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Frontiers Announces New KL2 and TL1 Awardees

September 10, 2020

By Marion During

Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute recently selected four new awardees for its KL2 Mentored Career Development Program and three new awardees for its TL1 Trainee Program.

As part of the Frontiers Education Core, KL2 awards provide a two-year tailored, mentored research experience to promising clinical and translational research faculty. The new Frontiers KL2 scholars are Anahi Collado, PhD, University of Kansas; Natalie Jayaram, MD, Children's Mercy Kansas City; Shane Stecklein, MD, PhD, University of Kansas Medical Center; and Jennifer Villwock, MD, University of Kansas Medical Center.

"We couldn't be more thrilled with our four incoming KL2 scholars," said Ed Ellerbeck, MD, MPH, Director of Frontiers KL2 Program and Chair of the Department of Population Health at the University of Kansas Medical Center. "The diversity of the group spans the translational spectrum, with each of them bringing their own unique skillsets and interests."

The KL2 Scholars Program supports a talented group of junior investigators interested in conducting groundbreaking clinical and translational research. The program provides salary support for protected time for each scholar to master the skills essential to promote their path to research independence.

KL2 Scholars work closely with mentors on interdisciplinary teams and engage with local content experts who can help connect them with other researchers. Early in the program, each scholar determines their strengths, weaknesses and training needs to create an individual career development plan (IDP). The IDP, along with input from program leaders and mentors, guides each scholar's training experience. To further enhance the experience, opportunities to participate in seminars, grant writing workshops, externships and multidisciplinary mentorship are provided.

The TL1 Trainee Program, also part of the Frontiers Education Core, offers tailored and rigorous training in clinical and translational research as well as classroom education to both pre- and postdoctoral trainees. The pre-doctoral track is a one-year experience for clinical doctoral students and is designed to help them start on the translational research pathway early in their training. The post-doctoral track is a one- or two-year option for clinical scientists and is designed to help them procure productive faculty research positions. The TL1 award is specifically designed to provide trainees with the skills, confidence, financial support and enhanced career trajectory to move to the next stage of their translational research career.

"This year, we will be bringing on one postdoctoral trainee and two predoctoral trainees to the TL1 program, each representing a different institution from our Frontiers affiliates," said Won Choi, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of the Master of Public Health Program and Vice-Chair of the Department of Population Health at the University of Kansas Medical Center. "These highly talented individuals have exhibited great passion for research in their young careers, which is reflected in their innovative and ambitious TL1 research projects."

The new Frontiers TL1 Trainees are Kabir Torres, predoctoral student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; Lucas Richards, BS, predoctoral student at the University of Kansas Medical Center; and Kara Christensen, PhD, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kansas.

Both the pre- and postdoctoral TL1 trainees are encouraged to participate in Frontiers Scholars Club, a series of training seminars facilitated by senior researchers covering an array of clinical and translational research topics, and obtain a Master of Clinical Science degree, if it fits their individual career goals.

"We are eager to guide them through the demanding training program and reinforce their talent, skillsets and enthusiasm for clinical and translational research," Choi said.

Historically, both the Frontiers KL2 and TL1 programs have elevated the research careers of its graduates. Currently, 58 percent of Frontiers KL2 graduates have independent funding from the National Institutes of Health. In 2019, a collaboration between a TL1 trainee and KL2 scholar resulted in a funded pilot award, highlighting the productive, supportive and collaborative working environment of the integrated programs.

"As scientists, these new scholars will be on the front lines, closing the gap between medical discoveries and innovative, effective treatments," Ellerbeck said. "We look forward to guiding them through the rigorous training programs and elevating the very promising trajectory of their research careers."

2020-2022 Frontiers KL2 Scholars

Anahi Collado headshotAnahi Collado, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology- Cofrin Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment
University of Kansas - Lawrence

KL2 Research Project Title: Working Memory Training as a Pretreatment Adjunct Project to Smoking Cessation

Anahi Collado, PhD, is an Assistant Research Professor at the Cofrin Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment at the University of Kansas. Collado completed her PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Maryland and her pre-doctoral internship at the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Upon completing her internship, she accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University's Child and Adolescent Mood Program and then accepted a position as an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Maryland. Collado's research focuses on developing and evaluating culturally sensitive mental health interventions among underserved US communities. Her professional goal is to identify and address barriers (structural, sociocultural and psychological) related to treatment access and utilization that deter these subpopulations from receiving appropriate mental health care and contribute to long-standing disparities.

Natalie JayaramNatalie Jayaram, MD
Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Cardiology
Children's Mercy Kansas City

KL2 Research Project Title: The Impact of Public Reporting on Procedural Outcomes Following Congenital Heart Surgery

Natalie Jayram, MD, is a pediatric cardiologist at Children's Mercy Kansas City and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She graduated from the University of Kansas Medical Center and is a fellowship trained pediatric cardiologist. Since completing a T32 in cardiovascular health outcomes, Jayaram has continued to work with large datasets and registries. She is dedicated to studying contemporary practice patterns in pediatric cardiology and comparing the effectiveness of various treatment strategies in an effort to improve quality of care. The goal of her KL2 project is to study the impact of public reporting on the outcomes of patients with congenital heart disease and to understand whether implementation of public reporting has resulted in unintended, adverse consequences. This project fits into her long-term goal of understanding the impact of policy-based initiatives on care, as well as contributing to the science of quality assessment and improvement, as it relates to congenital heart disease.

Shane SteckleinShane Stecklein, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Department of Cancer Biology
University of Kansas Medical Center

KL2 Research Project Title: Innate Immune Determinates of Immunotherapy Response in Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Shane Stecklein, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology and a Translational Physician Scientist with joint faculty appointments in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He received his Doctorate of Medicine and Doctorate of Philosophy (Molecular and Experimental Pathology) in KU Med Center's Physician-Scientist Training Program. After completing his studies, Stecklein pursued an integrated internship in internal medicine at The University of Texas Health Sciences Center/McGovern Medical School and a residency in radiation oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. During his residency he also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in experimental radiation oncology. His clinical practice is focused on radiotherapy for breast cancer and he has a clinical interest in the management of patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). Stecklein's laboratory is focused on understanding the interplay between genomic instability, the tumor microenvironment and response to therapy (cytotoxic therapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy) in TNBC. The ultimate goals of his research program are to define the molecular determinates of therapeutic response in TNBC, develop biomarkers that can guide optimal treatment in individual TNBC patients and produce novel therapeutics to overcome treatment resistance in TNBC.

Jennifer VillwockJennifer Villwock, MD
Associate Professor, Rhinology and Skull Base Surgery
Associate Director, Otolaryngology Residency Program
University of Kansas Medical Center

KL2 Research Project Title: Examining Patient and Clinician Determinants of Postoperative Pain Management and the Utility of The Activity-Based Checks of Pain - Functional Pain Scale (ABCs) within a Postoperative Biopsychosocial Model

Jennifer Villwock, MD, is Associate Director of the Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Residency Program and an Associate Professor of Rhinology and Skull Base Surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She graduated from the Michigan State College of Human Medicine in 2011 and completed her postgraduate training at the State University of New York (SUNY) - Upstate in Syracuse, New York. While a resident, Villwock was actively involved in research, authoring nine peer reviewed publications on topics ranging from epistaxis management to trends in pituitary tumor treatment. She completed a fellowship in Rhinology and Skull Base Surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Villwock's research is currently focused in three main areas: health outcomes in patients with diseases of the nose and sinuses, health informatics and medical education.

2020 Frontiers TL1 Trainees

Kara ChristensenKara Christensen, PhD
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Psychology
University of Kansas - Lawrence

TL1 Research Project Title: Using Ecological Momentary Assessment to Evaluate a Moderated Mediation Model of Social Media Use and Disordered-Eating Behaviors in Young Women

Kara Christensen, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for the Advancement of Research on Eating Behaviors (CARE) Lab at the University of Kansas. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, Christensen worked for two years at the Clinical Neuroscience Lab for Sex Differences in the Brain at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA. She completed her PhD in clinical psychology with a quantitative minor at the Ohio State University and her doctoral internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. Christensen is trained in providing evidence-based treatments for eating disorders, anxiety and mood disorders, trauma, sleep disorders and women's psychological health. Christensen's research focuses on how different forms of social support may function as risk, protective or maintenance factors for disordered-eating. In partnership with Kelsie Forbush, PhD, Director of the CARE Lab and Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Kansas, Christensen will assess the link between disordered eating behaviors and the use of Instagram for her TL1 project. She plans to continue her research in eating disorders as she builds her career in the CARE Lab while focusing on the use of novel methods to understand how people access social support through technology and social media.

Lucas RichardsLucas Richards, BS
Predoctoral Student, MD Program
University of Kansas Medical Center

TL1 Research Project Title: Utilizing 3D Printing to Assist Planning of Endovascular Procedures in Interventional Radiology

Lucas Richards is an ambitious medical student at the University of Kansas Medical Center. With a BS in Mechanical Engineering, Richards has sought out opportunities to pair his engineering skillset with his growing clinical skills. As such, he partnered with Aaron Rohr, MD, Assistant Professor of Interventional Radiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, to complete his TL1 research project utilizing 3D printing technology. Richards' project will measure the impact of integrating 3D printed models of patient-specific anatomy as a part of procedure planning and as an intra-procedure reference. His project is an innovative first step to better understanding the impact of a 3D printed model on improving measures of radiation exposure to the patient, decreasing fluoroscopy time, improving time to procedural completion and limiting attempts to access for the potential of better outcomes. Richards' goal is to go on to a residency program in interventional radiology to fulfill his dream of becoming an interventional radiologist and an active physician-scientist.

Kabir TorresKabir Torres
Predoctoral Student, BA/MD Program
University of Missouri - Kansas City

TL1 Research Project Title: Biomechanical Analysis of Vertebral Body Polymethylmethacrylate Cement Augmentation Performed Using Three Different Techniques

Kabir Torres is a promising medical student in the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine's BA/MD program, which allows students to earn their BA and MD in six years. Torres' passion for the orthopedics discipline led him to partner with Brandon Carlson, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center, to complete his TL1 research project, which will assess the biomechanical strength of vertebral bodies after using different techniques and volumes of cement augmentation. His hypothesis is that differences will exist in the cement spread patterns between techniques and volumes that will result in differences in biomechanical strength when tested to failure. Torres' ultimate goal is to go on to a residency program in orthopedic surgery to fulfill his dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon and active physician-scientist.

Last modified: Dec 17, 2020