Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan for the Enrichment Program

The Educational Enrichment program has been established as a key element in the Center with the vision to: inspire future new investigators in Pediatric Nephrology research, foster national and international sharing of ideas and research progress, integration and collaboration of investigators in the home institutions and engage and educate the wider community concerning research in Pediatric Nephrology (Figure 1, in Specific Aims page). To achieve these goals the following initiatives will be implemented:

Aim 1. Inspire, attract and stimulate the interest of young individuals in Pediatric Nephrology research.

It is our philosophy that inspiring and attracting new talent should start early. Thus, our plans encompass a great part of the educational continuum from high school, undergraduate and graduate students to postdoctoral fellows to junior faculty. We provide substantial institutional support for those activities that will have a lasting impact and attract/retain the best minds in our field.

a. Provide research exposure to high school and college students. To develop the interest of young individuals to work in the field of Pediatric Nephrology, exposure to basic research in the field is important at an early stage. Upper level high school and college students and first year medical students have been encouraged to work in the laboratories of investigators in the Center during the summer. Funds from the Center provide a small stipend. Special consideration is given to minorities and women. Similarly, high school teachers who wish to participate in this endeavor will be invited to perform hands-on research together with one of their students. This program initiated by the Provost several years ago has been extremely successful with numerous students having pursued careers in academia. We have implemented a program in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences (Department of Biology) whereby college students receive credit for an “independent research program” working directly with a qualified mentor. During this summer we had 3 College students within the Gomez and Sequeira-Lopez labs and 1 in the El- Dahr’s Lab and all of them intend to pursue careers in academic medicine. In addition, we have been hosting a great number of summer college students through a program run by the Dean of the School of Medicine.

b. Attract and retain the best graduate students to research in pediatric Nephrology. The investigators in this proposal have extensive experience in the training of graduate students. Institutional funds will be used to support the best qualified graduate students to work in a project within the central theme of the Center and given the opportunity for exposure not only with investigators at Tulane and at UVA but also widely through our international and national collaborative arrangements. This will enrich the educational experience of our students and simultaneously serve as a stimulus for them to join in our goal of understanding kidney development and disease in the benefit of children.

c. Coordinated approach to attract and educate new talent. We will continue making use of our extensive network to attract the best minds to our field in collaboration with institutional T32 programs (Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira-Lopez are current mentors on the T32 Training Grant: Kidney Disease & Inflammation, NIH DK072922, PD Dr. Mark Okusa), O’Brien centers, Cardiovascular Centers, Renal and Hypertension Centers at Tulane and UVA and other Universities in North America.

d. Develop the interest of pediatric residents in Pediatric Nephrology. To develop the interest of Pediatric residents in Pediatric Nephrology, it is important that they be made aware of the research scope of Pediatric Nephrology. Accordingly, the Center will support one or two residents yearly to attend the meetings of The American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (ASPN) or the symposium sponsored by the ASPN during the meeting of The American Society of Nephrology. We will continue with our CME accredited Research Seminar Series to expose and inspire residents by inviting renown researchers in the field (see accomplishments below). They will be also invited to an annual Center of Excellence Symposium in Pediatric Nephrology. Special consideration will be given to minorities and women.

e. Attract and support junior faculty by providing them with protected time for research, mentorship, education and opportunities in an environment conducive to their success.
1.Junior faculty not only receive one-on-one mentorship and Pilot and Feasibility Projects, but they also participate in all activities of the Center (see Figure 1), including grant reviews and exposure to most of the strategic discussions with the view that they will acquire leadership skills that are best learned in a practical manner. As designed, the rich environment provided by the Center constitutes a fabric of innovation in education, research and public relations and we hope it will constitute a magnet for the fostering of research in kidney diseases to benefit children. 2. How to succeed in academia today: In addition to direct mentoring by faculty and staff in the laboratories, we developed a formal program for faculty development that will begin on October 27, 2016 (see accomplishments). From 2001-2007 when Dr. Gomez was the Vice President for Research, his office and the Department of Pediatrics established a program of seminars given throughout the year, covering a whole range of activities including balancing family life and academia, grant writing, public speech, negotiating with your chair, etc. This program had been very well received by graduate students and junior faculty alike. Our program will capitalize on such experience.

Aim 2. Make new knowledge, technologies, expertise, and reagents available to all scientists worldwide.

a. Make new technology available to scientists as rapidly as possible.
To speed the advance of research in Pediatric Nephrology, new technology, especially in the fields of epigenetics, lineage tracing and molecular biology will be made readily available to scientists interested in developing new expertise in these areas. To achieve this goal, the laboratories of investigators in the Center will be opened to any scientist who wishes to learn new methodologies. In conjunction with our yearly seminar in Pediatric Nephrology we will hold a hands-on workshop the day prior to the meeting. Participants will become acquainted with the technology available at our laboratories and will have the opportunity to initiate potential collaborations with Center members including our junior faculty and students. Students, residents and postdoctoral fellows will actively participate through presentations and/or roundtables at our annual symposia and seminars in kidney development and disease. In addition our Website will continue to update all the educational activities, the research progress by the participating scientists, and public information.

b. Organize and sponsor a quarterly seminar at UVa and Tulane on topics relevant to kidney development and disease.
To expose established scientists and new investigators to important topics relevant to Pediatric Nephrology research, the Center will organize and sponsor quarterly seminars at UVA and Tulane on topics relevant to kidney development and disease. A broad audience from the university research communities will be invited and speakers will be drawn from inside UVA and Tulane and from other Universities.

Tentative topics for quarterly seminars include:1) Epithelial Mesenchymal Transformation. 2) miRNAs in Developmental Biology. 3) Cytokine Networks and Signaling Pathways. 4) Murine Models of Renal Maldevelopment. 5) Transcription factors and cell fate. 6) Epigenetics and development. 7) Mechano-cellular signaling. 8) Tissue Fibrosis: Pathogenesis and Prevention. 9) Biomarker discovery – clinical and basic science. 10) Translational Studies in Nephrology. 11) Phenotypic plasticity.

In addition, in keeping with the educational mission of the Center, during their annual visit, consultants will continue to be invited to give a seminar in their respective research areas and interact with graduate students, pediatric residents and fellows.

Aim 3. Collaborations with the broader research community. Establishing a network of national and international collaborations around the broad theme of Pediatric Nephrology with a focus on kidney development and disease.

a. Establish an educational and scientific network among centers with similar interests. With the objective of cooperating on scientific matters and enhancing the pool of prospective graduate students, fellows, and potential junior faculty and faculty exchange, we will start by connecting with well-established efforts in stem cell biology in University of Southern California (Dr. Andy McMahon).

b. Establish International collaborations with Centers of Excellence in kidney research around the world. Examples include but are not limited to collaborations with the University of Edinburgh, Karolinska Institutet and the Center of Excellence for Renal Research in Regensburg. We will encourage the participation of faculty and students from those institutions to join our activities, including direct scientific collaborations, participation at our workshops and seminars. We will open our doors to opportunities for bilateral sabbaticals to learn and/or teach new techniques and strategies leading to a rapid pace of discovery in kidney development and disease. Some of those collaborations already exist and documented in our CVs and as the program is solidified they will be extended as necessary.

Aim 4. Engage and educate the public.

Our educational activities reach out to the public. Our web site includes all relevant information about the Center’s activities written also in lay terms. We will further engage graduate students in the literature departments to help us expand a narrative that instructs and engages the public in the importance of kidney research in children. T he School of Medicine runs a program called “Mini-Med School” in which members of the community have the opportunity to receive instruction and laboratory participation in contemporary issues in Medicine with a research orientation. The program is extremely popular and always oversubscribed. Our Center will have a Mini-Med in Kidney Development and Disease, which has been developed by Dr. Chevalier, and offered for a number of years. To educate other physicians as well as other care providers about renal diseases in children a one-day symposium will be held each year at one of the institutions involved in this Pediatric Center of Excellence in Nephrology. This will be organized using both departmental support from each institution and funds requested for the Center. Speakers will be drawn from basic and applied research areas relevant to kidney disease. The symposium will be advertised on the Center website, within the universities, through the ASPN, and to physicians and care providers in the area.