Frontiers Announces New KL2 and TL1 Awardees

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Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute recently selected four new awardees for its KL2 Mentored Career Development Program and three new awardees for its TL1 Trainee Program.

As part of the Frontiers Education Core, KL2 awards provide a two-year tailored, mentored research experience to promising clinical and translational research faculty. The new Frontiers KL2 scholars are Anahi Collado, PhD, University of Kansas; Natalie Jayaram, MD, Children's Mercy Kansas City; Shane Stecklein, MD, PhD, University of Kansas Medical Center; and Jennifer Villwock, MD, University of Kansas Medical Center.

"We couldn't be more thrilled with our four incoming KL2 scholars," said Ed Ellerbeck, MD, MPH, Director of Frontiers KL2 Program and Chair of the Department of Population Health at the University of Kansas Medical Center. "The diversity of the group spans the translational spectrum, with each of them bringing their own unique skillsets and interests."

The KL2 Scholars Program supports a talented group of junior investigators interested in conducting groundbreaking clinical and translational research. The program provides salary support for protected time for each scholar to master the skills essential to promote their path to research independence.

KL2 Scholars work closely with mentors on interdisciplinary teams and engage with local content experts who can help connect them with other researchers. Early in the program, each scholar determines their strengths, weaknesses and training needs to create an individual career development plan (IDP). The IDP, along with input from program leaders and mentors, guides each scholar's training experience. To further enhance the experience, opportunities to participate in seminars, grant writing workshops, externships and multidisciplinary mentorship are provided.

The TL1 Trainee Program, also part of the Frontiers Education Core, offers tailored and rigorous training in clinical and translational research as well as classroom education to both pre- and postdoctoral trainees. The pre-doctoral track is a one-year experience for clinical doctoral students and is designed to help them start on the translational research pathway early in their training. The post-doctoral track is a one- or two-year option for clinical scientists and is designed to help them procure productive faculty research positions. The TL1 award is specifically designed to provide trainees with the skills, confidence, financial support and enhanced career trajectory to move to the next stage of their translational research career.

"This year, we will be bringing on one postdoctoral trainee and two predoctoral trainees to the TL1 program, each representing a different institution from our Frontiers affiliates," said Won Choi, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of the Master of Public Health Program and Vice-Chair of the Department of Population Health at the University of Kansas Medical Center. "These highly talented individuals have exhibited great passion for research in their young careers, which is reflected in their innovative and ambitious TL1 research projects."

The new Frontiers TL1 Trainees are Kabir Torres, predoctoral student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; Lucas Richards, BS, predoctoral student at the University of Kansas Medical Center; and Kara Christensen, PhD, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kansas.

Both the pre- and postdoctoral TL1 trainees are encouraged to participate in Frontiers Scholars Club, a series of training seminars facilitated by senior researchers covering an array of clinical and translational research topics, and obtain a Master of Clinical Science degree, if it fits their individual career goals.

"We are eager to guide them through the demanding training program and reinforce their talent, skillsets and enthusiasm for clinical and translational research," Choi said.

Historically, both the Frontiers KL2 and TL1 programs have elevated the research careers of its graduates. Currently, 58 percent of Frontiers KL2 graduates have independent funding from the National Institutes of Health. In 2019, a collaboration between a TL1 trainee and KL2 scholar resulted in a funded pilot award, highlighting the productive, supportive and collaborative working environment of the integrated programs.

"As scientists, these new scholars will be on the front lines, closing the gap between medical discoveries and innovative, effective treatments," Ellerbeck said. "We look forward to guiding them through the rigorous training programs and elevating the very promising trajectory of their research careers."

CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 1: Train and Cultivate the Translational Science Workforce