The Mentor-Mentee Teams’ Program is designed to help new investigators develop partnerships, skills, and tools to be successful in obtaining external funding to support their goal of performing independent research. PDC will identify common thematic research areas of interest between potential mentors and mentees and foster interactions. Mentors and mentees teams may comprise clinical and basic scientists, multi- and inter-institutional teams, or senior and early investigators. This multifaceted activity responds to the challenge of enhancing the productivity of Clinical and translational Researchers (CTRs) by facilitating productive interactions.
The Mentor-Mentee Teams’ Program is part of the Alliance’s activities aimed at developing a mentoring program to foster relationships that will enhance the productivity and retention of clinical and translational researchers. This Program provides the opportunity to participate in a structured mentored/guidance program designed to coach talented researchers and their mentors and research collaborators. Team members will also receive support through clinical and translational training, capacity-building activities, and resources for research infrastructure development. Individualized tracks will be designed according to a Research Career Development Plan that will focus on the investigator’s goals to compete successfully for external funding and become an independent researcher in a specific health disparity area.
The Mentor-Mentee Teams’ Program provides up to 2 years of support depending on the Fellow’s Research Career Development Plan, stage of proximity to become an independent researcher (determined by the level of experience submitting research grant proposals and number of peer-reviewed publications within the last five years), commitment to the Program, and annual research outcomes. The Program’s first years will consist of individual coaching and mentored guidance according to the Fellow’s needs and participation in training, workshops, and seminars. After completion of each year, the Fellow’s stage of development and fulfillment of expected outcomes will be evaluated according to the Research Career Development Plan and research productivity. Funds will protect 75% of the mentee’s time (assistant professor salary base) and effort and 10% of the mentor’s time and effort. A commitment contract will be signed between team members, the Alliance, and the respective department’s chairs. This contract will include a payback clause in the event of noncompliance.
Good news and congratulations:
Two teams were selected during this year (2021-2022).
Dr. Marian Sepulveda is currently an Assistant Professor at Ponce Health Sciences University/Ponce Research Institute (PHSU/PRI). She investigates how experience (positive or negative, such as exercise or PTSD, respectively) may influence the cellular adaptations induced by chronic drug abuse. She began working in scientific research fourteen years ago. Her interest in science began as an undergraduate at UPR-Mayaguez, where I earned my degree in Industrial Biotechnology. Following university graduation, but before entering graduate school, she worked as a research technician in the labs of Dr. Yasuhiro Yamamura and Dr. Gregory Quirk at Ponce School of Medicine (PSM). These experiences stimulated her interest in becoming a trained scientist by pursuing a doctoral degree in Biomedical Sciences. She conducted her graduate studies in the laboratory of Dr. James Porter at the PSM, where her project combined patch-clamp electrophysiology with behavioral analysis of fear extinction. The subject of her Ph.D. dissertation was the role of metabotropic glutamate receptor activation in fear extinction-induced synaptic plasticity in the infralimbic cortex (I.L.). This research resulted in two publications, in Neuropsychopharmacology and the Journal of Neuroscience, respectively. In 2014, Dr. Sepulveda joined Dr. Kathryn Reissner’s laboratory at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, for her postdoctoral training, which focused on the cellular mechanisms of addiction and drug reward. During her 4.5 years in the lab, she learned behavioral models of addiction (in particular, self-administration). She mastered the whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology technique and completed a study on the effect of riluzole (an FDA-approved drug for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) on cocaine reinstatement. These results were published in Neuropsychopharmacology. In 2018, she accepted an Assistant Professor position at PHSU/PRI, and her research is focused on mechanisms of comorbidity between substance use disorders and PTSD. Specifically, she is interested in how candidate therapies, including exercise, influence cellular mechanisms of addiction and/or PTSD in a rat model.
Dr. Kathryn (Kate) Reissner is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC-Chapel Hill. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Duke University and a Ph.D. from the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at UC Irvine. Following completion of a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Peter Kalivas at the Medical University of South Carolina, Dr. Reissner joined the faculty of UNC in 2013. Research in the Reissner lab is focused on understanding the effects of drug abuse on astrocyte physiology and morphology, as well as the basic science of neuron-astrocyte communication. Accumulating evidence indicates that withdrawal from protracted drug use leads to long-lasting changes in the modulation of synapses by astrocytes and that these adaptations may represent targets for pharmacotherapeutic intervention. In addition to research, Dr. Reissner teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the areas of brain and behavior, addiction biology, and learning and memory.
Dr. Sherily Pereira-Morales, PhD, RNA, is an associate professor and academic senator of the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, School of Nursing. She completed her Ph.D. in nursing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr. Pereira’s clinical and scholarly expertise includes critical care nursing, nursing anesthesia, and nursing research. She teaches undergraduate and graduates courses in nursing, advanced health assessment in anesthesia, nursing theories, and critical care nursing. Early career direct care experiences exposed Dr. Pereira to the myriad impacts pain management has on post-surgery outcomes, disease progression, and quality of life.
Her passion for the service and her love for nursing anesthesia provide a model and inspiration to her students, colleagues, and family. Her commitment to nursing excellence and patient-centered care led her to pursue research training and scholarship to generate knowledge to improve clinical practice and outcomes related to pain management. Dr. Pereira’s initial dissertation research, published in The Clinical Journal of Pain, addressed acute pain assessment and management for sedated patients during the early postoperative period following general anesthesia. Her scholarship now focuses specifically on pain and symptom management among persons diagnosed with cancer. Dr. Pereira’s long-term goal is to develop an independent and externally funded research program to address effective pain assessment and management interventions that will improve cancer patients’ quality of life and decrease unintended consequences and adverse outcomes of pain management, such as opioid-related substance use disorder.
Dr. Rachel (Rae) Walker, PhD, RN, FAAN (they/them) is an associate professor of nursing, a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, and the first nurse inventor to serve as an Invention Ambassador for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She directs the Nursing Ph.D. Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and serve as an Associate Director of the IALS Center for Personalized Health Monitoring, a translational science center specializing in critical analysis and co-creation of A.I., sensors, and mHealth. Following service in the U.S. Peace Corps Mali, they completed their nursing training, Ph.D., Certificates in Nursing Education and Health Inequities, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. They teach graduate courses on health measurement and power, and their scholarship focuses on community-directed health innovation and digital defense against harmful technologies. Their advocacy for design justice and more inclusive invention practices has been featured in magazines such as Forbes, Scientific American, Science, and NPR. They’ve consulted on policy for the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, White House, major insurers, and other industries. They are a co-founder of the collective Nursing Mutual Aid and an Executive Committee member of the ANA Innovation Advisory Board.
With these teams, The Alliance advances in its mission of fostering the inclusion of a diverse researchers force that includes a variety of science disciplines and health professionals. Congratulations.