We propose a post-doctoral training program in the multi-disciplinary area of musculoskeletal biology with the ultimate aim of developing future leaders in orthopedic- and rheumatology-related research. The program emphasizes research training in joint health, encompassing three major programmatic areas: osteoarthritis, total joint replacement and small molecule therapeutics. Dr. Rick Sumner (Cell & Molecular Medicine) will serve as the principal investigator with Dr. Anne-Marie Malfait (Internal Medicine-Rheumatology) and Dr. Markus Wimmer (Orthopedic Surgery) as the co-directors. We are requesting support for three post-doctoral fellows and three short-term trainees. Joint health is a theme that connects many departments at Rush, offering an environment and intellectual capital available to post-doctoral fellows that is unique in the nation. The multidisciplinary training that is offered integrates the research endeavors of scientists in basic science and clinical departments with clinician investigators, caregivers, and educators who specialize in musculoskeletal disease and joint health. The training themes for this grant represent the strengths of the preceptors who have been selected as mentors. Training will take place in the laboratories of 19 faculty in two basic science departments (Cell & Molecular Medicine and Physiology & Biophysics) and three clinical departments (Internal Medicine, Orthopedic Surgery and Pediatrics). There are currently 40 post-doctoral trainees in these departments, with 22 advised by preceptors on this application. These 19 faculty are principal investigators on grants totaling $8.4M in annual direct costs, including 31 R01 or R01 equivalent grants and 16 other grants. Our primary focus will be on training PhD post-doctoral fellows, but we will make every effort to recruit candidates with clinical training into our program. One means to encourage interest among clinical trainees is to provide meaningful introductory research experiences. Thus, we will include short-term trainees (medical students) in our program. There is a deep history of collaborative research among musculoskeletal researchers at Rush. We will take advantage of a very strong mentoring program and an active post-doctoral research society that has created a vibrant community for trainees. Our training plan focuses on the six competencies defined by the National Postdoctoral Association: Discipline-specific conceptual knowledge, Research skill development, Communication skills, Professionalism, Leadership and management skills, and Responsible conduct of research. Each mentee, his/her primary advisor and personalized mentoring committee will use individual development plans to guide their efforts with a focus on publishing and participating in national research meetings and submitting independent grants. We anticipate that trainees will be assigned to the T32 for two years with the expectation that support will transfer to individual awards (e.g., F32?s) or their preceptors? grants. After completing our program, we expect the trainees to continue in science as independent, team-oriented, investigators.
Musculoskeletal diseases affect about one-third of the U.S. population. The estimated total cost of this disease burden in the U.S. is approximately 5.7% of the country?s gross domestic product. We propose to improve the research infrastructure by training post-doctoral fellows with the long-term goal of decreasing this societal burden through creation of a workforce that is adept at acquisition and application of new knowledge.