Paul F. Harron Jr. Lung Center

Pulmonary & Critical Care Fellowship

Research Training

The University of Pennsylvania has a long tradition of pulmonary research, training many investigators in the field. Several important tests of pulmonary function originated at Penn, including the single breath diffusing capacity and body plethysmography.

Today, research embraces the modern disciplines of cell biology, neurobiology, immunobiology, molecular genetics and epidemiology. Projects currently underway range from basic investigation of normal cell function to clinical studies of disease risk and therapeutic techniques.

There are six features of Penn's research training program that have allowed researchers at Penn to successfully train leaders in pulmonary medicine:

  1. Exceptionally diverse research training opportunities that stretch across the Penn campus and the Wistar Institute.
  2. Three different research pathways. The first is a basic science pathway, involving intensive participation in a basic science laboratory project, supplemented by optional enrollment in graduate school science courses. A second pathway in Clinical Epidemiology and Health Services Research seeks to train fellows interested in the science of clinical investigation and research design. Fellows accepted into this pathway pursue a master's degree in Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics through a combination of coursework and completion of a thesis project. Finally, the Division has recently developed a third research pathway focused on translational research. Fellows spend significant time in a basic research lab learning about the scientific approaches to a disease area of interest (e.g., asthma, acute lung injury, or lung cancer). The remaining research time is spent in patient oriented research in one of the Division's ongoing clinical research projects. Skills in translational research are supplemented by class work and practical experience.
  3. Diverse sources of institutional funding to ensure two years of dedicated research training. Funding is assured for two full years of research training and fellows may apply for a third year. Fellows may apply to any of three NIH-funded research training fellowships in respiration biology or any of several other specialized, funded fellowships on campus. Individuals interested in research-oriented academic careers are assisted in applying for individual training grants to extend their research development as Instructors in Medicine. In recent years, more than half of our fellows have chosen to pursue this advanced training.
  4. A formal mentoring program to ensure that fellows are successful in their research endeavors and career development. The goal of the research portion of the fellowship is to develop independent leaders in Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Research. Like graduate students, our fellows enroll in university courses, participate regularly in research seminars, and pursue a research project of their own design. Before beginning research training, each fellow consults the division chief, the research fellowship directors (Drs. Michael Beers and Jason Christie), and other senior members of the division to choose a focus for research and a research preceptor. Each fellow's progress is monitored by an individually constituted committee of faculty from within and outside the Division. The mentoring committee meets every six months, functioning much like a graduate school thesis committee and ensuring that the fellow remains in close contact with the research activities of the Division and is progressing satisfactorily in his research project. In the latter years of the fellowship, the committee also functions in career counseling and job placement. In addition, research fellows are encouraged to seek collaborative guidance and advice from physicians and basic scientists representing several different disciplines in order to obtain the broadest possible perspective on their work.
  5. A commitment to didactic teaching into the research years. These include a basic science and patient oriented research conferences where fellows and faculty present their research for discussion of both content and techniques. In addition, fellows have access to programs provided by the University of Pennsylvania including bioethics workshops, grant-writing seminary, clinical epidemiology and experimental design course work, and graduated courses within the University as appropriate.
  6. An exceptionally strong track record of achievement by our trainees. In the past several years our trainees have been placed in academic positions at Yale, Duke, Cleveland Clinic, and other top academic institutions.

There is a large diversity of interests among the investigators within the Division including:

  • Asthma and airway biology
  • Acute lung injury (ARDS)
  • Thoracic oncology
  • Lung inflammation and angiogenesis
  • HIV biology
  • Surfactant biology

Primary areas of basic science research within the Division include:

  • Genetic and Protein Biomarkers in ARDS Etiology and Pathogenesis
  • Immunogene Therapy for Thoracic Malignancies
  • Penn Airways Biology Initiative
  • Penn Registry for Airways Disease Research
  • Biomarkers in Lung Cancer
  • Gene-Environment Interactions in Lung Cancer
  • Effect of Beryllium on Lung Immune Function
  • Genetics of Sarcoidosis
  • New Therapies for Interstitial Lung Disease
  • Biomarkers of ARDS in Sepsis and Trauma
  • New Drugs to Treat Acute Lung Rejection after Transplantation
  • Determinants of Primary Graft Failure after Transplantation
  • New Techniques in Interventional Bronchoscopy
  • Novel Imaging Approaches for Lung Disease
  • New Drug Treatments for Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Medication adherence in Asthma and COPD
  • Workforce issues in Critical Illness
  • Health Policy of Critical Care Delivery models