2017.
    23. Jung, K., Yoo, W., Stevenson, H.L., Shen, H., Gagea, M., Yoo, S., Wang, J., Eckols, T.K., Bharadwaj, U., Tweardy, D.J., and L. Beretta. Multi-functional effects of a small-molecule STAT3 inhibitor on NASH and HCC growth. Clin Cancer Res. Sep 15;23(18):5537-5546. 2017.
    24. Shubhashish S., Popov, V. L., O’Connell, M.L., Stevenson, H.L., Lee, B., Duvalla, R. Obeid, R., Luthra, G., and P.  Singh. A novel cancer stem cell biomarker, DCLK1-S, traffics to nuclei of colon cancer cells, and may predict colon cancer risk of patients at time of index colonoscopy. Lab invest. Oct;97(10):1245-1261. 2017.
    25. Stevenson, HL., Moreno-Prats, M. and E. Sasatomi.  CD34, smooth muscle actin and glutamine synthetase as markers for chemotherapy-induced hepatic sinusoidal injury in patients with colorectal liver metastases. BMC Cancer. 17(1):35. 2017.
    26. Salameh, H., Johnson, J., Diab, K., Merwat, S., and H.L. Stevenson.  Autoimmune hepatitis-induced cirrhosis due to long-term methotrexate therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Annals clin case reports: Hepatol. (12: 1122).  2016
    27. Stevenson, H.L., and N. Utay.  Hepatic Steatosis in HCV-Infected Persons in the Direct-Acting Antiviral Era. Trop Dis, Trav Med and Vac. 2:21. 2016.
    28. BANFF WORKING GROUP (includes Stevenson, H.L.), 2016 Comprehensive Update of the Banff Working Group on Liver Allograft Pathology: Introduction of Antibody-mediated Rejection. Amer J Trans. Oct;16(10):2816-2835. (PMID: 27273869).  2016.
    29. Chintamaneni, P., Stevenson, H.L. and S.M Malik, M.D. Bupivacaine Drug-induced liver injury: A case series and brief review of the literature. J. Clin. Anesth. 32, 137–141. 2016.
    30. Cicalese, L., Corsello, T., Stevenson, H.L., Damiano, G.  Tuveri, M., Zorzi, D., Montalbano, M., Shakfaran, N., and C. Rastellini.  Evidence of absorptive function in vivo in a neo-formed bio-artificial intestinal segment in a rodent model. J Gastrointest Surg. J Gastrointest Surg. 20(1):34-42; discussion 42. 2016.
    31. Yang, Q., Stevenson, H.L., Scott, M., and N. Ismail.  Type I IFN regulates non-canonical inflammasome activation and impairs protective immunity during fatal Ehrlichia -induced toxic shock.  Am J Pathol. 185(2):446-61. 2015.
    32. Petersen, J.R., Stevenson, H.L., Snyder, N., Kasturi1, K.,  Naniwadekar, A., Sampson, E., Parkes, J., and R. Cross.  Evaluation of the APRI (AST, platelet ratio index) and ELF™ (Enhanced Liver Fibrosis) tests to detect significant fibrosis due to chronic hepatitis C. J Clin Gastroenterol. 48(4):370-6. 2014.
    33. Stevenson, H.L., Amador, A., McCue, J., Ciancio, G., Chen L., Mattiazzi, A., Sageshima, J., Guerra, G., Roth, D., Kupin W., Burke G.W., Pham, S., Tzakis, A., and P. Ruiz. Mannose binding lectin (mbl2) haplotype frequencies in solid organ transplant patients and correlation with MBL protein levels – evaluation of complement-mediated effector pathway deficiency. Trans. Immunol. 28(2-3):73-80. 2013.

    NIH Biosketch