Questions For. . . Dr. Diana Bianchi

1201800841When people think of scientists, they imagine a geeky and socially awkward person hiding behind a beaker in a lab. But researchers can tear themselves away from their work and hobnob with the best of them. The Tufts-New England Medical Center’s fifth annual Rising Stars Gala brings out Boston’s stars to honor philanthropists and doctors like Dr. Diana Bianchi.

The geneticist talked to us about her research, Donnie Wahlberg, and the difficulties of sharing a name with a homewrecker.

Boston Daily: I Googled you earlier to get a better feel for your research. . .

Dr. Diana Bianchi: You didn’t Google the woman who was involved with Christie Brinkley’s husband. . .

BD: . . . Yeah. I wanted to see if you got a lot of feedback about that.

DB: I always tell people to Google Doctor Diana Bianchi.

BD: I wasn’t sure if I was interviewing the right person.

DB: There’s a term for that. Instead of a “doppelganger” it’s a “Googleganger.”

BD: I have never heard that before. But it’s brilliant.

DB: It’s someone who has the same exact name as you, but has a completely different reputation on Google. My name is not a common name, so it’s kind of weird. You can imagine I took a lot of teasing from friends when that happened.

BD: Can you give us a quick rundown of your research?

DB: We’re interested in the exchange of cells and nucleic acids between the mother and her fetus. That leads to two broad areas of research. We’re trying to develop new and better techniques of non-invasive pre-natal diagnosis, as well as study the effects of a woman acquiring fetal stem cells following pregnancy.

We think that women who’ve been pregnant are fundamentally different from men, and women who’ve never been pregnant because women have acquired cells from their fetuses that are a generation younger and may have better properties for healing. [You can read more about Bianchi’s research here.]

BD: Have you had children?

DB: Yes.

BD: Have you noticed any difference personally? Do you feel like you heal faster now?

DB: No, but I tease my children. Every time I cut my hand, I tease them.

BD: How do you feel about the Rising Stars event? Do you enjoy these kids of things?

DB: I’m a very social person, and it has an extra level of excitement this year because we’ve been fortunate to have Paul Pierce associated with the hospital, but this is the first year we have a movie celebrity [Wahlberg] with us, so there will be a whole new level of excitement.

BD: Have you heard the rumors that New Kids on the Block will be reuniting?

DB: I actually have, but I haven’t had a chance to pursue it. I’ve been working more on Donnie Wahlberg’s connection to Tufts-New England Medical Center, and I believe that his mother, Alma, used to work on the labor and delivery unit at St. Margaret’s, which was the predecessor of our obstetrics service at Tufts. Many of our experienced labor and delivery nurses worked with Donnie Wahlberg’s mother, so they know her from the days when they were all in Dorchester together.

BD: Is there any chance you can ask him if those reunion rumors are true for us?

DB: I haven’t had any direct contact with Donnie, but I can ask a media person.

BD: Just figured I’d try.

DB: Well, people were asking about his connections to Tufts-New England Medical Center, and he probably doesn’t even know the connection.

BD: Was he born at St. Margaret’s?

DB: I don’t know. It wouldn’t surprise me because that was the major maternity hospital in Dorchester.

BD: Are you a Celtics fan?

DB: I am a Celtics fan. I have to admit I’m more of a Red Sox fan. My son plays varsity basketball for Carnegie Mellon, and he is just despondent that he can’t be at this event. He’s playing the next night. It’s also his birthday, so I’m hoping to have Paul Pierce wish him a happy birthday on his cellphone.

Paul Pierce is a terrific man. His fiancee is expecting, so that’s a very exciting opportunity because it’s a whole new dimension for him. Being a pediatrician and working in ensuring that fetuses are born healthy I’m sure we’ll have a lot to talk about.

BD: Can you talk a little about the Rising Stars event?

DB: The event has a certain symmetry to it, in that it’s honoring someone from the medical community, someone from the business community, and someone from the celebrity community. We hope that this will involve more celebrities because that’s certainly attracts more people to our events.

BD: Do you know what you’re going to wear?

DB: Yes. I was recently in London for a professional meeting, so I took the opportunity to visit Harrods and go to the legendary Harrods sale. So I’m wearing a dress I bought there.

The Tufts-New England Medical Center Fifth Annual Rising Stars Gala is Thursday, February 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Westin Boston Waterfront. Call 617-636-9846 for tickets.