NIH T32-Sponsored Physician Scientist Training Track

Combined clinical and research training will train todays fellows as physician-scientists and future leaders in academic medicine. Eligible candidates will be supported under the NIH-funded T32 training program that has been running since 2006 in the Division of Nephrology and the Center for Inflammation, Immunity and Regenerative medicine (CIIR) at UVA. Graduates of our program have gone on to have high-impact careers in Nephrology (for a list of past trainees and their current positions, click here).

On this track MD/DO or MD/DO, PhD Fellow trainees undergo one year of comprehensive training in clinical nephrology followed by a minimum of 2-3 year period of research and education under the guidance of their clinical and T32 research mentors. Mentors in immunology, cell biology, molecular and physiology and biophysics, pharmacology, biomedical engineering, genomics, public health, global health, data science, outcomes research and kidney epidemiology will support training across a broad range of cutting-edge fields.

Clinical Training

Nephrology fellow in the clinical/research training pathway will spend 1 year of General Nephrology training in the University hospital, outpatient clinics and dialysis facilities as outlined below,

–          4 Months of inpatient general nephrology consultation

–          3 months of inpatient ICU nephrology consultation

–          1 Month of inpatient transplant nephrology consultation

–          1 Month of outpatient rotation

–          1 Month of night float

–          1 month of dialysis training

–          1 month of elective

Fellow trainees will attend one half day a week of continuity clinic.

Research Training in Clinical or Basic Sciences

After a year of clinical nephrology training, the research training program will consist of two components, the Investigative and the Educational Program.  During the last few months of clinical training in general nephrology fellows will meet with members of the T32 Executive Committee to discuss research opportunities and career planning.  Based on each individual’s interests, fellows will meet with potential research mentors and identify a research plan. All trainees together with their mentors will create a blueprint for their future

Components of the Educational Program include didactic sessions in basics of research methodology, responsible conduct of research, ethics, grant writing, lab management, translational science, job skills and career counseling. Fellows are required to attend weekly didactic sessions targeted for education of clinical nephrology fellows (see conferences schedule for more details), as well as the weekly research in progress presentations by members of the Division of Nephrology and the CIIR.  The fellows will use the resources available at the newly established UVA school of Data Sciences and the newly NIH-funded UVA Translational Health Research Center (CTSA).  Free resources and learning tools are available to UVA students, fellows and faculty.  In addition, fellows will attend weekly journal club, and are encouraged to attend the annual ASN educational course at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory.

Trainees on the clinical investigation track are encouraged to pursue either a Master’s of Science in Clinical Research or a Master’s in Public Health offered through the UVA Department of Public Health Sciences.  Master of Science in Clinical Research is an interdisciplinary degree to improve quantitative and analytic skills of health professional in patient-oriented and translational research.  Students complete a 31-credit curriculum that covers a wide variety of areas in biostatistics, epidemiology, clinical trial design, and bioinformatics and health services research. The curriculum for the Master of Public Health focuses on courses in health policy, law and ethics, translational and community based research and community engagement.

Research Environment

The Basic Research arm of the Division of Nephrology is the Center for Immunity, Inflammation and Regenerative Medicine, under the direction of Dr. Mark Okusa.  Several basic science and clinical investigators interact closely in the newly expanded and renovated state of the art research laboratories with a main focus on the role of immune system in kidney diseases.  For more information on individual investigator, laboratories, projects, equipment and funding, please visit the CIIR website.

The Clinical Research arm is led by Dr. Julia Scialla, the Director of the Nephrology Clinical Research Center (NCRC) and Outcomes Research in the Departments of Medicine and Public Health Sciences. The NCRC provides a unique opportunity for kidney-oriented clinical research directly adjacent to the Kidney Center Clinic and Dialysis Unit. The NCRC provides clinical space, equipment, standard protocols, on-site biorepository and professional staff to conduct a host of patient-oriented studies, clinical trials, epidemiologic studies and outcomes research. PhD-trained biostatisticians and data analysts provide dedicated time to support projects in the NCRC, including trainee projects. Please see the NCRC website for details on our team, studies, resources and training environment.

UVA owns and operates all of its dialysis facilities and manages almost 1,000 in-center hemodialysis patients.  This provides ample opportunities for research studies.  In collaborations with the UVA Data Sciences School, nephrology investigators have shown how machine learning (artificial intelligence) can be utilized in cost saving and improving patient outcomes.   The kidney transplantation program at UVA has grown from 80 cases a year in 2015 to almost 150 cases in 2018.  This rapid rate of growth has opened the door for new clinical and translational studies by our trainees and investigators (See NCRC website for a list of past and current research studies).

Trainee Evaluation Plan

Evaluation of clinical competence would be similar to other clinical fellows during the first year of training.  At the beginning of the research training period, mentors and trainees develop a written set of activities and goals including didactic courses, ongoing conferences, and seminars, as well as the mentor research project. These goals provide the framework for periodic assessment of progress in their training, and are reviewed twice a year with the Program Director and the Executive Committee. Parameters of success include submission of abstracts, presentations at meeting, and quality of publications in peer reviewed journals. During the years of research training, fellows continue to attend their continuity clinic and will continue to receive evaluations and feedback on their performance in the outpatient setting.

Transition to Independence

The basic premise of this training program is that well trained clinical nephrology fellows will have experience and knowledge of basic biology and the translational sciences that will prepare the trainee for a career as a physician scientist. An important goal is for each candidate is to secure a career development award from either one of various funding agencies NIH, ASN or AHA to pave the path for independence. The T32 program provides the infrastructure to maximize successful attainment of this goal.