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Pediatrics awarded physician-scientist training support

Feb. 18, 2016, 10:25 AM

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Vanderbilt’s Department of Pediatrics a K12 training grant to support early career faculty to become physician-scientists, the first time the department has received such an award.

The award, $1.7 million distributed over five years, will fund four slots at a time for the training of physician-scientists with a focus on basic and translational research. To win the grant, Vanderbilt had to compete with a large number of elite pediatric training programs, including several with well-established K12 funding for many years.

Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, the James C. Overall Professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics, will serve as the principal investigator. Michael DeBaun, M.D., MPH, J.C. Peterson, M.D., Professor of Pediatric Pulmonology and vice chair for Clinical and Translational Research in the Department of Pediatrics, will serve as the training director for the program along with Mark Denison, M.D., Craig Weaver Professor of Pediatrics.

“It’s really an honor, quite frankly,” DeBaun said. “It will help us retain our best, our brightest, who have elected to work as physician-scientists.”

Added Denison, “The Department of Pediatrics is committed to the development and long-term success of physician-scientists focused on investigating fundamental mechanisms of disease in children. This complements our outstanding training programs and training grants for clinical fellows and postdoctoral scientists.”

Webber said that selection of internal and external candidates for the program would begin immediately.

“Areas of focus for the program include lung disease and development, heart disease, cancer biology, obesity and metabolism, neurological disease and infectious diseases of childhood, including vaccine development,” Webber said. These are areas that were highlighted in the application and represent areas of strength across Vanderbilt.”

Award recipients will benefit from a strong mentoring component that includes weekly meetings with the training directors. A large number of senior investigators from multiple departments, centers and institutes at Vanderbilt will serve as mentors for the scholars selected to the K12.

A ‘mentor-in-training’ program for mid-level investigators will also be incorporated within the program. An advisory committee will oversee the work of the program, including candidate selection, and includes Arnold Strauss, M.D., former chair of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt and the University of Cincinnati, and George Dover, M.D., Pediatrician-in-Chief at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

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