The Renal-Electrolyte and Hypertension Division Research Training Program at the University of Pennsylvania is well positioned to train committed individuals in clinical science, in translational science and in bench science relevant to nephrology. The Fellows' program takes advantage of the talented, large, and diverse faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. This program represents collaboration between Penn's adult and pediatric renal divisions, and its many biomedical research programs intended to develop future academic leaders in nephrology. Our program is designed for MD or MD-PhD fellows who typically complete training in either adult or pediatric clinical nephrology.
Our program includes one year devoted largely to training in clinical nephrology followed by several years of research training. We are committed to providing the best training in an individual's area of interest and for this reason encourage our trainees to pursue training with the best research mentor, whether they are located within our Renal Divisions or elsewhere within the University of Pennsylvania. The first two research years following clinical training (years two and three of this training program) are typically supported by our T32 institutional training grant.
First Training Year
The research training process begins during the first (clinical) year when fellows work to refine their scientific interests, apply as appropriate for participation in our formal master's degree programs, and identify their primary scientific mentors. To facilitate this process, research track fellows are assigned initial research mentors with similar scientific interests prior to matriculation. These preliminary mentors begin the mentoring process by assisting new fellows in navigating the Penn research opportunity universe, and by guiding them in designing a unique research training plan.
During the first year of fellowship, each trainee is scheduled for at least two two-week blocks dedicated to exploring research opportunities and developing his/her individual research program for years two and three of fellowship.
During these elective blocks, fellows meet with Master's degree program directors, visit individual laboratories and principal investigators, meet with other more senior trainees, and begin to formulate their research training program with the assistance of the preliminary research mentor.
Second and Subsequent Research Training Years
Research training begins in earnest during the second program year. Our research fellows can take one of several training directions that generally fall into three broad areas: bench science, clinical science (i.e., clinical epidemiology or health policy), or translational science.
Bench Science/Biomedical Engineering
For those training for a career in bench science or biomedical engineering, training is largely centered within an individual laboratory in a fashion similar to doctoral student or PhD post-doctoral fellow training. Laboratory training is augmented by participation in weekly lab meetings, frequent one-on-one interactions with the laboratory PI, participation in a renal research basic science seminar series, and abundant relevant scientific seminar series outside the Renal Division. With the assistance of their laboratory mentor, laboratory fellows are expected to identify a unique project and contribute to all aspects required for its completion and publication. A number of our fellows have also participated in course work. In some cases, this has led to a degree (e.g., PhD in immunology); in others, the course work has supplemented their research interests (e.g., auditing of courses in cell biology or statistics).
Fellows can elect training in clinical epidemiology or health policy science related to the kidney, taking advantage of outstanding programs and outstanding faculty members at Penn who specialize in these areas. We feel strongly that individuals anticipating a career in these areas should obtain formal didactic training in the science and tools employed in these areas because this training will accelerate career development. For this reason, we require that fellows pursue Penn's Master's in Science in Clinical Epidemiology (MSCE) or Master's in Science in Health Policy (MSHP) degree programs.
Fellows may elect training in translational science via Penn's Master's in Translational Research (MTR) degree program. Because Penn has a well-developed NIH CTSA-supported Institute of Translational Medicine and Therapeutics that supports research at the interface of basic and clinical research, a large faculty external to nephrology conducting translational work, and increasing interest among renal fellows in this area, we added the MTR program as an option to our research trainees in 2013.