Resident participation in clinically-oriented pathology research projects (including clinicopathologic correlations and translational research) are actively encouraged and widely conducted in our Department. These studies typically utilize case material and involve sophisticated technologies, such as immunohistochemistry, next-generation sequencing, transcriptional profiling, and other molecular biological approaches. Even if a trainee is intending to eventually practice pathology in a non-academic setting, we believe that the process of developing a research hypothesis, generating data, writing up the findings and presenting that work in a peer-reviewed manuscript is a valuable component of career development. In addition, many studies involve collaborations between pathologists and clinicians in other departments, fostering interdepartmental relationships.
Immunohistochemical studies, long a mainstay of clinical pathology research, are funded through the Department and continue to form the backbone of pioneering diagnostic work from this Department that is broadly applicable to routine pathology practice. The department is also committed to the concept of "translational molecular pathology" - the use of innovative technologies, particularly in molecular diagnostics and cytogenetics, to perform fundamental investigation of disease mechanisms and pathogenesis and to translate this new knowledge into better detection and treatment of human disease. To support this goal, the Oncopanel and Rapid Heme Panel molecular diagnostics platforms, among others, can be used for correlative research investigations following Institutional Review Board approval. Clinically annotated databases such as OncDRS and the DFCI cBioPortal complement such studies. Each year the Department also provides funding to trainees to perform additional discovery work utilizing archived samples; testing available in the CAMD Core lab includes next-generation sequencing on existing platforms, FISH testing, microarrays, RNA-based assays on the Nanostring NCounter platform, droplet digital PCR system (KIT, EGFR) and other more traditional methods. Another resource is the Center for Cancer Genome Discovery (CCGD) which collaborates on next sequencing projects in oncology.
Reflective of the productivity in the Department, our trainees and faculty present numerous poster and platform presentations at national and international scientific and clinical meetings, including United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology and the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, each year. Indeed - emblematic of the departmental productivity - BWH Pathology consistently ranks in the top three departments in the country for first-author platform presentations (typically given by trainees and junior faculty) at the annual USCAP meeting. The Department provides up to $2000 in travel funds each year per trainee in order to present a first-author poster or platform talk at a national meeting.
The BWH Pathology Department has a long tradition of educating physician-scientists for positions of leadership at the interface of science and medicine. Thus, research training and career development is integral to our residency training program.
Beyond the individual trainee-PI relationship, the Department seeks to provide a mindset and supportive framework of time, information, and direction that allows our trainees to flourish and succeed in a competitive research environment. Mentorship and role models are central component in this process. To facilitate a productive segue from clinical service work into the early stages of a research career, BWH Pathology has a longitudinal program that begins during recruitment, extends throughout clinical training into post-doctoral research, and eventually into junior faculty positions.
The training program encompasses both a formal entity with T32 support (Director: Dr. Richard Mitchell and Co-Director: Dr. Michael Gimbrone), as well as a network of departmental laboratories with a shared training mission and individual funding support, in order to accommodate M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. pathology residents who anticipate careers primarily focused in basic science, as well as those who wish to develop careers at the interface of clinical-translational research or industry. Training and mentoring are designed to promote the development of post-doctoral fellows in careers that more broadly engage clinical and translational problems related to human disease pathophysiology and pathogenesis.
Involvement with the training program begins with the initial recruitment of residency candidates interested in physician-scientist careers through interactions with potential supervisors to discuss research opportunities based on specific interests. While residents are focused on clinical work during the AP or CP Core, numerous departmental conferences and research symposiums allow trainees to stay abreast of potential future mentors within the Boston area. Trainees also keep up-to-date on the broader research and educational opportunities within and proximate to BWH via the Brigham Research Institute (BRI), the BWH Office of Research Careers, and Harvard Medical School, MIT, the combined Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, the Leder Harvard Biology and Translational Medicine (HBTM) program, the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT), and the Boston Biomedical Innovation Center (B-BIC). Another key resource within our community is Harvard Catalyst (HC), an NIH-CTSA-funded consortium of Harvard University, MIT, Harvard Medical School, and affiliated academic medical centers that brings cross-disciplinary collaboration to and provides education and mentoring for clinical and translational researchers. The ability to capitalize on the wealth of interdisciplinary conferences and research seminars within and without the BWH Pathology Department is limited only by trainee time constraints and interests. Following the AP or CP Core, protected research time can - and often is - built into the later years of residency training as desired.
When trainees transition to post-doctoral research, a departmental database of laboratory opportunities facilitates match-making with labs and principal investigators. In addition to laboratory opportunities within our own Department, pathology residents can and do perform research within the larger biomedical research environment of the greater Longwood Medical area and other research resources of the greater Harvard Community, including the Broad Institute, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering. Funding is most commonly provided by the NIH institutional training grant (see below). The Director or Co-Director meets regularly with residents and post-doctoral research fellows to assess progress and help direct next steps in career development. As research trainees prepare to transition to independent support, they are apprised of various funding opportunities (e.g., K versus R versus other forms of outside support), as well as the diversity of opportunities: clinical-translational, industry, basic research, or some combination of clinical service activities and research. Fellows and junior faculty who have previously successfully negotiated a particular path are also connected to the transitioning trainees to provide insight and practical logistical information.
The Director or Co-Director, along with the various research faculty are key resources for reading and critiquing grant proposals, as well as navigating the administrative details of the grant submission process. At the same time, the Director and Co-Director are also proactive in promoting the awareness of individual trainees for specific funding opportunities and awards and are resources for coordinating letters of recommendation and support.
The BWH Department of Pathology has received continuous NIH support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for postdoctoral-level research training for over 50 years. The programmatic emphasis is on understanding the basic pathogenic mechanisms underlying major disease processes that affect the cardiovascular, pulmonary, hematopoietic, and immune systems, through the application of multidisciplinary research tools and strategies of modern cellular and molecular biology, immunology, genetics and genomics, integrative physiology, and bioinformatics. The NIH Institutional Training Grant (T32 HL007627) entitled “Vascular Pulmonary and Renal Injury” currently under the directorship of Dr. Richard Mitchell, supports twelve slots including MD, MD-PhD, and PhD trainees, and has been the launching pad for a number of illustrious careers in academic pathology. The program counts 6 Pew Scholars, 7 awardees of Warner Lambert-Parke Davis Awards from the ASIP, a Lucille P. Markey Scholar, and several inductees to the National Academy of Science, the Institute of Medicine, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the American Association of Physicians, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science among its graduates. Although the core faculty is comprised primarily of clinician-scientists and basic biomedical researchers in the BWH Department of Pathology, trainees are also encouraged to explore a wide spectrum of opportunities afforded by research mentors and laboratories across the entire family of Harvard-affiliated medical, academic, and research institutions.
An important metric of success of research career trainees is embodied in the highly competitive individual NIH Career Development Awards. A comprehensive network of support is provided during the T32 training years to facilitate application for such awards. The Administrative Director for Research Programs is Mary LoGiudice-Croce, whose seasoned experience anchors a team of pre- and post-award grants administrators within BWH Pathology. She also provides one-on-one counseling for research trainees and faculty regarding potential grant opportunities that are available by sponsorship only and require an internal nomination process (e.g., Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Awards, V Foundation Scholars). Additionally, she shares advice on grantsmanship strategies, and shepherds more complex Program Project and Center Grant proposals through the institutional submission process. In addition, Lissa Olbeter provides a unique role in helping shepherd our trainees and junior investigators through the grants process. In addition to her role on Mary’s team to assist with pre-award grants management, Lissa has developed a unique style of mentoring both other grants administrators as well as trainees and faculty.
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