CARRA provided an exciting opportunity for early investigators to receive sponsorship to participate in this year’s Utrecht Summer School program course entitled “Translational Medicine: Doing the Right Research Right.” The course took place July 7 – July 12, 2019 in Utrecht, Netherlands. The sponsorship covered the 850 Euro tuition (which includes housing and lunches), round trip coach airfare, and $250 for incidental expenses.
This course tackled the intrinsic difficulties of effective translational medicine in rare and orphan diseases and is meant for early stage researchers with an interest in this field. A full course description can be found on Utrecht’s Summer School program’s website. This course was open to participants from a wide range of disciplines and led by a pediatric rheumatologist.
I am immensely grateful to CARRA and the Arthritis Foundation for their sponsorship, enabling me to attend the Utrecht Summer School course, “Translational Medicine: Doing the Right Research Right”. As a pediatric rheumatology fellow-in-training with a strong foundation in basic immunology research and a serious interest in translational medicine, I anticipated this course would be a powerful career development tool and am so pleased to have been afforded the opportunity to attend.
During the weeklong course, we examined the various challenges and opportunities faced by physicians and researchers engaged in translational research and medicine. A small sampling of the many topics discussed includes: open science, publication pressure and alternative schemes for recognition of achievement and effort, barriers to collaboration and strategies for successful research partnerships, the use of animal models in translational research, and identifying key stakeholders. We engaged with parents and leaders of patient advocacy groups to consider the importance of obtaining the patient perspective in establishing relevant research questions and goals.
In addition to these educational sessions, I found some of the most valuable elements of the course to be the opportunities for personal development. Utilizing creativity and self-reflection, we explored the unique factors which motivate us, driving the pursuit of knowledge and innovation in patient care. We reflected on our individual strengths, the characteristics that enable us to work collaboratively, and the ways in which we can improve our communication and ability to lead a translational research effort.
Importantly, attending this course granted me the opportunity to meet and engage with an international community of translational research-oriented physicians, scientists and trainees. Through a mixture of formal mentoring sessions and social activities, I established numerous personal connections with new mentors and peers, many of which I envision developing into successful future collaborations.
Many thanks to CARRA and the Arthritis Foundation for supporting my career development with this travel award!
“When you go home and people ask you about this experience, it will be impossible to explain,” the teachers and mentors expressed as they closed out the “Translational Medicine: doing the right research right” summer school course. As I sit here attempting to do just that, I now see how right they were, and for truly inspiring reasons.
The course centered around families afflicted by illnesses whose determination and spirit was apparent in their willingness to work with clinicians, researchers, patient advocacy groups, and politicians to improve research quality and raise funding for these efforts. Those patients and their parents were invested in advancing medicine, and this shed new light on how they could participate in research endeavors at multiple levels within the research process.
The diversity of the participants attending this course was also astounding. I met with international colleagues in medical school, residency, fellowship, pursuing masters degrees in the sciences, doctoral students, and combined MD/PhD students across major disciplines but who surprisingly had common professional interests. This realization of commonality at our core made the prospect of international and multidisciplinary collaboration easier to grasp. With newly found colleagues and friends we were taught to think about how we derive our energy and excitement, tap into our creativity, work in various groups comprised of people who are non-clinicians, and advocate for our patients in a variety of settings to “do the right research right”. The ultimate goal was clear from the start, and it was to benefit our most important stakeholders: our patients. Without fully realizing it, we were pushed to understand ourselves better and gain insight into what matters to us individually and as a unified front.
CARRA has used many of these core principals and has invested into infrastructure that supports patient-focused research. I now have an internationally diverse group of colleagues, friends, and mentors who have all shaped me in such a short time. I was privileged to receive sponsorship through CARRA and the Arthritis Foundation and am grateful for this experience.
Through the support of CARRA, I recently had the privilege to attend a translational science school in Utrecht, Netherlands. From day one of the course, we reflected on why we do research and who we do research for, emphasizing the importance of always staying connected to the core driver of our research, the patient. I was immediately struck by the passion, energy and dedication of the faculty to our development as translational scientists. A unique aspect of the course was the use of conceptual and visual frameworks to better understand how different styles of communication, collaboration, reflection and our own mindset can influence our research. We were also lucky to have the opportunity to hear the personal stories of many researchers who are now changing the outcome for patients, and importantly, how research paths changed and obstacles were overcome.
We discussed the inherent challenges that arise for the physician scientist in pursuit of advancing translational and open science initiatives, including publication pressure, funding, communication, data sharing and promotion criteria. After our group expressed frustration at the way the current system at times works, we began to develop solutions to effect change and become innovators and agents of change at our own institutions. We had the opportunity to interact with parents and patients to learn ways in which involving families can lead to change in research direction and ultimately more meaningful research for the patient. I will now go back to my own institution with actionable steps that I can take to involve patients directly in the development of my research.
I really appreciated the individual career development that was integrated into the course through the use of mentoring sessions, presentations, research idea generation and collaboration. We all learned how to be more vulnerable and transparent in our pursuit of research to achieve meaning in our work. We worked on harnessing our creativity to design research and find solutions to problems we encounter. I met pediatric rheumatologists and researchers from all over the world and established new research connections and mentorship that will last far beyond this course. Most importantly, I now feel prepared to confront challenges as I work to bring research back to the patient at my own institution.
CARRA wants to congratulate CARRA Early Investigators Daniel Horton of Rutgers University and Natalie Rosenwasser of the Hospital for Special Surgery for being selected as this year’s recipients of the PReS (Pediatric Rheumatology European Society) Travel Award. Drs. Horton and Rosenwasser traveled to Madrid, Spain, to represent CARRA Early Investigators (along with Early Investigator Chair Erica Lawson and Vice Chair Kaveh Ardalan) to participate in the 2019 PReS Annual Meeting. Dr. Horton's abstract “Oral Glucocorticoids and Incident Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, and Thrombosis in Children with Chronic Diseases” and Dr. Rosenwasser’s abstract “Development of Novel Urinary Biomarkers for Lupus Nephritis” were both accepted. Through this award, CARRA provided each recipient with up to $2,500 in travel support.
It was an absolute pleasure to be able to attend the 2019 PReS EMERGE Young Investigators Meeting and EULAR-PReS Congress with generous support from the CARRA travel scholarship. At the YIM, I heard about exciting research going on in labs and clinics across several continents. Through oral presentations and posters, my colleagues taught me about novel scientific approaches and advances. Some raised intriguing possibilities for collaboration, including through combining CARRA registry data with European registries. I appreciated the chance to present in front of an audience with such diverse backgrounds and interests across the field of pediatric rheumatology. It was also valuable to learn more about PReS EMERGE and the programs that they offer young investigators, including traveling clinical and research fellowships to European countries and a peer review mentoring program.
The EULAR-PReS Congress itself was also impressive for its size and breadth – what a workout just getting around! I took a deeper dive into basic science than I normally do at the ACR. Sessions on "molecular fingerprinting" and big data made me even more aware of the power of systems biology and multi-omics to completely reorganize the way we think about diseases, diagnostics, and treatments. Another session taught me more about the global burdens of childhood rheumatic disease and developments in global health that are addressing them. While poster sessions always seem to be unpredictable, and sometimes lonely, I enjoyed presenting my poster on cardiometabolic steroid toxicities in children—taking part in a poster tour, chatting with several passersby, and even having a brief cameo on EULAR TV. I also appreciated learning more about exciting research ongoing in PReS and PRINTO.
An experience like this is great not just for opportunities for scientific growth but also for the chance for networking and cultural exchange. It was wonderful to get to know my fellow investigators, young and not as young, European and not so European. We chatted about our work and our aspirations, but also our families, hometowns, favorite foods and sports teams, and even some politics. It was also a pleasure to sample some fine Spanish beers and wines and delectable Spanish cuisine.
I’m so grateful to CARRA for the opportunity to attend the YIM and EULAR/PReS. I expect these experiences, lessons, and connections will continue to bear fruit in the years ahead.
Innovation thrives on connection and collaboration, but oftentimes, medical research communities work in silos. Attending the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and Pediatric Rheumatology European Society (PReS) meeting was a step towards global collaboration of advancements in pediatric rheumatology.
Looking back, I found that the sessions at the congress as well as the PReS networking event were very relevant and allowed me to identify and meet with international leaders in the field. My discussion with young investigators during the congress further catalyzed ideas for continued collaboration. In addition to creating personal connections, I learned about different research tools and approaches used to investigate rheumatic disease. Gleaning these insights expanded the possibility of collaborating and improving our strategies in eliminating diseases together.
Connecting as a community on a global level is paramount to success. Thanks to the support of CARRA and The Arthritis Foundation, I was able to do my part to help build and be a part of this global community of champions in childhood health.