Dr. Barbara Trautner (320x240)
Dr. Barbara Trautner, associate professor and director of clinical research in the Department of Surgery

A collaborative effort between Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute and the University of Houston has culminated in the T32 Research Training Program in Cardiovascular Surgery in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.

“The possibility that the surgeon-scientist could become extinct has been a growing concern recently, and institutions across the country, including ours, have been looking for different ways to approach this problem,” said Dr. Barbara Trautner, associate professor and director of clinical research in the Department of Surgery. “Our approach is to provide a structured research training experience to develop an essential team of translational cardiac surgery researchers. We believe it is particularly important to train M.D.s and Ph.D.s together in cardiovascular research, to set the stage for career-long collaborations between clinician-investigators and basic scientists. Such collaborations are essential for translational research to have a tangible impact on clinical care.”

The program will accept two postdoctoral fellows each year, who both will receive two years of mentored training in cardiovascular research. The grant, awarded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, provides $1.4 million over five years.

Training in cardiovascular surgical research will focus on three tracks:

1. Bioengineering and biodesign: includes training and certification in the TMC Biodesign Fellowship Program and working with a multidisciplinary team to develop a medical device or digital tool.
2. Basic and translational research: includes training in laboratory-based research focused on understanding and addressing cardiovascular diseases. 
3. Clinical and outcomes research: emphasizes developing skills in health services research or in conducting clinical trials with the ability to improve healthcare outcomes in cardiovascular disease.

The two fellows selected for the inaugural year of this program are Dr. Tarah A. Word and Dr. Waleed Ageedi. Both are postdoctoral fellows at Baylor and are in the basic and translational research track. Word is studying cardiac arrhythmias under the direction of Dr. Xander Wehrens, director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute and professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at Baylor. Ageedi is investigating mechanisms of aortic degeneration under the mentorship of Dr. Scott LeMaire, director of research in the division of cardiothoracic surgery, vice-chair for research and professor of surgery and of molecular physiology and biophysics, and Dr. Ying Shen, director of the Aortic Diseases Research Laboratory and associate professor of surgery at Baylor.

“This program gives trainees access to the resources and expertise of the TMC Innovation Institute, which houses more than 150 healthcare startup companies and specializes in the translation of early-stage innovation into clinical practice,” said Dr. Erik Halvorsen, director of the TMC Innovation Institute.

Eligible applicants for future classes include M.D.s or those with comparable doctoral degrees, in general surgery residency training and Ph.D. postdoctoral fellows, all with a strong interest in cardiovascular research. The program currently is recruiting candidates from across the Texas Medical Center for July 2019.

“We hope that our training program draws on the diverse educational resources of the Texas Medical Center to equip our trainees with the skills necessary to be successful and productive in cardiovascular research, thus improving cardiovascular surgical care for the general populace,” LeMaire said.