Translational Science and APSA National 2016

Earlier this month, UAB MSTP students represented UAB in style, traveling outside of the southeast to network and collaborate with up-and-coming and solidly established physician-scientists, alike. The first group of students – including Kristin Olson (GS1), Stephen Gragg (GS1), Timothy Kennell (GS1), Shima Dowla (GS2), and Anna Joy Rogers (GS3) – traveled to the NIH in Washington, D.C. for Translational Science 2016, an annual meeting hosted by the Association for Clinical and Translational Science. The second group – including Jacelyn Peabody (MS1), Paige Souder (MS2), Jeremie Lever (GS1), Muhan Hu (GS1), Tyler McCaw (GS1), Nick Eustace (GS2), Alex Dussaq (GS3), Alice Weaver (GS3), Brandon Fox (GS3), Josh Cohen (GS3), Vincent Laufer (GS3), and Stephanie Brosius (MS4) – headed north to Chicago, IL for the AAP/ASCI/APSA Joint Meeting for physician scientists. Read below to learn about some cool opportunities presented to these students and check out some pictures of their trips:

Translational Science 2016 (written by Anna Joy Graves)

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UAB had a strong representation this year at the Translational Science 2016, an annual meeting hosted by the Association for Clinical and Translational Science. In addition to the Director of the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, Dr. Robert Kimberly, and several other heavy hitters from the CCTS, the MSTP sent five of our very own trainees: Kristin Olson (GS1), Stephen Gragg (GS1), Timothy Kennell (GS1), Shima Dowla (GS2) and Anna Joy Rogers (GS3).

It was a fascinating and fun-packed three days. On the first day, Kristin participated in Advocacy Training.

“The Advocacy Training prepared us to participate in Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill to urge our Senators to vote for an increase in research funding. I was part of the Alabama/Arkansas team, and we had appointments to meet with the Alabama and Arkansas Senators and/or their staff. I’d never met a U.S. Senator before, and I got to meet two in person, including Alabama’s own (and UAB research building namesake) Senator Shelby!” -Kristin Olson

Shima was also able to go on a tour of the NIH Clinical Center.

“After getting an overview of the facilities and various research opportunities offered by the center, we met with three clinician-investigators who were recipients of the collaborative, multidisciplinary U01 grants. The last portion of the trip, we were split into two groups to tour the center. I had the incredible opportunity to tour the metabolism unit and see state-of-the-art equipment for measuring metabolic health, including indirect calorimetry and body composition. This really showed me that some institutions are well-equipped to investigate particular research questions.” -Shima Dowla

Since the spots for those two pre-conference events filled up before Stephen, Tim and Anna Joy could get a chance to register, they got to explore some of Washinton DC’s sights instead, including Dupont Circle and the (free admission!) zoo.

Hosted in the historic Omni Shoreham hotel, the conference started off with a big picture plenary on the intersectional nature of the spectrum of translational science. Claire Pomeroy, President of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, delivered an emphatic call to action for students and faculty to seek funding for all of health-promoting research. Instead of arguing whether the bench sciences, clinical sciences, or public health sciences should get a larger share of the shrinking funding pie, we need to lobby for the “pie” of funding dollars to be greater for everyone. Dr. Pomeroy emphasized the importance of mentoring the next generation of scientists, embracing innovative approaches to research, and encouraging new partnerships and team science.

The conference had a lot of opportunities for trainees, including “Speed Mentoring” where trainees were paired up with pre-identified mentors based on their interests and career goals. Like in Speed Dating, where the bell rings at certain intervals to signal moving on the next partner, trainees got to hear advice from a variety of successful clinician researchers. There was a “Predoctoral Trainees Luncheon” that all of us attended to get connected with other TL1 Scholars. The conference had oral sessions dedicated to predoctoral or postdoctoral research and informative sessions dedicated to grantwriting for trainees.

One of the most interesting sessions was dedicated to the relatively “new” science of Implementation Science, where instead of focusing on discovery like much of biomedical science, it explores delivery of healthcare treatments and services. The central concept is that in many cases, we already know what works, but we don’t know how to properly implement it. For example, a new drug will not be effective if patients think the side effects unbearable or the cost prohibitive. Similarly, physicians may choose not to adopt new treatment guidelines if they find them difficult to implement or inappropriate for their particular patient population. Implementation science takes discovery to the next level by making sure that we can deliver services in the most cost-effective, acceptable, adaptable, and sustainable way possible.

Ultimately, the conference showed us how the spectrum of translational science – from T0 preclinical bench research, to T1 translation to humans research, to T2 translation to clinical settings research, to T3 Translation to practice research, to T4 Translation to populations research – is all interconnected. We need to work together to improve health for all patients.

AAP/ASCI/APSA Joint Meeting 2016 (written by Paige Souder)

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UAB has a sick local chapter for the American Physician Scientists Association that was well-represented at the annual national conference this year. The majority of local and national officers from UAB were in attendance, as well as previous officers and other APSA members who were awarded prestigious travel grants. This conference has a reputation for attracting impressive speakers, and this year was no disappointment. Tyler elaborated on the quality of speakers at this year’s meeting:

“The ASCI-APSA Joint Annual Meeting never fails to bring in some high-profile speakers doing some of the most impressive science across the country. This year Robert Langer of MIT in particular caught everyone’s attention with his potentially revolutionary approaches to ‘super long-term drug delivery’ systems through polymer engineering. APSA-specific portions of the meeting brought in some similarly excellent scientists, including Robert Satcher Jr, an MD/PhD and astronaut from MD Anderson! He told captivating stories of his training and experience with NASA which were punctuated by comical anecdotes based largely on his out-of-this-world perspectives. Having all those high profile scientists in one place made the poster sessions especially productive, as it gave us a chance to discuss our research with both peers and preeminent researchers in the field.”

In addition to these prolific speakers, there was a strong voice from the pediatric research community, including Dr. Anna Penn from Children’s National Medical Center – who spoke about an exciting new field of research focused on the placenta’s role in development, particularly neurodevelopment following perinatal TBI – and Dr. Sallie Robey Permar from Duke University, who spoke on the role of maternal immunizations in preventing perinatal infections and even spoke to the Zika virus epidemic becoming more prominent in the infectious disease field.

When we weren’t listening to incredible talks, we had plenty of opportunity to focus on career development via expert panels on subjects such as post-grad life and paper submissions (which provided a surprisingly interesting and practical back-and-forth between a data reproducibility specialists and executive journal editor). And of course we all participated in the poster sessions, both sharing the exciting science happening at UAB and learning about the equally exciting science going on at other institutions.

The meeting ended with a luncheon featuring residency directors from 14 different physician-scientist-focused residency programs (including UAB’s ABIM program and reps from top-tier institutions like Mass Gen, UCLA, Yale, and Vanderbilt). We got to grab some food and table hop to learn about the different programs and have great conversations with the directors (talk about networking!).

After the meeting was over, our students had no difficulty finding ways to entertain themselves in Chicago, including the APSA social on the 95th floor of the Hancock tower, running along the beautiful Lake Michigan (in refreshingly non-windy weather), enjoying Chicago cuisine and libations (PIZZA), exploring Millennium Park, and nearly making it to a Cubs game. 10/10 would recommend this conference in the future.

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