Children’s Book Drive

reading2For a second year during this holiday season of giving, the University’s Study Coordinators Organization for Research and Education (SCORE) participants are hosting donation stations to accept your contributions of NEW Books for the Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Donation dropoffs are in the following locations:
-Saunders Research Building, CTSI Director’s Office (1.200)
-Clinical Research Center (G-5035)
-Miner Library (1-6222)

The drive will run until Dec. 18. Thanks for your donation!

From Hawaii to Rochester: CTSI Welcomes Dongmei Li

With winter having descended on Rochester, the view out Dongmei Li’s office window is decidedly different than it was earlier this year, when she was looking out across beaches and the Pacific Ocean from her office at the University of Hawai’i at Mᾱnoa.

Dongmei Li, Ph.D.

Dongmei Li, Ph.D.

If Rochester gets a dose of the weather that hit Buffalo last week, her opinion might change. But so far, she has no regrets about leaving the Aloha State to join the University of Rochester.

“Rochester has many, many excellent investigators and fantastic computing resources,” said Li, Ph.D., interim associate professor of clinical and translational research. “And Tim Dye is an excellent leader.”

Li, who joined the CTSI’s bioinformatics team earlier this year, adds to the institute’s fast-growing informatics team. Led by Tim Dye, Ph.D., the group has been incorporated into the foundation of the CTSI.

And while many doctors and scientists spend a portion of their time working within the CTSI, Li is the first faculty member ever appointed to the CTSI.

“I think this designation will be more and more useful going forward as more faculty join the institution whose remit is to conduct and assist with team science, crossing disciplinary boundaries,” said Dye. “Bioinformatics is one area that very naturally fits within this team science and cross-disciplinary space, so her appointment makes a lot of sense.”

Li received her doctorate in biostatistics from The Ohio State University, and spent time in Hawaii as an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Science. While there, she used her expertise to help a variety of researchers tackle biostatistics problems and write grants.

“I had collaborations with the faculty across the Mᾱnoa  campus and down in the kaka’ako campus,” said Li. “The investigators come from multiple schools such as the John A Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai’i Cancer Center, School of Nursing & Dental Hygiene, Center on Disability Studies, Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and College of Education. I also collaborated with investigators in VA Pacific Islands Health Care System for research related to PTSD.”

She also previously collaborated with Dye in Hawaii, where the duo worked on the RMATRIX grant, which stands for RCMI Multidisciplinary And Translational Research Infrastructure eXpansion, and supports translational research, similar to the CTSI.

“Dongmei has worked at the cutting edge of bioinformatics and biostatistics, and was instrumental in working with biomedical investigators in Hawaii conducting genomic research aimed at reducing health disparities,” said Dye. “In addition to this unique expertise, she also was a key team member of a wide range of population health projects, so could work with large population health databases as well.”

Li spends her weekends with her husband and two children, where they often partake in family karate classes. Her office is in the CTSI Director’s Suite; stop by and say hello.

New Ph.D. program bridges gap between bench research and population health

Curing infectious diseases requires extensive knowledge of the microscopic cells that make up the body. Ensuring the population embraces those cures necessitates a deep understanding of the massive, 7-billion-strong human populace.

A new Ph.D. program at the University of Rochester Medical Center will train scientists to think small and big at the same time.

The program, called Infection and Immunity: From Molecules to Populations (IIMP), will develop scholars who are adept with both bench research and population health, in the hopes of providing a shorter path between basic science advances and health improvements for the community at large. IIMP is supported by $2.5 million from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and aims to bridge the gap between bench research and population health.

“We have a strong pipeline for basic scientists, and we train many physicians and doctoral students in population health science,” said Nancy M. Bennett, M.D., co-director of URMC’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, where the new program will be housed. “But the great scientists of tomorrow are going to have to do both, and to participate on teams including scientists at both ends of the spectrum of research.”

URMC was selected by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund from dozens of applicants in part due to the university’s history in infection and immunity, as URMC researchers have previously expanded on bench research to develop vaccines that prevent childhood meningitis, pneumonia, and human papillomavirus infection.

The program also leverages unique URMC resources in both laboratory and population science – including the Respiratory Pathogens Research Center, the New York Influenza Center of Excellence, the Center for Community Health and its Rochester Emerging Infections Program, and the UR’s National Vaccine Surveillance Site – as well the University’s new Institute for Data Science.

Many additional resources within URMC will further support the IIMP program, which will be a track within the Translational Biomedical Science doctorate. Scholars in the program will cross-train in both basic research and population sciences, and will have dual mentors drawn from each discipline. They will also have the opportunity to take courses from a wide range of departments and disciplines, and to learn from other scientists working at the interface between laboratory and population sciences. Students can choose to do internships and externships with scientists in a variety of settings from academia, to industry, to public health.

“Team science is the wave of the future,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., vice dean for research. “This grant builds on URMC’s exceptional contributions in vaccine science and public health, and gives us the opportunity to launch a new kind of training program that will prepare our students to be leaders of the interdisciplinary scientific teams that are going to advance public health in years to come.”

The IIMP program is now accepting applications for the Fall 2015 semester. Visit the IIMP homepage for more information.

Year Out Scholar selected to participate in Kidney STARS Program

Kyle Rodenbach

Kyle Rodenbach

UR Medical Student and CTSI Year Out Scholar, Kyle Rodenbach, has been selected to participate in this year’s prestigious Kidney STARS Program, part of the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) Kidney Week 2014 in Philadelphia, PA (November 11-16, 2014). Kyle will be participating in the program’s “clinical nephrology track” and is looking forward to learning more about clinical aspects of nephrology, hot topics in clinical research and career opportunities.

The Kidney STARS (Students and Residents) Program provides interested medical students and residents an opportunity to learn more about all aspects of nephrology. The program features “Meet the Experts” sessions with leaders in the field, a guided tour of innovative research abstracts, and a number of networking events.

As a CTSI scholar, Kyle is also earning a stipend through the Year Out Program and gaining valuable research experience between his third and fourth years of medical school. He is working with internationally-known researcher, Dr. George Schwartz on a funded project, “Cystatin-C-based renal reserve in children with history of hemolytic uremic syndrome-associated acute kidney injury.”

Director’s Update — November 2014

Every month, the CTSI Stories Blog will post excerpts from ongoing conversations with the institute’s co-directors.

Nancy M. Bennett, M.D., co-director of the CTSI.

Nancy M. Bennett, M.D., co-director of the CTSI.

Below, Nana Bennett discusses the plans for the expansion of the role of the Community Advisory Council, which advises the Center for Community Health and URMC.

Tell me a little bit about the history of the council.

The Center for Community Health was created in 2006, and at that time, we knew we needed a Community Advisory Council (CAC) to help guide the Medical Center on all aspects of community engagement. We knew we needed their advice on how best to approach the community and use best practices to engage the broader community in an effective and meaningful way.

Why is it necessary?

Academic health centers have not always had good reputations in their communities. Sometimes, community members feel like they are being used for academic research — that investigators come into the community, get what they want, and then leave them without any benefits from the research. Communities want researchers to involve them in all phases of research and to work WITH them, rather than give the impression that they are simply doing things TO them.

How is that best accomplished?

The best practice is to involve the community to establish the research priorities that will best meet the needs of the community, and to involve them in meaningful ways on the research team from the development of an idea to the design of the project to dissemination of the research findings. I can’t stress enough how important it is to let the community know: “This is what we learned” and ideally to enhance the capacity of the community through the research.

Why is the expansion happening now, and how is it going to work?

As a result of the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine report on the CTSAs, Karl Kieburtz, Harriet Kitzman, and I have been eager to increase community engagement across the spectrum of translational science. So, we approached the CAC and asked that they consider how to have more meaningful involvement in the CTSA.  Recently, the CAC had a retreat during which numerous ideas were discussed re the contributions of the CAC to research at the URMC.  It is likely that a subset of the CAC will meet regularly with CTSI leadership, providing advice and input similar to that provided by the national members of the CTSI External Advisory Committee. In addition to increasing the input of the CAC to the CTSI, we hope that investigators throughout the UR will make use of the community input in developing and implementing their research.  These meaningful relationships will likely improve the quality and relevance of UR research.

Have the members of the CAC embraced the larger role?

Yes, absolutely. We are so impressed by and grateful for the level of commitment that the CAC members bring to this responsibility. The chair of the CAC is Wade Norwood, who serves as the Director of Community Engagement at the FLHSA. Scott Benjamin is the vice chair and President of the Charles Settlement House, and the rest of the council is comprised of very broad representation of community members. These are busy people, and they do this because they think it’s important. They are serious about improving health and eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities, and realize that the right community based research can be helpful in this endeavor. They believe that it’s well worth their time to work with the university and tackle these issues together. As we move into an era of increasing population health focus, we need their insights and assistance more than ever.

Previous director’s updates:

October 2014 – Harriet Kitzman discusses the science of team science.
September 2014 – Karl Kieburtz talks about why the CTSI is beefing up its informatics team.
August 2014 – Nana Bennett discusses the new Population Health pillar.
July 2014 – Harriet Kitzman offers her takeaways from the Mini Summer Research Institute.
June 2014 – Karl Kieburtz gives an overview of the CTSI’s six pillars.