Rell Parker, assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, has been named an iTHRIV Scholar.  

A collaboration between Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Carilion Clinic, and Inova, the integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV) offers resources such as grant funding and training opportunities to research professionals and community partners conducting clinical and translational research.  

Now in its sixth year, iTHRIV Scholars is a mentored career development award for early career researchers.  Scholars participate in a two-year research training and mentorship program that emphasizes data science and interdisciplinary research collaboration.  

"I like getting to know people in more departments and having a more formalized mentorship aspect. It's boosting my research knowledge and positioning me to get grants afterward,” said Parker.  

Scholars designate 75 percent of their time to research and attend weekly meetings that give additional training and support. By the end of the program, scholars will apply for National Institutes of Health grants.  

Parker will combine her interests in basic science and clinical applications to create translational research.

"I’ll take some aspects of the research I've done during my Ph.D., some of the tools and techniques I used during that time, and try to incorporate them into something important for animals and humans,” said Parker.  

Parker will study how nicotine receptors respond to chronic pain, using mouse models and focusing on the α6 nicotinic receptor subunit. A greater understanding of receptors’ relationship to chronic pain could influence pain management practices.  

Parker’s primary iTHRIV mentor is Andrea Bertke, associate professor of infectious diseases in public health at the college’s Department of Population Health Sciences. Parker also will work with Brandon Henderson, assistant professor at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and John Rossmeisl, the interim director of the Animal Cancer Care and Research Center, associate department head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, and the Dr. and Mrs. Dorsey Taylor Mahin Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery.  

Shawna Klahn, a member of the 2021 iTHRIV cohort, encouraged Paker to apply for the program. Klahn is an associate professor of medical oncology at the Animal Cancer Care and Research Center and is currently studying the use of nano-pulse stimulation as an ablative immune modifier to treat a certain form of lymphoma in dogs.

iTHRIV combines the expertise of biomedical researchers and data scientists to create infrastructure and investigator resources for using data to improve health across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The iTHRIV Scholars Program is supported in part by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers UL1TR003015 and KL2TR003016.


 Written by Sarah Boudreau


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