March 31, 2011

Prematurity research training program set to grow

Prematurity research training program set to grow

Vanderbilt has received a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to increase the number of physician scientists that can be trained to work on solving the problem of premature birth.

“With this grant we are ensuring that Vanderbilt will have a major role in discovering the answers needed to prevent prematurity and achieve better birth outcomes,” said Judy Aschner, M.D., the Julia Carell Stadler Professor of Pediatrics, director of the Division of Neonatology and principal investigator for the grant.

Judy Aschner, M.D.

Judy Aschner, M.D.

“This new training grant adds Vanderbilt to a short list of elite institutions with nationally recognized neonatology programs with a federally supported training grant for promising physician scientists,” Aschner said.

The Division of Neonatology currently has nine fellows — three fellows each year for three years of clinical and research training. The grant will support a program expansion that Aschner hopes will accommodate an additional trainee each year, bringing the total number of fellows trained in the division to twelve.

The “Preventing Prema-turity and Poor Pregnancy Outcomes” training grant will support pediatric subspecialty fellows who choose to do research in one of the following areas: developmental and perinatal biology; genetic and biologic causes of birth defects and premature birth; and improvement of birth outcomes through clinical, translational and quality improvement research.

Lou Muglia, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair for Research Affairs in the Department of Pediatrics, will serve as program director.

“Vanderbilt has a rich history of discovery aimed to improve outcomes in children born prematurely. This training grant will further this effort by providing a superb research experience for developing physician-scientists and implement new approaches to prevent, rather than treat, preterm birth and its complications,” Muglia said.

When seeking faculty mentors for the grant trainees, Aschner said she was able to pull from a large number of talented NIH-funded investigators across multiple disciplines representing the rare research strengths of Vanderbilt University.

“The program's structured research training will instill the skills and knowledge required to address these critical issues. We have a wealth of expertise to train the next generation of physician-scientists who will work on prematurity prevention or on interventions to improve the outcomes for survivors of preterm birth,” Aschner said.

There is approval from inside Vanderbilt to move forward with the plan to train four fellows per year beginning in 2012.

Approval from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is pending.