The aim of our interdisciplinary Institutional Training Program, based at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), is to train MD and PhD post- doctoral fellows in research focused on Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. The rationale for this program is three-fold. First, ~10% of households in the United States live with an individual with a neurodevelopmental disability;thus these disorders are a significant financial and emotional burden in our society. Second, the causes of neurodevelopmental disability range from genetic to acquired insults;this necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. Finally, there is substantial overlap of symptoms amongst the various neurodevelopmental disorders, suggesting overlapping mechanisms. Trainees and their mentors involved in this program use a range of modern approaches, including genetic, cellular/molecular, behavioral, and imaging to pursue basic and translational research related to these disorders. Thirty mentors help support the careers of our trainees. There is a high degree of collaboration among the mentors. In addition to mentored research training, our curriculum emphasizes: 1) a clinical practicum requirement for both MDs and PhDs, 2) formal course work through UPenn Graduate Studies Program, 3) training in responsible conduct of research, 4) training in biostatistics and 5) workshops that cover a variety of important survival skills, including scientific writing, public presentations, grant writing workshops, laboratory management, and career advancement skills. During the first 14 years of our program, we have accepted 33 trainees;5 are MDs, 27 are PhDs, and 2 are MD/PhDs. 19 of these trainees was female and 7 of these trainees were under-represented minorities. Twenty-eight different mentors have supervised trainees, and no mentor has supervised more than two trainees. Of the 21 who have completed training, 10 are in faculty positions, 4 are in instructor positions (2 of these instructors recently obtained K awards), 2 are senior research scientists at pharmaceutical companies, 1 is a scientific administrator, 1 is Director of a Clinica Genomics Laboratory, 2 are in private practice, and 1 is a senior scientist still in academia. We request continued support for 6 postdoctoral fellows and year. This number of trainees allows us to maintain a critical mass to support a diverse trainee pool than can learn from one another, and is easily justified by the large number of outstanding trainees who seek admission. Our goal remains focused on providing a training program unlike any other here at the CHOP or UPenn that is focused on acquired and genetic causes of developmental disability. The program benefits from being in an outstanding environment that commits substantial resources. For research in this area, there are training in general (and specifically to this training program), ad to developing a true 'bench to bedside'approach to translational research.
It has been estimated that developmental disabilities affect 10% of all families in the USA. Researchers are urgently needed who are willing and able to apply modern research methods to elucidating the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of these disorders, so that new and more effective therapeutic interventions can be identified. This program strives to fill this need.
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