Francisco Andrade, PhD, Program Director
The progression of cardiopulmonary disease and the efficacy of therapeutic interventions are critically dependent on the response of cardiac, smooth, and skeletal muscles in the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. All three muscle types are essential for normal cardiopulmonary function, all three play key roles in cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, and all are targets for therapeutic development. Our program targets this area of biomedicine by training predoctoral and medical students for muscle research in the context of cardiopulmonary disease. The University of Kentucky (UK) is ideally suited for the program. UK is a public research institution with 33,692 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,920 faculty members, extramural research support of $290 million in 2006, and a medical center comprising six different health-related Colleges. A recently-adopted strategic plan calls for rapid growth of UK research via added faculty, expanded graduate programs, and new research facilities. Within this dynamic academic environment, the UK program for Research Training in Muscle Biology of Cardiopulmonary Disease builds on institutional strengths to train exceptional students for careers in basic and translational research. In a highly-selective vetting process, program leadership identifies and recruits the best-qualified applicants for participation in two elite programs. Graduate students from eight different PhD programs compete for two-year, full-time appointments in the Postdoctoral Scholar program. A similar competition identifies research-oriented medical students for an eight-week Summer Scholar program. Both groups of Scholars are mentored by twenty-two faculty members from ten basic science and clinical departments. Multidisciplinary mentoring teams train Scholars in relevant areas of cardiac, vascular smooth, and respiratory skeletal muscle biology. Individualized curricula combine coursework, laboratory training, and a structured clinical experience to achieve three specific aims: To prepare basic scientists at the predoctoral level for successful long-term careers in cardiopulmonary research; To engage predoctoral medical students in a summer laboratory experience that stimulates ongoing interest in basic and translational research; and to foster excellence in the mentoring skills of both program faculty and predoctoral scholars.