Translating Discoveries in Neurological Diseases of Infancy and Childhood

Investigator: Heather Fullerton, MD
Sponsor: NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Location(s): United States


The UCSF Neurological Sciences Academic Development Award will help train the next generation of academic child neurologists, providing them the research skills they need to identify better ways of caring for children with disorders of the nervous system. It also seeks to add diversity to the field of child neurology so that its leaders are more representative of the children they hope to serve.

The goal of this competing renewal application is to continue to train, with the highest rigor, candidates who will succeed in academic child neurology. At UCSF, we have created a program that combines clinical focus with rigorous postgraduate scientific training. Over the past two decades, the NSADA has provided the foundation for our division of child neurology to grow academically and has allowed us to merge clinical training with scientific discovery. Recent changes at UCSF will further enhance our program. The creation of the UCSF Pediatric Brain Center in 2011 has broken down traditional silos to foster collaboration between clinicians and scientists across disciplines. The 237,000 square foot Sandler Neurosciences Center opened on the UCSF Mission Bay Campus in 2012, bringing investigators in neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry together under a single roof. The new UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital will open on the same campus in February, 2015, steps away from the Sandler building, and is already sparking new collaborations on childhood diseases among Sandler investigators. The overall theme of our application is, "Translating discoveries in neurological diseases of infancy and childhood." We will offer rigorous training in research methodology to young investigators with focused clinical expertise who are poised to identify the most pressing research questions in their respective fields within child neurology. Our specific aims are to continue to offer a structured program for training academic child neurologists for a career in translational research; to foster career development, pairing clinical and research interests; to expose candidates to the intellectual environment of UCSF; and to promote diversity in academic child neurology. The planned duration of the program is 5 years; we project training 3 scholars who will be junior faculty having recently completed their clinical subspecialty training. Our first candidate, Kevin Shapiro, MD, PhD, is a child neurologist and cognitive psychologist who is currently completing a vascular neurology fellowship. He will study language development and cortical plasticity after early brain injury using a combination of cognitive testing and multimodal neuroimaging in children with focal ischemic brain lesions. He will benefit from two internationally-recognized mentors: Dr. Maria Luisa Gorno-Tempini, expert in language disorders, and Dr. Heather Fullerton, expert in childhood stroke. He will use Sandler facilities, including the Neuroscience Imaging Center, a state-of-the-art research imaging center on the ground floor of the Sandler Neurosciences Center; his mentors both have their laboratories in the same building. Additional potential candidates will submit protocols for review by the internal and external advisors; we will perform outreach to enhance the diversity of our candidates. With well-established, nationally recognized and supported training programs at UCSF to support the didactic phase of this program, coupled with a team of accomplished mentors committed to the career development of child neurologists, we will succeed in bringing forth the next generation of leaders in academic child neurology.