Heather Gordish-Dressman Heather Gordish-Dressman
Associate Research Professor of Genomics and Precision Medicine
Associate Research Professor of Pediatrics (Secondary)

Office Phone: 202-476-6011
Email: Email
Department: Genomics and Precision Medicine


My career began in inorganic chemistry but my interests soon moved into public health.  I began my public health training at the University of Southern California School of Medicine in the Department of Preventive Medicine. There I studied applied biostatistics and epidemiology under the direction of Dr. Wendy Mack, focusing on the effects of transdermal estrogen on vascular function and lipids in postmenopausal women. I sought to apply my skills to the emerging field of molecular epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. There I studied the Glycophorin A assay, investigating the effects of environmental exposures during pregnancy on developing fetuses under the direction of Dr. William Bigbee. Since joining Children’s National Medical Center, I’ve been able to use both my knowledge of statistics and bench science to become the primary statistician for research projects in the center.


Selected From 34 Peer-reviewed publications;

  • Functional polymorphisms associated with human muscle size and strength.  Thompson, P.D., Moyna, N. Seip, R., Clarkson, P., Angelopoulos, T., Gordon, P., Pescatello, L., Visich, P., Zoeller, R., Devaney, J.M., Gordish, H., Bilbie, S., Hoffman, E.P.  Med Sci Sports Exerc.  2004; 36(7): 1132-9
  • ACTN3 Genotype is Associated with Increases in Muscle Strength in Response to Resistance Training in Women. Priscilla M. Clarkson,  Joseph M. Devaney, Heather Gordish-Dressman, Paul D. Thompson, Monica J. Hubal, Maria Urso1, , Thomas B. Price, Theodore J. Angelopoulos, Paul M. Gordon, Niall M. Moyna, Linda S. Pescatello, Paul S. Visich, Robert F. Zoeller, Richard L. Seip , and Eric P. Hoffman  J Appl. Physio. 2005 Jul;99(1):154-63. Epub 2005 Feb 17.
  • The genetics of muscle atrophy and growth: the impact and implications of polymorphisms in animals and humans. Gordon ES, Gordish Dressman HA, Hoffman EP. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2005 Oct;37(10):2064-74. Review.
  • Nondisease genetic testing: reporting of muscle SNPs shows effects on self-concept and health orientation scales.  Gordon ES, Gordish-Dressman HA, Devaney J, Clarkson P, Thompson P, Gordon P, Pescatello LS, Hubal MJ, Pistilli EE, Gianetti G, Kelsey B, Hoffman EP.  Eur J Hum Genet. 2005 Sep;13(9):1047-54.
  • An interactive power analysis tool for microarray hypothesis testing and generation.  Seo J, Gordish-Dressman H, Hoffman EP. Bioinformatics; 2006 Apr 1;22(7):808-14.
  • Metallothionein I and II Attenuate the Thalamic Microglial Response Following Traumatic Axotomy in the Immature Brain. E Potter, Y Cheng, JB Knight, H Gordish-Dressman, J Natale.   J Neurotrauma. 2007; 21(1): 28-42.
  • Allometric Scaling of Biceps Strength Before and After Resistance Training in Men.  Zoeller RF, Ryan ED, Gordish-Dressman H, Price TB, Seip RL, Angelopoulos TJ, Moyna NM, Gordon PM, Thompson PD, Hoffman EP. Medicine Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007; 39(6): 1013-1019.
  • Exploratory Data Analysis with Categorical Variables: An Improved Rank-by-Feature and a Case Study.  Seo  J and Gordish-Dressman H.  Int J Human-Computer Interaction.  2007; 23(3): 287-314.
  • Effect of TNF-alpha on human ARPE-19 secreted proteins.  An, E.,Gordish-Dressman, H. and Yetrib Hathout. Mol.Vis. 2008 Dec: 14:2292-2303.
  • Preclinical drug trials in the mdx mouse: Assessment of reliable and sensitive outcome measures. Spurney CF, Gordish-Dressman H, Guerron AD, Sali A, Pandey GS, Rawat R, Van Der Meulen JH, Cha HJ, Pistilli EE, Partridge TA, Hoffman EP, Nagaraju K. Muscle Nerve. 2009 May; 39(5):591-602.


Genetic variation in muscle and bone: The goal of much of my research has been investigating normal human genetic variation in muscle and bone.  The actions and changes in both tissues is dependent on an individual’s genetic background, therefore our group has been studying single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to determine their involvement in differences in muscle and bone and differences in the responses of muscle and bone to exercise.  I have focused on the analysis of SNPs in both candidate gene association and genome-wide association frameworks.  Much of this work relies on population genetic principles including Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium assessments, determination of linkage disequilibrium and definition of haplotypes using the expectation maximum algorithm. 

Metabolic Syndrome/Obesity: With type II diabetes reaching epidemic proportions in many westernized countries and with incidence rates increasing, it’s become clear that more needs to be done to understand how to prevent, treat and manage the disorder. Our research focuses on the normal genetic variation that plays a role in the disease.  We know that many of the factors making up metabolic syndrome and diabetes have strong genetic components; therefore several collaborative studies are underway to determine how genetic differences can be used to tailor treatment to be most effective.  Many of our studies are taking place in children or young adults with the hope that they have less cumulative exposure to uncontrollable factors, making phenotype assessment clearer.

Preclinical drug testing for Muscular Dystrophy: The testing of therapies intended to treat muscular dystrophies is a focus of our research, using murine models to test several promising therapeutic agents.   Several murine models of human muscular disease are being used to test the efficacy of new agents.  A focus of my research is the determination of the reliability and sensitivity of outcomes in the mouse model.  We have collected several common outcomes, muscle strength measurements, behavioral assessments and histological measures in a large cohort of mice of several strains.  With this large dataset, we are able to measure how reliable each measurement is over several experimental conditions with the hopes of developing measurements that accurately model our outcomes.

Link to pubmed publications: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=gordish-dressman

Industry Relationships and Collaborations

This faculty member (or a member of their immediate family) has reported a financial interest with the health care related companies listed below. These relations have been reported to the University and, when appropriate, management plans are in place to address potential conflicts.

  • None