CTSI Scholars reflect on the ‘extremely valuable’ experience

photo collage.

Top row, from left: Jason Davies, MD, PhD; David Jacobs, PharmD, PhD; Hilliard Kutscher, PhD; Jason Muhitch, PhD; and Maximiliano Rapanelli, PhD. Bottom row, from left: Nikhil Satchidanand, PhD; Umesh Sharma, MD, PhD; Swapna Thota, MD; Bonnie Vest, PhD; and Ellen Volpe, PhD, RN, FNP-BC.

Published May 20, 2020

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“This has been an amazing and rewarding four-year journey with CTSI Scholars, mentors, and leadership.”
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For researchers, the value of mentoring cannot be overstated. That’s why the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Mentored Career Development Award Program is so significant.

The Clinical and Translational Science Award-linked KL2 Mentored Career Development Award (MCDA) Program and Buffalo Translational Consortium (BTC) MCDA Program provide research mentoring, funding, and career and professional development to outstanding junior faculty and senior fellows transitioning to independent faculty positions. Scholars’ research centers on new treatments for diseases and innovative methods to mitigate and eliminate health disparities.

In addition, as part of these programs, Scholars engage in mentoring the next generation of graduate and professional students, as well as in community outreach.

“This has been an amazing and rewarding four-year journey with CTSI Scholars, mentors, and leadership,” says University at Buffalo CTSI Workforce Development Core Director and KL2 MCDA PI and Program Lead Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmacology and toxicology and senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “State-of-the-art research, career and professional development, mentoring, hard work, and commitment to excellence propelled this talented and diverse group of clinical and translational scientists into their own independent careers.”

A total of 10 scholars participated in CTSI’s Mentored Career Development Award Program during 2016-19. In advance of announcing the next cohort of 2020-22 Scholars, we asked CTSI Scholar alumni for their thoughts on their experience in the program, the value of the mentorship they received, and the impact the program has had on their research careers. Consistently, the alumni spoke of the career development and grant application skills instilled during their time as CTSI Scholars.

Jason Davies, MD, PhD
CTSI Scholar 2017-19 (KL2 funded)
Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Bioinformatics, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo

“Several training and career development activities were undertaken over the course of the KL2 award, including participation in seminars on grant-writing, teaching effectiveness, and translational teamwork, as well as biostatistics workshops. These activities helped to further both the present research enterprise as well as supporting further grant applications.”

David Jacobs, PharmD, PhD
CTSI Scholar 2018-19 (BTC funded)
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University at Buffalo

“Receiving the CTSI Scholar Award has made a significant career-related impact. It has allowed me to focus my time and energy on the development of my research, and has laid the groundwork to apply for other extramural grants.”

Hilliard Kutscher, PhD
CTSI Scholar 2018 (BTC funded)
Research Assistant Professor, Institute for Lasers Photonics and Biophotonics, Department of Anesthesiology, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo

“Participating in the program gave me the opportunity to learn from my cohort of colleagues and use their perspectives to improve my clinical translational research. The experience has enabled me to expand my research for the treatment of influenza and has helped me grow as a scientist and a leader.”

Jason Muhitch, PhD
CTSI Scholar 2016-18 (BTC funded)
Assistant Professor, Oncology Department of Urology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

“The exceptional support offered by the program has altered the trajectory of my career. The focus on development of necessary skills crucial to the success of early-stage scientists clearly distinguishes this unique program.”

Maximiliano Rapanelli, PhD
CTSI Scholar 2018-19 (KL2 funded)
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo

“It helped me to expand my understanding of translational psychiatry, and to build my funding track record.”

Nikhil Satchidanand, PhD
CTSI Scholar 2016-17 (KL2 funded)
Assistant Professor, Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Department of Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo

“My training and experience as a UB CTSI Scholar have been integral to launching my research program focused on developing and implementing novel, community-based physical activity interventions to improve cognition and motor function in vulnerable, older adults. My team of dedicated mentors provided invaluable guidance and support that helped me grow as a geroscientist.”

Umesh Sharma, MD, PhD
CTSI Scholar 2016-17 (BTC funded)
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo

“The CTSI Scholar program enabled me to obtain an individual K08 award from NHLBI through well-structured career development and mentoring activities.”

Swapna Thota, MD
CTSI Scholar 2018-19 (BTC funded)
Assistant Professor of Oncology, Department of Medicine, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

“I was greatly impacted by the resources offered by the CTSI, such as career development activities. Sharing my research goals and troubleshooting hurdles in reaching my goals helped in successful completion of my research projects. I was exposed to several different aspects of research methodologies as well as workshops to effectively communicate my research.”

Bonnie Vest, PhD
CTSI Scholar 2018-19 (BTC funded)
Research Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo

“The Mentored Career Development Award provided time, mentorship, and training that allowed me to focus on writing papers and grants, and developing my leadership and other crucial skills, resulting in publications, grant submissions, and an academic promotion. Combined with the opportunities to meet scholars from so many disciplines and perspectives — which will hopefully lead to future opportunities and collaborations — this experience was extremely valuable in supporting my career development.”

Ellen Volpe, PhD, RN, FNP-BC
CTSI Scholar 2016-17 (KL2 funded)
Assistant Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing, University at Buffalo

Sadly, Dr. Volpe died in a five-car collision on the New York State Thruway near Buffalo in June 2017. Her KL2 research on a promising treatment for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) among urban youth continued with a Pilot Study awarded to her KL2 mentor, Jennifer P. Read, PhD, College of Arts and Sciences, University at Buffalo.

The CTSI Mentored Career Development Awards are funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers KL2TR001413 and UL1TR001412 to the University at Buffalo.