July 21, 2023—(BRONX, NY)—Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System have been awarded two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) totaling $4.9 million to educate, train, and support clinical and translational researchers, particularly those committed to advancing health equity.
The funding will support established graduate and postgraduate programs within the Harold and Muriel Block Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Einstein and Montefiore (ICTR), which is funded by the NIH’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). By helping to grow the clinical and translational workforce, the two grants advance the ICTR’s mission to improve health in the Bronx, Westchester, and lower Hudson Valley by accelerating the translation of scientific discoveries into effective and equitable preventions and treatments.
“Conducting clinical and translational research requires a complex set of skills and a specialized knowledge base,” said Paul Marantz, M.D., M.P.H., principal investigator on both grants, associate director of the ICTR, and the associate dean for clinical research education at Einstein. “Moving promising laboratory discoveries into the clinic poses a unique set of challenges that our graduates are trained to identify and tackle. After completing our programs, they are primed to become successful investigators and leaders who will make an impact not only in the field but on the health of our community.” Dr. Marantz is also professor of epidemiology & population health and of medicine at Einstein.
Growing the Research Workforce
The ICTR’s two grants support both the Ph.D. in clinical investigation (PCI), which is embedded in Einstein’s biomedical graduate program, and a career development program for junior faculty that links with the ICTR’s M.S. program for clinical research, which has been instrumental in building the physician-scientist workforce at Einstein and Montefiore.
Over the past 15 years, the ICTR career development program has graduated 53 faculty scholars who have published more than 1,800 scientific publications and secured more than $90 million in research funding. The PCI program, which continues to grow in popularity among incoming graduate students, has conferred 18 Ph.D. degrees, with 12 Ph.D. candidates currently enrolled.
Moving promising laboratory discoveries into the clinic poses a unique set of challenges that our graduates are trained to identify and tackle. After completing our programs, they are primed to become successful investigators and leaders who will make an impact not only in the field but on the health of our community.
Paul Marantz, M.D., M.P.H.
Although the two programs serve investigators at different phases in their careers, they stress similar themes and skills sets. Both emphasize translational science, a relatively new field of investigation dedicated to enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of all translational research. And both provide rigorous training in research methods, team science, and communication skills that prepare scholars and students to make novel discoveries.
Innovations in Education & Training
“The ICTR has been tremendously successful in training dedicated researchers who excel in impactful, collaborative research, but we are continuously innovating,” said Michal L. Melamed, M.D., M.H.S., a principal investigator on the career development grant, professor of medicine, of pediatrics, and of epidemiology & population health at Einstein, and a nephrologist at Montefiore. Among the new elements of the career development program and PCI are:
- Advancing Health Equity—Although health equity has long been the focus of many student and scholar research projects, this emphasis will now be formalized. Applications to the career development program that focus on health equity will be prioritized for admission. PCI students will now be required to work with the ICTR’s stakeholder studio and Racial Equity and Liberation Hub, ensuring collaboration with the communities Montefiore and Einstein serve.
- Emphasizing Brain Sciences—Given the strength of Einstein and Montefiore’s expertise in brain sciences—led by the departments of neuroscience, neurology, neurological surgery, and psychiatry and behavioral sciences —there are several current students and scholars working in these disciplines. ICTR leaders will now ensure that while this program provides opportunities for researchers working in all specialties, faculty conducting research in health equity and brain sciences receive special consideration and have opportunities to work together to advance their training. For PCI, additional areas of focus will include infectious diseases and cancer.
- Diversifying Trainees—The ICTR is committed to increasing the number of faculty scholars from groups historically underrepresented in science and medicine. In addition, the career development program is increasing diversity in academic background. The vast majority of ICTR scholars have been practicing physicians. While support for these physicians will continue, the career development program has also recruited its first nurse-investigator. In addition, ICTR will increase the representation of Ph.D. scientists in the program, ensuring the translational bridge is built from both ends of the research spectrum.
Supporting Students & Scholars—Career development scholars and PCI students will now have dedicated leaders to provide guidance and assistance: Sylvia Suadicani, Ph.D., and Sofia de Oliveira, Ph.D., will assume the roles of associate director for scholar support and associate director for student support, respectively.
“The mission of PCI and the career development program is aligned with the theme of the ICTR overall: ‘Building Bridges in the Bronx and Beyond’,” said H. Dean Hosgood, Ph.D., a principal investigator on the PCI grant, Atran Foundation Chair in epidemiology & population health, co-director of PCI, and co-leader of the Cancer Epidemiology Prevention and Control Program at Einstein. “Through collaboration within the medical school, the health system, and our communities, our students and scholars are well-prepared to improve health in our borough, country, and around the globe.” The PCI is also co-directed by Louis M. Weiss, M.D., M.P.H., professor of pathology and of medicine and vice chair for academic affairs and research in the department of pathology.
The two five-year grants are: “CTSA K12 Program at Einstein-Montefiore” (1K12TR004411-01), which totals $3.78 million and supports the career development program; and “CTSA Predoctoral T32 at Albert Einstein College of Medicine” (1T32TR004537-01), which totals $1.14 million and supports the PCI. Both were awarded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the NIH.