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NIH T-32 Training Grant Receives Perfect Score

The NIH T-32 cardiovascular training program has provided an outstanding multidisciplinary research-training environment for postdoctoral fellows since 1977, and for predoctoral fellows since 2002. The most recent competitive review of the program received a perfect score of 10 from the NIH study section ensuring funding of over 3 million dollars for the next 5 years (years 36-40). The current structure of the program focuses on the molecular basis of cardiovascular disease, mechanisms of cardiac development, cell signaling, proteomics, cardiac stem cells and regenerative medicine in the context of cardiac function and heart failure, hypertension, diabetes and other pathobiological conditions. In addition to an outstanding research environment we have in place advanced coursework, a cardiovascular journal club, and didactic workshops on manuscript preparation, grant writing and career planning. Our efforts to provide a high-quality training environment have had a very positive impact on our predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows, as evidenced by their publication records, honors and awards, and post-training positions obtained. 

In the last 10 years we have trained 28 predoctoral students and 30 postdoctoral fellows. Collectively, these trainees produced a total of 163 publications with their mentors in refereed journals, including Science, JBC, PNAS, Circulation and Circulation Research. Twenty-four of the 58 trainees have published one or more times with at least one other trainee supported by the program.

In addition to being very productive, our trainees have earned local and national awards. Recognition of this nature reflects the quality of predoctoral students and postdoctoral fellows in the program. For example, predoctoral trainees Mark Hallman and Loretta Hoover were awarded individual NIH NRSAs (F30 ES013619 and F30 HL094047, respectively). Predoctoral trainees Michael O’Quinn, Brent Wilkerson, Rebecca Harlston and Eileen Wirrig each received American Heart Association (AHA) predoctoral fellowships following their period of T32 support. Ms. Shantae Jenkins,received a MUSC Dean’s Scholarshipand a competitive UNCF/Merck Graduate Science Research Dissertation Fellowship. Predoctoral fellow, Anne Deschamps received an NHLBI Intramural Research Training Award (Postdoctoral Fellow). Postdoctoral trainee Jean Ruddy’s work was recognized by receipt of the 2008 AHA Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Award. This is one of the highest recognitions given to cardiovascular surgeons in research training. The 5 semi-finalistsselected to compete for the 2008 award trained at Stanford University, Oxford University, Harvard University (2) and MUSC. Our Dr. Ruddy took the prize home.

Nine of the twenty postdoctoral fellows who have completed training within the past tenyears have taken positions at academic institutions, includingMUSC. Amanda LaRue, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the MUSC Department of Medicine, and Rick Visconti, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the MUSC Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology. Dr. Visconti is a mentored junior investigator on Dr. Markwald’s NIH-funded Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE, P20 RR016434) and has received an AHA Grant-in-Aid Award. He is also a co-investigator on three other NIH research grants. Dr. LaRue initially received independent funding via the VA Merit Review Entry Program and has gone on to be a PI of a VA Merit Review Award. Dr. LaRue is also a co-investigator on three NIH research grants. Dr. Korey Johnson has also obtained a competitive VA Merit Review Entry Program Award. Dr. Lauren Ball, mentored by Dr. Buse, obtained an individual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Fellowship (2005-2007) based on work she initiated during her period of appointment on this training grant. She has since received an appointment as Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at MUSC. Dr. Ball was a project leader on another NIH-funded COBRE at MUSC (P20 RR017696) and recently received her first NIH R01 (DE020925). One of our minority postdoctoral fellows, Dr. Marisa Covington, mentored by Drs. Menick and Schnellmann, received the Carl C. Smith Mechanisms Specialty Section Award in 2005 from the Society of Toxicology (SOT), anAPS Minority Professional Skills Training Awardin 2006 and anSOTMerck Postdoctoral Travel Award in 2007. Postdoctoral trainee Dr. William Yarbrough received the Edward D. Churchill Research Scholarship as a result of his work on the T32. After his research training, Dr. Yarbrough went to Stanford University and trained as a Resident in Cardiothoracic Surgery, then returned to MUSC in late 2009 as an Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Over the last 35 years the program has trained or is currently training 130 fellows. More than half of the trainees who have finished their training hold academic positions at the rank of Assistant, Associate or Full Professor. Seventeen hold leadership positions in pharmaceutical research; seven are staff scientists in federal research agencies (two at the NIH, one at USDA, one at NOAA, two at NIST, and one at the FDA). Past trainees who are in academia have earned research funding from multiple sources, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, American Heart Association, and private foundations.

Dr. MenickProgram Director – Donald R. Menick, PhD
Dr. Menick is Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, and Acting Director of the Gazes Cardiac Research Institute. He is a recognized contributor to the field of cardiac hypertrophy and failure. He has maintained extramural funding on multiple projects since shortly after his arrival at MUSC and has been continuously funded by the NHLBI since 1990. He is a highly interactive and collaborative scientist and an outstanding educator, as evidenced by multiple co-investigatorships on NIH-funded projects, numerous joint publications, service as a faculty mentor and committee member for several research training programs, and by the success of the students and fellows who have trained with him. He has served as an ad hoc reviewer on numerous study sections at the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Administration, and the American Heart Association. Dr. Menickhas been invited to speak at many national and international meetings including the American Heart Association Scientific Session, Heart Failure Society and is an elected Fellow of the cardiovascular section of the American Physiology Society. Dr. Menick has been committed to and actively involved in graduate education throughout his career.In 2000 he was appointed Director of the Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology Program, the college’s largest graduate program with 41 students and 150 faculty members from the 395 Graduate Faculty. He has trained seven summer students, six M.S., six Ph.D., two M.D./Ph.D. students, and twelve postdoctoral fellows. Dr. Menick is also the Program Director of an NIH R25, which provides short-term cardiovascular research training fellowships for 10 minority medical students. Dr. Menick has been a participant of the T32 HL007260 since his recruitment to MUSC in 1987 and has served as an Associate Director since 1995 and its Director since 2003.

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