Klara Klein, MD, PhD, Shetal Patel, MD, PhD, Clio Rubinos, MD, Miriam Sklerov, MD, MS, Philip Spanheimer, MD, and Matthew Vogt, MD, PhD will receive support from the Physician Scientists Training Program at the UNC School of Medicine to cultivate their careers as translational clinician scientists.
As part of the Forward Together Strategic Plan, the UNC School of Medicine Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP) supports a small number of clinicians committed to translating research findings to advance the practice of medicine in addition to providing clinical care and teaching. PSTP is a pipeline to recruit, train, and retain promising individuals and provide them with support and mentorship to cultivate their research programs.
The PSTP supports physician scientists at both the resident or fellowship level and the early stage faculty level. In the inaugural cycle of applications for this program, four individuals were inducted into this prestigious program and in 2021 we have added a new cohort of six physician scientists who will receive funding and mentorship to help them develop successful research programs.
“Physician scientists are essential for the translation of research into the clinic, and we are committed to providing continued support for this program to grow and support our clinician scientists at the UNC School of Medicine,” said Blossom Damania, School of Medicine Vice Dean for Research. “The PSTP is now in its second year and we are proud of the framework in place to expand the interdisciplinary research in our school to further enhance an environment conducive to translational science.”
In this round, one award was given at the resident/fellowship level to Klara Klein, MD, PhD, clinical fellow in the Department of Medicine. At the early stage faculty level, these five physician scientists received awards: Shetal Patel, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Clio Rubinos, MD, and Miriam Sklerov, MD, MS, both assistant professors in the Department of Neurology, Philip Spanheimer, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, and Matthew Vogt, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics.
The training program advisory committee made up of physician scientists from ten clinical departments in the School of Medicine reviewed a group of physician scientists at the fellowship and faculty level nominated by six different clinical departments.
“This year’s nominees were all highly competitive candidates with promising research careers ahead of them, and a set of awardees with a diverse range of clinical and scientific interests were selected to join our program,” said Joseph (Alex) Duncan, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and director of the UNC School of Medicine Physician Scientists Training Program. “We are happy to support their translational careers and look forward to the impact of their future research success.”
Klein’s research focuses on multi-disciplinary approaches to diabetes and obesity care, bridging the gaps between basic and clinical research to address the ongoing epidemics of diabetes and obesity. Her PSTP research focuses on using a novel glucokinase activator to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis in patients with type 1 diabetes and to identify additional therapeutic targets to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis.
Petal’s research interests include developing translational studies and clinical trials to improve treatment options for patients with thoracic and head/neck malignancies. She will study whether targeting metabolic pathways in immune cells can enhance immunotherapeutic approaches to lung cancer therapy.
Rubinos’ project focuses on understanding the role of neuroinflammation resulting from traumatic brain injury in the development of posttraumatic epilepsy. Her research involving patients with traumatic brain injury aims to identify risk factors and biomarkers that may predict the development of posttraumatic epilepsy and identify molecular mechanisms that scientists could exploit to prevent this consequence of brain injury.
Sklerov’s research will apply her previous research on the brain regions involved in different
manifestations of Parkinson’s disease to study whether transcranial magnetic stimulation can be used to treat autonomic dysfunction and other non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Spanheimer’s work is focused on a detailed understanding of breast cancer molecular biology, hormone response, and mechanisms of hormone resistance in breast cancer to help identify mechanisms of resistance to therapy and patients at risk for treatment failure, as well as to provide targets for new therapeutics.
Vogt is interested in understanding what drives rare cases of severe pathogenesis seen some children infected with common viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and enterovirus D68. This work involves the study of both the viruses and the host immune responses, guided toward the development of prophylactic or therapeutic measures.
More information about the Physician Scientist Training Program be found in a previous Vital Signs article released by the School of Medicine Office of Research in January 2020.