Archives for February 2017

THRIV Begins to Thrive

Genetic Science ResearchThe University of Virginia is a big place. Researchers, groups, committees, initiatives, and programs are legion. “I never knew that was there” is not an uncommon saying, even for folks who have been here a while. But it does not have to be that way, does it? What if we had a common front door for research through which everyone could walk, regardless of years on Grounds or tenure or even school affiliation? And upon walking through that door, you’d be greeted by someone who could assist with questions, information, and education?

I believe that THRIV will be the University’s new front door for research. THRIV is the Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia, a new cross-grounds entity whose focus is to use data to improve health. THRIV’s main components are:

  • Informatics: THRIV will bring together groups (such as those in Public Health Sciences, Information Technology, the Data Science Institute, and others) to look at ways to integrate and use health-related data to improve the health of citizens of the Commonwealth. It will provide opportunities to analyze already-existing, large data sets (both from the health and non-health realms) to explore new research hypotheses, inform health decisions, and predict outcomes. We want THRIV to inspire researchers to think differently and to train our young researchers to think bigger.
  • Community Collaboration: While we are already working with colleagues in the Schools of Nursing and Education, we have plans to expand beyond Grounds. We will bring together community networks, non-profit organizations, public schools, state and federal health departments, and others, to understand the interests of the community. We will then leverage those interests and connections to perform health-related research in (and for!) the community. Our partnerships with Virginia Tech and Inova are examples of how collaboration allows us to broaden what “community” means for UVA. Community is more than Charlottesville. Each partnership broadens the area of those who we serve.
  • Education: THRIV has created a mentored career development award that will train small groups of junior faculty seeking a clinical and translational research career. Separate from that program, THRIV encourages the use of existing resources such as the Health Sciences Library and the Bioconnector for on-going training opportunities.  THRIV is also a developing a broader training environment with a substantial menu of learning opportunities in different forms and environments from which to choose. If you’re thinking, “I want to learn about [insert subject],” you can. This will be for everyone, even for those who are not in research. And remember: This isn’t restricted to just School of Medicine topics. THRIV spans across-Grounds, so the learning opportunities are only limited by the scope of the University.

Collectively — with partners on and off Grounds — we will improve health in the Commonwealth. Sharing data provides more grant opportunities for researchers. And science advances faster when we leverage our collective strengths. THRIV will create efficiencies, too. It is our intention to make it so researchers do not have to “recreate the wheel” every time they embark on a project. THRIV will be the information resource hub that will help all researchers do what they do best.

Why Are We THRIVing?
Next year we will be applying for a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) funded by the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. This award brings together “a national network of medical research institutions that work together to improve the translational research process to get more treatments to more patients more quickly. Members of these hubs collaborate to catalyze innovation in training, research tools, and processes.” Before we apply for a CTSA, we need to demonstrate that we already have a thriving clinical/translational research program across Grounds that facilitates activity across the Commonwealth. The door is open in THRIV for researchers and community partners, and all are invited to contribute and benefit from this new University resource.

Thank you to Karen Johnston, MD, Harrison Distinguished professor of Neurology, Associate Vice President for Clinical & Translational Research; Sandra Burks, RN, THRIV’s Program Director; and Donald Brown, PhD, W.S. Calcott Professor of Systems & Information Engineering, Director of the Data Science Institute, for getting THRIV off the ground.

Get involved with THRIV today. You can be a mentor, a mock study-section grant reviewer, a subject matter expert, an experiential trainer, or an advisor. If you have questions, please contact Sandra Burks.


Margaret A. Shupnik, PhD
Senior Associate Dean for Research

Highlights: February MAC Meeting

Opening Comments from the Dean

  • The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research publishes rankings of National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant dollars rewarded to medical schools. Dean Wilkes announced the School of Medicine moved from 40th to 35th and thanked the faculty and staff who had a part in this achievement.
  • Dean Wilkes announced the strategic hires who will be starting soon at the School of Medicine.
    • May 1: Philip Bourne, PhD, Director, Data Science Institute (from NIH).
    • March 1: Francine Garrett-Bakelman, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine-Hem/Onc and Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics (from Cornell University SOM).
    • July 1: Ananda Basu, MD, and Rita Basu, MD, Professors of Medicine (Endocrinology) (from Mayo Clinics).
    • March 1: José Oberholzer, MD, Director, Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center (from University of Illinois).
  • Dean Wilkes introduced Lynne Boyle, Federal Relations Professional, Office of the Executive Vice President of Health Affairs.

Department Diversity Plans

  • Dr. Susan Pollart thanked the 28 departments that have submitted their diversity plans.
  • Next steps: Dr. Pollart will be in contact with the department facilitators to refine the plans and request action steps for the coming year.
  • Reminder: The Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program Scholars application process is open now. Deadline March 15.

Be Wise

  • Drs. Margaret Plews-Ogan, Raymond Costabile, and Norman Oliver presented Be Wise, a program to create a welcoming and healthy workplace throughout the Health System. Be Wise creates a defined mechanism to help people be their best selves, so that we can give the best care possible to our patients.
  • Be Wise aims to enhance individual resilience and interpersonal communication; to identify and reduce unnecessary stressors; and to recognize caregiver stress and know how to respond.
  • Two key components are prevention and intervention. It is important to note that this is a supportive and restorative process, not a punitive one.
  • Next steps: Dr. Plews-Ogan will gather individuals for clarity on Be Wise processes. Please send any feedback on the flowchart (distributed at the meeting and via email) to her.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the BIMS Classroom.

Do You Know About the JFDP?

Last October the School of Medicine welcomed its first cohort into the Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP). Modeled after successful programs at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Massachusetts, the UVA program is designed to:

  • provide networking, social opportunities, and peer mentoring among colleagues who are at a similar stage in their career;
  • promote the development and advancement of junior faculty through seminars and mentored scholarly projects; and
  • facilitate mentoring relationships between senior and junior faculty.

Each participant in the JFDP works on a scholarly project over course of the program and has access to a mentor who will answer questions, provide resources, and assist in their growth. Our junior faculty have devised an amazingly diverse set of topics for their projects, such as “Regulatory T Cells in Cardiac Surgery-Associated Acute Kidney Injury,” “Individualizing the Care of Children with Facial and Skull Birth Defects using computer-based simulation for surgical optimization,” “Quality improvement project focused toward improved care of peritoneal dialysis patients in the ER,” and many others. All participants will make a presentation on their project at the end of the JFDP.

The first cohort of 12 junior faculty members come to the program from a variety of departments — medicine, neurology, anesthesiology, plastic surgery, neurosurgery, orthopaedics — and they meet twice a month for two hours. (While the current cohort does not represent every department, I do want to make it clear that this program is open to all clinical and basic science faculty.) The JFDP is organized through my office and spans a large portion of the academic school year.

This is a wonderful opportunity for our junior faculty to learn and grow and for our senior faculty to pass along vital knowledge and experience. The inaugural cohort will be finishing in the next couple of months and I look forward to their feedback. If you’re interested in applying for the 2017-18 program, more information will be provided this spring. If you have questions, please contact either me or Troy Buer, PhD, Director of Faculty Development, or visit the website.

Susan M. Pollart, MD, MS
Ruth E. Murdaugh Professor of Family Medicine
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development

School of Medicine Climbs in Research Funding Rankings

research_11112015Every year, the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research (BRIMR) publishes rankings of National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant dollars rewarded to medical schools. BRIMR recently posted its list of NIH grants and, from FY2015 to FY2016, the University of Virginia jumped from 40th to 35th. This reflects a rise in funding from $101.2M to $126M, a 24.5% increase! It is the largest increase among the top 50 institutions in the BRIMR rankings. (For comparison: Many of the top institutions reported less than 10% increases and some declined.)  While these rankings include all schools, public and private, when adjusted for public schools we rank 16th!

These numbers are a reflection of efforts put forth by the School of Medicine and the Medical Center. They represent our investments in strategic hiring and our support of faculty with programs like gap funding, which assists faculty in obtaining new competitive awards from NIH and other sponsors.

But the real credit belongs to our hardworking and dedicated faculty researchers. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I applaud your efforts. The increase in our ranking is a testimony to your excellence. It is an impressive increase and illustrates that a large portion of our faculty are receiving new and larger grants. These successes are made even more outstanding, given the competitive environment in obtaining medical research funding!

Thank you to Dr. Peggy Shupnik, the Gerald D. Aurbach Professor of Endocrinology, Professor of Medicine, and Senior Associate Dean for Research, for her support and guidance, to Pamela Sutton-Wallace, CEO of the Medical Center, for her wonderful partnership with the School of Medicine, and to all who assist our faculty in furthering our research mission.


David S. Wilkes, MD
Dean, UVA School of Medicine
James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science