I am a well-trained junior research faculty member with a strong interest in defining the roles of nutrition in the modulation of disease risks and outcomes in children. My long-term professional goal is to use my skill set and interests to have real impact on the health of children.
My passion for the role of nutrition in disease prevention began in early adolescence as a former obese child. These early experiences led me toward the career path of becoming a Registered Dietitian with the passion to improve our nation’s health. As an Assistant Professor and Registered Dietitian within Pediatric Nephrology, our patient population is high-risk due to a combination of environmental exposures (e.g. coal burning and locally contaminated rivers) within Appalachia as well as extreme poverty. The high incidence of hypertension, obesity, and cardiovascular disease within our patient population is alarming. Transitioning to a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Kentucky will allow me to combine my two passions: providing quality patient care and fostering research projects within the setting of pediatric obesity to develop new treatment strategies with the ultimate goal to improve our nation’s health.
Potential to develop into a successful, independent investigator: My experiences as a highly motivated Assistant Professor and Senior Registered Dietitian, in combination with my current and proposed interdisciplinary training prepare me for a successful independent research career.
Current and long-term research and career goals: My long-term goal is to direct an independent research program at the University of Kentucky where I have the opportunity to conduct novel research within the areas of obesity and cardiovascular-related morbidities in children including environmental exposures, which will contribute to the fields of environmental health, pediatric medicine, and cardiovascular risk assessment. My training goal is to strengthen my skill set and build knowledge in clinical research specifically in areas of biostatistics, cardiovascular medicine, and environmental health. While my previous training provided a strong background in mechanistic studies of environmental induced-cardiovascular disease, additional training would allow me to study how environmental exposures contribute to cardiovascular disease in the clinical setting with infrastructure in place to execute intervention and prevention trials. This requires my current expertise in Pediatric Nephrology as an Assistant Professor and Senior Registered Dietitian, in addition to protected time from this career development grant through UK-CARES.
Via this award I will gain skills and confidence that will allow me to be a fully independent researcher who will ultimately initiate therapeutic and intervention trials for high-risk obese children exposed to pollutants based upon my translational research. Independent funding (K23 then R01) is my ultimate goal. My plan, which I have designed for the career development period of 15 months, takes into account my ongoing progress, my research team which has already been developed, and protected time for K23 development which will be submitted in June 2020. I look forward to my continued professional growth via this career plan and related research progress.
Coursework: Through UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), I enrolled in courses for the Graduate Certificate in Clinical and Translational Sciences in January 2019. This curriculum includes biostatistics, ethics, protocol development, and a methods course. I currently have a 4.0 with an estimated completion date of May 2020.
Laboratory Technical Training
Through my previous training, I have confidence in research laboratory methods including cell culture, assays, and in vivo techniques. During this award period, I will gain more confidence with certain techniques from my mentorship team and their dedicated research staff with extensive experience (Hong Huang MD/PhD, Jody Clasey, PhD/Beth McKinney-Whitlock). I will continue to gain expertise in the following methods:
• Body Composition Assessment via air displacement plethysmography, DXA scans, and tetrapolar bioelectrical impedance measures (via Jody Clasey, PhD)
• Peripheral Arterial Tone/EndoPAT to assess endothelial function (via Jody Clasey,PhD)
• Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and related biomarker determinations (via Hong Huang, MD/PhD)
• Analysis of CMR and fat depots (viaMRISC)
I will work directly with Dr. Bauer’s laboratory staff and will benefit from their extensive experience. Training will focus on both technique and data analysis, and the learning process will demonstrate my proficiency in laboratory techniques that will position me for success as an independent investigator. I will be required to demonstrate proficiency as part of my evaluation during formal reviews with Dr. Bauer.
Writing and Presentations
Development of manuscripts and K23 submission will occur during this application period. Under the guidance of my mentorship team, and via protected time through this career development award, I will continue to publish my research findings and present these findings at scientificmeetings.
R01 Development as Principal Investigator
My long-term goal is to develop an independently funded research program that addresses environmental exposures and their long-term consequences in the setting of pediatric obesity. The first half of this 5 year period will include this project development award will include a K-grant submission which will lay the groundwork for a competitive R01 application and the second half of this 5-year period will be utilized to develop and refine a compelling R01 proposal as lead PI, which will be based on the findings of my K-award. To develop this R01 submission I will utilize the findings from this current project, the current literature, and the advice of my research advisory group. Each of the members of my mentorship and advisory group have knowledge and expertise that can help me to develop and mature as a research scientist and clinician. I have established relationships with each of these individuals and I am confident that the independent project that I develop will be a competitive RO1 submission.