Grants & Funding

2018 Travel Awardees

Utrecht Travel Award Recipients

CARRA’s Utrecht Summer School Sponsorship Program is an exciting opportunity for CARRA early investigators and fellows with established translational research interests to travel to the Netherlands to participate in the Utrecht summer school course on translational research. Sponsorship includes funding for travel and course tuition, which is made possible through the generous financial support of the Arthritis Foundation. This year’s awardees were CARRA Fellows Jessica Neely from the University of California, San Francisco, and Margaret Chang from Boston Children’s Hospital. Read about their experiences at the course this past summer below!


Jessica Neely

University of California, San Francisco

I am very grateful to CARRA and to the Arthritis Foundation for sponsoring me to attend the Utrecht Summer School course, “Translational Medicine: Doing the Right Research Right.”  This course highlights the fundamental flaws in the research “game” in which researchers, plagued by publication pressures and performance metrics, are producing sloppy science that doesn’t effect change for patients.  As one speaker put it, “publications don’t cure patients.”   Throughout the week, we participated in various exercises that, I must admit, pushed my comfort zone.  We were challenged to reflect on who we are and why we do what we do and how to draw on these characteristics in our research endeavors.  We honed leadership skills and learned how each of our own personality types works best within a team.  My favorite activity of the week was taught by two artists and included a workshop on creativity.  We learned that everyone has creativity, that it is a skill that can be turned on and off and can be nurtured for the scientific process.  These are invaluable skills that don’t get enough attention in medical training!

In addition to discussing the challenges and flaws of translational medicine, we began to discuss solutions to conducting translational medicine right.  We were challenged to think about how science works from an initial idea to a clinical trial as well as various steps along a disease process where you might be able to intervene.  Practical issues, such as when to think about intellectual property and patents, were discussed and debated among the faculty and students.  There was an emphasis on patient engagement in research and patient representatives were present to teach us how we can involve patients in every step of research.  All of this was in addition to the “hidden curriculum” of connecting with international like-minded researchers and future collaborators.

This week was a truly inspirational experience for me.  I have come away feeling motivated, more confident, and hopeful that we can begin to make changes in how research is done.  The physician scientist pathway is daunting at times, but the faculty at this course inspired me that it can be fun and rewarding and if done right, can be transformative for our patients.  I am thankful to the incredible faculty who volunteered their time to be at the summer school and for all the wonderful new friends and colleagues I made during this week.

Margaret Chang

Boston Children’s Hospital

I am a third-year pediatric rheumatology fellow and physician scientist.  I registered for the Utrecht “Translational Medicine: Doing the Right Research Right” course because I wanted to learn how to be a more effective translational researcher.  Every year that I attend CARRA meetings, I am struck and inspired by how many questions that are still unsolved in pediatric rheumatic diseases and the many obstacles to studying these diseases in a clinically meaningful way.

One important realization that I came to during the course was that CARRA is “doing the right research right”.

I was proud that CARRA has already embraced the core principle of collaboration.  The course not only emphasized the importance of collaborating with other researchers and physician colleagues but also the importance of involving patients and families, not just as research subjects but also as collaborators in identifying the important questions to answer and directions of research.  We also discussed the need to collaborate with industry to utilize their resources and expertise in translating research findings into therapeutics for patients.  These are all principles that CARRA has not only embraced but has put into practice. 

This course dove into the different aspects of designing and conducting translational research and also gave us tools to achieve these goals in a wholly unexpected way.  Through both a “hidden” curriculum (networking and socials) and not-so-hidden curriculum, we cultivated the skills required to collaborate with each other.  We learned about team structure, conflict resolution, thinking creatively, building relationships, mentorship, and leadership.  Through small group activities and projects, rather than course lectures, we practiced these skills daily.  The most valuable aspect of this course, however, was the like-minded people whom we met and the lasting relationships that we built. 

I really enjoyed this course and highly recommend it to fellows and post docs who are interested in building collaborative translational research.  There is also a similar program through the Eureka Institute for more established researchers.  Thank you to CARRA and to the Arthritis Foundation for providing me with this opportunity.

PReS Travel Award Recipients

CARRA wants to congratulate CARRA Early Investigators Melissa Mannion of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Yongdong (Dan) Zhao of Seattle Children’s Hospital for being selected as this year’s recipients of the PReS (Pediatric Rheumatology European Society) Travel Awards.  Drs. Mannion and Zhao will be traveling to Lisbon, Portugal to represent CARRA Early Investigators, along with Early Investigator Chair Erica Lawson and Vice Chair Kaveh Ardalan, and participate in the 2018 PReS annual meeting and the PReS Young Investigators Meeting.  Dr. Mannion’s abstract “Switching of Biologic Agents among Children with JIA in the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance Registry” has been accepted for a Poster Presentation at the Young Investigators Meeting and the main Congress.   Dr. Zhao’s abstract “Interrater Reliability of a Standardized Scoring Tool to Report MRI Findings in Chronic Nonbacterial Osteomyelitis” has been accepted for Oral Presentation at the main Congress. Through this award, CARRA will provide each recipient with up to $2,500 in travel support.


Melissa Mannion, MD

University of Alabama at Birmingham

I really appreciate the opportunity to attend the Young Investigators Meeting and the annual PReS meeting thanks to a travel scholarship from CARRA and the Arthritis Foundation.  I was able to present my work using the CARRA Registry at both the YIM and the PRES meeting.  My favorite part about any meeting is the chance to talk with and learn from other pediatric rheumatology providers about their research, their resources, and how they care for pediatric rheumatology patients.  We have a very unique and rich data source in the CARRA Registry that I was able to discuss and share with many different people. 

The Young Investigators Meeting was a wonderful opportunity to learn from other people who are early in their training.  The YIM was unlike any other early investigators meeting that I have attended before.  It was a scientific meeting with plenary talks, abstract presentations, and a poster session exclusively for young investigators.  I really appreciated the opportunity to hear the oral abstract presentations from students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty as they don’t usually have the opportunity to present in larger meetings.  I also realized how varied medical training, specifically pediatric rheumatology training, is around the world and that we are lucky to have CARRA on this side of the Atlantic to support trainees.

The PReS meeting was also an excellent meeting with scientific presentations on many different diseases in both clinical and basic science.  I found the many talks on or alluding to the idea of treat to target very interesting, especially related to the logistics around implementing a treatment protocol for JIA.  There was also a patient and parent focused session to highlight the experience of pediatric rheumatic disease.  And of course, the meeting was in a beautiful city with the chance to chat with pediatric rheumatology experts from around the world.  Thank you so much to CARRA and the Arthritis Foundation for providing this opportunity to present my research, to learn from PReS and their young investigators.

Yongdong (Dan) Zhao, MD, PhD, RhMSUS

Seattle Children’s Hospital

I am very grateful for the opportunity of attending PReS annual conference at Lisbon, Portugal. PReS conference is an annual meeting for pediatric rheumatologists from Europe and the world to share the advances in clinical care and research. The topics are directly related to our patient population and the content of presentations is very applicable to our practice. Comparing to EULAR and ACR conferences, PReS conference is like condensed soup for junior investigators in our field. It is very easy to find our colleagues and network with them day in and day out during the conference. There has been more exchange between CARRA and PReS especially among junior investigators.

The EMERGE (EMErging RheumatoloGists and rEsearchers) is an organization within PReS to promote the professional growth of junior investigators. The overarching aim of the group is to improve the quality of education, provide more clinical and research opportunities and enhance global collaborations for trainees working in the field of paediatric rheumatology. EMERGE committee organizes an annual meeting right before PReS meeting. All junior investigators under age 40 were encouraged to apply and attend this meeting. The presentations were organized by topics in oral and poster format and facilitated by fellow attendants. Many sprouting researchers build their collaboration from interacting with other junior members and grow their confidence and research through this platform.

Through this conference I was able to meet in person with some long-time collaborators who I have not met yet (see attached photo with Paivi Mittunen, Paivi’s daughter Chloe, and Francesco Zullain). I also had the opportunity to make new connections to expand collaborative work through presenting the work funded by CARRA. Colleagues from Sweden will use our MRI scoring tool for their study.

Overall, this conference has expanded my horizon as a junior investigator and allowed me to advance my career by networking with colleagues overseas. And I want to thank CARRA and arthritis foundation for supporting this trip.

Verity Travel Award Recipients

In collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, CARRA awarded full travel support for Leandra Woolnough (UT Southwestern) and partial travel support to 3 other individuals (Karen James, University of Utah; Evan Mulvihill, Nationwide Children’s; Rebecca Trachtman, Hospital for Special Surgery) to participate in the VERITY/Brigham Course in Rheumatology Clinical Research which took place May 7-12, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.


Karen James, MD

University of Utah

Recently, I attended a course geared specifically towards clinical research in rheumatology, offered by VERITY.  VERITY aims to advance clinical rheumatic disease research, through training of clinical researchers, development of new methods for patient oriented clinical research, and supporting a bioinformatics research core.  During this course, I received clinical epidemiology training through didactic sessions, and had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with world-renowned rheumatology clinical researchers like Drs. Dan Solomon and Brian Feldman.  The course started with a great refresher in some basic principles of clinical epidemiology, and then delved into some more advanced topics.  Brian Feldman’s session on Bayesian statistics was very enlightening as he highlighted alternative statistical approaches. I was also very interested to learn of new methods for identifying patients in large databases using natural language processing, and think this will ultimately be a very useful tool in my future research. Overall, I learned a great deal at this course that will support me in career as a clinical researcher.  VERITY, its mentorship, and bioinformatics resources will continue to be an excellent support for my research.  Thank you CARRA for supporting my research training by making this opportunity possible for me. 

Evan Mulvihill, MD

Nationwide Children’s Hospital

One of the most meaningful aspects of the course for me was the candid discussions that I was able to have with fellow young investigators. From graduating pediatric fellows, I learned key points about how to navigate the job search. From junior faculty members, I learned about challenges and successes associated with applying for NIH funding. This course, and the generous award from CARRA, allowed me to escape the whirlwind of fellowship for a week and really clarify the steps that I need to take in the next part of my career. I am incredibly grateful for that opportunity and for the relationships I was able to build with others who are taking those steps with me.

Rebecca Trachtman, MD

Hospital for Special Surgery/Weill Cornell Medicine

In May, I attended the VERITY/Brigham Course in Rheumatology Clinical Research, thanks in part to a grant supported by CARRA. As a young investigator, I always have a million questions – How can I best design my study? What grant should I be applying for? What are the correct steps to take to achieve a successful academic career? These questions seem never ending, and the answers can be difficult to find. VERITY was a 6-day intensive clinical research course, aimed at early investigators like me, and it answered so many of these questions. The attendees were a mix of fellows and junior faculty, from rheumatology and pediatric rheumatology. Throughout the week, we attended lectures about clinical and translational research; engaged in workshops to refine our specific aims page or methods section of a planned grant proposal; and met with multiple research mentors, mostly from the Department of Rheumatology at the Brigham. The days were full, but we even had time for some fun while in Boston! I left this program with a much better sense of the path that I want to follow going forward as a young investigator, as well as the steps that I need to take in order to get to where I want to be. I was able to meet faculty members who were willing to be mentors, and with whom I am sure I will continue to work throughout my career. The VERITY course will be offered again in two years, and I highly recommend applying to attend for anyone who is interested in pursuing an academic research career in rheumatology. Thank you CARRA for this opportunity!

Leandra Woolnough, MD

UT Southwestern Medical Center

I would like to express my gratitude to CARRA and the hosts of the VERITY program for this excellent opportunity. The VERITY program provided a diverse, well-organized array of topics to support the junior investigator. Didactic sessions with key topics such as innovative trial designs and comparative effectiveness research took place every morning. Hands-on feedback for the junior investigators’ research was provided in the afternoon sessions, giving in-depth and concrete suggestions on how to improve each individual’s research project. With the sizable representation by pediatric rheumatology attendees, the hosts provided additional support for our unique challenges. I was inspired by the research aspirations of my colleagues and was impressed by the maturation of each project. The VERITY program effectively expanded my knowledge of research methods and strengthened my research project.

Attendees at Boston, Massachusetts