The integrated Translational Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV) has announced its fifth class of iTHRIV Scholars. Seven researchers from the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech will participate in the structured, two-year research, training, and mentorship program.

The iTHRIV Scholars Program, launched in 2017, helps early career faculty members advance professionally. The intensive curriculum emphasizes data science training and collaborative, interdisciplinary research.

“The program incorporates various elements of scientific leadership into a focused and rigorous curriculum that enables individual researchers to improve their work with constant feedback from mentors and their cohort,” said Jason Papin, a professor of engineering in UVA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and one of the iTHRIV Scholars Program’s principal investigators. “It really helps them develop a network that advances not only the scholar as a researcher, but also fast-tracks the translation of their science.”

iTHRIV scholars dedicate 75 percent of their time to a focused research project and the training curriculum and participate in annual public symposiums to present their findings.

The 2021 – 2023 cohort includes:

  • Shawna Klahn, associate professor in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s Animal Cancer Care and Research Center, will study the use of nano-pulse stimulation as an ablative immune modifier to treat a certain form of lymphoma in dogs. Klahn’s mentor is Nicola Mason.
  • Julia Basso, who will become an assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on Aug. 1. Basso, mentored by Martha Ann Bell, will study the clinical use of dance to support people with autism spectrum disorder.
  • Jessie Gibson, assistant professor in the UVA School of Nursing Acute and Specialty Care Department, will study ways to measure and modify threat interpretation bias to reduce anxiety in patients with Huntington’s disease. Gibson is mentored by Bethany Teachman.
  • Lee Ann Johnson, assistant professor in the UVA School of Nursing’s Acute and Specialty Care Department, will study how comorbidities influence patient treatment and outcomes among underserved individuals with advanced lung cancer. Johnson’s mentor is Sarah Ratcliffe.
  • Gregory Madden, assistant professor in the UVA School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, will analyze immune profiles and Clostridioides difficile infection outcomes. Madden is mentored by William Petri.
  • Kazlin Mason, assistant professor in the UVA School of Education and Human Development’s Department of Human Services, will study ways to improve speech outcomes for cleft and craniofacial conditions using machine learning algorithms and personalized pre-operative assessments. Mason is mentored by Silvia Salinas Blemker.
  • Adema Ribic, assistant professor in the UVA College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology, will explore non-retinal visual deficits in pre-term infants, as well as non-invasive approaches to restore vision. Ribic’s mentor is Jessica Connelly.

The 2021 iTHRIV Scholars cohort begin the curriculum in July. The program, which ran virtually in 2020, will incorporate both distance learning and in-person collaboration this year.

“iTHRIV has scholars and mentors from multiple campuses and locations, so building on a virtual program model allows us to bring everyone together regularly in an equitable way,” said Leanna Blevins, assistant vice president for health sciences education and student affairs at Virginia Tech, and the site director for the iTHRIV Scholars Program at Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic. “This year we look forward to finding ways to occasionally gather so that we can extend our collegiality off the computer screen.”

iTHRIV is the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) partnership between Virginia Tech, UVA, Carilion Clinic, and Inova Health System. 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.

iTHRIV is partially supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, through award number UL1TR003015/KL2TR003016.

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