photo of Nichole Hollie

Wright Center Translational Scholar brings addiction research to compassionate clinical care

Wright Center Translational Scholar Caitlin Martin, M.D., MPH, joined one of her patients, Nichole Hollie, for a conversation about addiction treatment and recovery this week.

Hollie sought care at VCU Health’s OB MOTIVATE Clinic, designed for women to address substance use disorders before, during and after pregnancy. Martin was her provider.

Dr. Martin headshot
Caitlin Martin, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the VCU School of Medicine

“The care I received from Dr. Martin is amazing,” Hollie told VCU Health News. “I love coming into the MOTIVATE Clinic to see Dr. Caitlin . . . just seeing the smile on her face, or just her asking me how I’m doing, or actually caring . . . I can feel that she cares.”

Martin returned Hollie’s praise and spoke about her work at the clinic to translate research into direct patient care.

“The care within the OB MOTIVATE Clinic is evidence-based so we make sure that all the treatments that we offer to patients are based in research, and we know they’re effective,” Martin said in the video interview.

Read and watch the full story at VCU Health.

Martin is a Translational Scholar at the Wright Center, part of a cohort of faculty scientists supported and mentored by the center. She won a Wright Center Endowment Fund grant last year to study the effectiveness of an addiction treatment.

Research pipette tips

New K Award Seminar Series will help VCU early career faculty apply for NIH grants

The Wright Center introduces a new seminar series that will serve as an insider’s guide to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) K Awards.

Successful K Award applicants will share tips and tricks that attendees can apply to their own writing in a five-part series beginning in December. Attendees will be prepared to tackle their own application with confidence.

K Awards are career development awards, designed to help scientists, physician-scientists and clinicians conduct research while working toward independence and competitiveness for major grants. The awards develop the foundation for a productive scientific career in the fields of biomedical, clinical and behavioral science.

The hope is to increase the number of successful K Award applications by VCU junior faculty and create the infrastructure that keeps junior faculty on track to application. The series is part of the Wright Center’s many services designed to support early career researchers across the translational science spectrum.

The live, online series will occur on third Wednesdays from December to May. Attendance at all five is encouraged.

Part I: So you want a K Award?

Participants are offered an overview of K awards: the different types of K Award, their eligibility requirements, suggestions for packaging a successful K application and things to consider when moving from ideation to submission.
Dec. 16, 2020
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: Patrick Nana-Sinkam, M.D.
Register now

Part II: The Science: tips and tricks for your K’s specific aims and research strategy

Participants are offered tips and tricks for drafting compelling specific aims and subsections of the research strategy (Significance, Innovation, Approach). Participants will explore the intersection of the proposed research and the career development plan, and they will learn strategies to organize research design while avoiding common mistakes.
Jan. 20, 2021
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: Danielle Dick, Ph.D.
Register now

Part III: All about you and your team: tips and tricks for your K’s candidate/career plan and mentor team

Participants are offered best practices on constructing the candidate section (background, career goals/objectives, career development/training, and mentoring plan/team) as it intersects with research strategy. Participants will learn strategies for mentor letters, organizing information and understanding relationships between/among goals, objectives, activities and specific aims.
Feb. 17, 2021
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: Ananda Amstadter, Ph.D.
Register now

Part IV: The nuts and bolts

Participants will learn how to draft the abstract, project narrative, cover letter and facilities/resources section. In addition, participants will explore best practices in addressing human subject research, constructing a budget and organizing biosketches. Finally, participants  will review the grant submission/review process and what to expect from the moment of submission to receipt of a summary statement.
March 17, 2021
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: TBD
Register now

Part V: You got it. Now what?

This session is offered to recent recipients of K awards and hopeful recipients of K awards.  Participants will learn tips and tricks on how to maximize their award and ensure milestones are met. Participants will discuss strategies to leverage the K award for transitioning to independence. Finally, the participants will explore the need for and sources of funding for their research beyond the K awards $25k allocation.
May 19, 2021
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: Suzanne Mazzeo, Ph.D.
Register now

For more information about the series, contact Rob DiRenzo.

Subscribe to the Wright Center’s newsletter for reminders about upcoming events.

K Award seminar series logo

MCV Foundation’s NEXT magazine features Wright Center researchers, studies

The latest issue of MCV Foundation’s NEXT magazine is out, and the Wright Center plays a big role. The issue focuses on COVID-19 research and highlights the innovation and resourcefulness shown by VCU researchers, including many from the Wright Center and those funded by center grants.

Director F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., and the Wright Center frame the lead story, “The Great Shake Up: How COVID-19 upended and refocused research at VCU Health.”

“Our researchers and administrators really stepped up to the plate in every way,” Moeller told NEXT. “It’s not a scenario that individual researchers can really plan for, but they have really managed it well.”

Also featured in that story are:

  • John Ryan, Ph.D., a professor of biology who serves on the Wright Center’s Operations Committee
  • Somaya Albhaisi, M.D., whose COVID-19 registry is funded in part by the Wright Center
  • Translational Scholar Caitlin Martin, M.D.

Other Wright Center leaders and researchers featured in stories include:

  • Arun Sanyal’s, M.D., in “Remdesivir: Establishing a Standard of Care for COVID-19”
  • Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., and Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D., in “Calming the Cytokine Storm of COVID-19”
  • VCU Massey Cancer Center Director Robert Winn, M.D., in “Access & Equity: Combating Health Disparities and COVID-19 through Community Engagement”
  • KL2 Scholar Julian Zhu, Ph.D., in “Big Things in Small Packages”
  • Stephen Kates, M.D., in “Amid Crisis, Inventing Solutions”
  • Alpha “Barry” Fowler III, M.D., in “Follow up: Applying Previous Research to the Current Crisis”

And Kathy White, who serves on the COVID-19 Clinical Trials Oversight Committee, shared her experience surviving COVID-19 and participating in a clinical trial led by Abbate.

Read NEXT here.
Or download the pdf.

KL2 scholar proposes curbing pediatric tests and procedures in JAMA Pediatrics article

Wright Center KL2 Scholar Elizabeth Wolf, M.D., MPH, published an article in JAMA Pediatrics this month addressing concerns about negative health impacts from common, and often unnecessary, medical tests and procedures for young patients.

Wolf, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the VCU School of Medicine, studies health care for vulnerable populations, well-child visits and vaccine preventable diseases. The KL2 Program at the Wright Center is supported by the National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award and gives early-career faculty dedicated time for research – helping their findings benefit human health more quickly.

“Children may be particularly vulnerable to some of the harms of low-value care, including radiation from unnecessary radiologic studies and alterations in the microbiome – the good bacteria that lives in and on the human body and provides important functions – from overuse of antibiotics,” said Dr. Wolf. “It’s important to stop providing low-value care so fewer patients are harmed and health care costs are reduced.”

Read the story at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

DEADLINE EXTENDED: funding opportunities for diverse scholars and scholars returning to research

Originally posted June 23, 2020. Updated August 3 to reflect extended deadlines and remove past info session.

The Wright Center invites faculty from VCU and its partner universities to submit applications for two new funding opportunities.

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences is offering the Wright Center, as a Clinical and Translational Science Award recipient, the chance to fund VCU scholars’ investigative careers under two supplements to its award: the Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health Related Research and the Supplement to Promote Re-entry into Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers.

Interested and eligible faculty should complete the Diversity and Re-entry Supplement form by August 14 at 11:59 p.m.

More about the programs follow. Read More

Julian Zhu presenting on Zoom

Wright Center scholar presents on nanomedicines

Wright Center scholar Guizhi “Julian” Zhu, Ph.D., presented to 35 peers across the country yesterday about his research into nanomedicines.

Zhu has worked to develop experimental treatments that use nanoparticles or functional molecules to deliver drugs directly to lymph nodes and tumors for multiple modalities of tumor therapy. His research has implications for treatments across the spectrum of care, and his fellow researchers watching virtually came from a variety of backgrounds.

Zhu is a Wright Center KL2 scholar, through which program he receives funding for dedicated research time, as well as wraparound support services for his work. An assistant professor in VCU’s School of Pharmacy, Zhu has also received funding from the Wright Center’s Endowment Fund for health sciences research.

The hour-long talk was organized by the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science, a Clinical and Translational Science Award hub like the Wright Center, as part of the KL2 Visiting Scholar Program. The scholar exchange program is an opportunity for KL2 scholars to visit partner schools for professional collaboration, networking and practice sharing.

Zhu recently received one of VCU’s 31 COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity awards, which the Wright Center helped fund. His innovative drug delivery platform may prove useful in delivering an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.

Zhu is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Sciences and the Department of Pharmaceutics at the School of Pharmacy, as well as an associate member of VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Development Therapeutics research program, where he’s received pilot grant funding.

hands writing

Wright Center to host mock study section for NIH applicants

This summer, the Wright Center will host National Institutes of Health (NIH)-style mock study sections to support faculty science and funding.

The sections closely mimic an actual NIH study section and are scheduled for researchers looking to apply for one of their fall grant cycles. All VCU junior faculty interested in clinical and translational research are encouraged to participate.

To get started, submit the required materials in the Mock Study Section Letter of Intent before 11:59 p.m. EST on July 6. Accepted applicants will be informed by July 8 and receive a link to submit all grant materials.

Letter of Intent (LOI) deadline: July 6

If accepted, grant material deadline: August 3

Mock study sections: August 20-28

Three experienced reviewers will evaluate and score grant materials prior to the mock study section. Applicants will be assigned a mutually agreed upon mock study section date and time between August 20 and 28. During the session, the entire panel will discuss the grant proposal and revisit their scores. The applicant and observers attend to learn the process and hear the grant discussion.

Applicants will receive summary feedback within five days after their mock session – about five weeks prior to the NIH October deadlines. This will include a compilation of written critiques and a summary from the co-chair, either Patrick Nana-Sinkam, M.D., or Arun Sanyal, M.D.

The program provides a critical review and targeted, comprehensive feedback to applicants and seeks to increase the likelihood of grant funding success for VCU junior faculty.

Observers are encouraged to attend the mock study sections in late August to receive a better understanding of the review process and to gain insight into how reviewers evaluate applications.

Review and download full program information.

graphic for mock study sections

headshot of Deborah DiazGranados

Wright Center professor joins board of international organization

Deborah DiazGranados, Ph.D., the Wright Center’s director of evaluation and co-director of Team Science, has been voted in as a board member of the International Network for the Science of Team Science, a nonprofit for researchers, scholars, policymakers and institutional leaders engaged in enhancing and fostering team science.

The network held a virtual four-day conference last week, the 11th annual Science of Team Science Conference, co-hosted by Duke University. DiazGranados presented on practical insights of doing team science during the pandemic.

Joined by researchers from Duke, North Carolina State University, University of California, Irvine and University of Central Florida, DiazGranados offered expertise on team formation, research leadership and overcoming the challenges to conducting research in unprecedented times.

Team science is an effort to address scientific challenges through the collaboration of professionals trained in different fields. And DiazGranados, who is an organizational psychologist and a professor in VCU’s School of Medicine, brings knowledge of emerging scholars’ needs in clinical and translational science to the diverse board of the network.

Her tenure on the board begins on July 1 and is a 3-year term.

cover of April 2020 Richmond magazine issue

Congratulations to our Top Docs

Seven Wright Center clinician-scientists were recognized as “top docs” in Richmond magazine’s annual listing of leading physicians in the Richmond region. The doctors were chosen by their peers and provide a wide range of care in multiple specialties at VCU Health.

Addiction Medicine


Pediatric Endocrinology

  • 2013 Endowment Fund recipient and former KL2 Scholar Anshu Gupta, M.D.

Pediatric Pulmonology

  • Hub Research Capacity Core co-investigator Judy Voynow, M.D.

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

  • Network Capacity Core project co-lead David Cifu, M.D.

Surgery (Orthopedic)

cover of April 2020 Richmond magazine issue

Former Wright Center KL2 Mentored Career Development Scholar among 2019’s Blick Scholars

Dr. April Kimmel writes on a whiteboard and smiles at the camera

By Anne Dreyfuss
VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research

As a Wright Center KL2 Mentored Career Development Scholar, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine associate professor April Kimmel, Ph.D., researched HIV care delivery models and access to care in the South. Among her findings was the discovery that a third of the population she studied had to travel more than an hour to receive comprehensive HIV treatment

“My research is focused on improving equity in access to HIV care,” Kimmel said. “The KL2 award from the Wright Center supported dedicated time for me to pursue additional training and conduct critical foundational work related to my domestic research agenda. It set the stage for my professional development and career independence.”

The KL2 program provides early-career researchers with protected time to help their findings benefit human health more quickly. It also provides mentorship and career development opportunities to help researchers like Kimmel become successful, independent translational scientists.

After completing the three-year KL2 program in 2016, Kimmel submitted a grant application to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities that was based upon her Wright Center-supported research. She was awarded a four-year R01 by NIMHD to expand her KL2 studies and examine the influence of structural barriers on the quality of HIV care and population health in the U.S. south. “The early career training supported by the KL2 has resulted in multiple extramural federal research grants and important contributions to knowledge on the role of structural barriers in HIV care in the U.S.,” Kimmel said.

Headshot of Dr. April Kimmel

In recognition of her achievements, the VCU Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences appointed Kimmel as one of four 2019 Blick Scholars. Created with a $2 million bequest from the George and Lavinia Blick Research Fund, the Blick Scholars Program endowment is awarded every four years to medical researchers on the MCV Campus. The award recognizes scholars with documented growth toward national prominence, a record of external research funding, and collaborative scholarship. “Rather than recognizing a specific project, the program acknowledges an overall trajectory of scholarship growth,” Kimmel said.

Through the Blick Scholars Program, Kimmel will receive an annual award of approximately $25,000 a year (based on market performance) to support her research for four years. She will apply the funding toward studying how structural barriers to HIV care – such as geographic accessibility and physicians payment rates – influence quality of care and how policy changes can improve inequities in the impact of the barriers on quality of care. Internationally, she will work toward projecting how different HIV clinical policies impact health outcomes and new HIV infections over time. She will also study the cost-effectiveness of various clinical policies. “My goal is to improve access to HIV care in very resource-limited settings,” she said.