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First TRI Open House Draws More than 100

Sarah Rhoads, Ph.D., D.N.P., visits with TRI’s Nia Indelicato and Amy Jo Jenkins.

The first Open House for the UAMS Translational Research Institute (TRI) drew more than 100 attendees from UAMS’ research community interested in learning about the resources and services offered by TRI.

TRI held the open house as a fun way to introduce itself to new researchers and for others to learn more about what all TRI has to offer. In addition to the 19 featured research services, the event included food and wine, as well as door prizes.

Both new and veteran UAMS researchers echoed their approval.

Hari Eswaran, Ph.D., a long-time professor in the College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said he was familiar with many of TRI’s offerings, but he discovered more during the open house.

TRI-supported services and resources on display included those of its Clinical Trials Innovation Unit, community engagement, participant recruitment, pilot awards, KL2 scholar awards, biostatistics, biomedical 

informatics, implementation science and entrepreneurship initiatives.

“Everybody knows TRI but probably not the whole gamut of what they do,” Eswaran said. “For example, I didn’t know about their implementation science function.”

Carolyn Greene, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry who is new to UAMS, said she was pleasantly surprised by the event.

“I’m really impressed by all the resources in one place,” she said. “Everything I need is right here.”

Sarah Rhoads, Ph.D., D.N.P., was also happy with the event. “I like how I can see everything that TRI offers, from A to Z, in one place.”

TRI’s Kate Stewart, M.D., M.P.H., and Anna Huff, (seated) speak with attendees about TRI’s Community Engagement Program.

TRI Director Laura James, M.D., said she plans to hold the Open House annually.

TRI Issues Call for Pilot Award Applications!

The UAMS Translational Research Institute (TRI) is pleased to invite applications for TRI Pilot Awards. This request for applications (RFA) is seeking proposals with a focus on implementation science.

Implementation science is the study of methods to promote the systematic uptake of research findings and other evidence-based practices into routine practice, and, hence, to improve the quality and effectiveness of health services.

For more information on implementation science, please refer to An introduction to implementation science for the non-specialist and NIH National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences’ website.

High priority areas for funding will be the development and pilot testing of implementation strategies in preparation for future large-scale research studies (e.g., R01), and implementation research in the context of rural and underserved populations and/or clinical locations.

These funding priorities serve the mission of TRI to develop new and novel approaches that will measurably address the complex health challenges of rural and underrepresented populations.

Budgets up to $50,000 will be considered.

Cover pages and letters of intent (LOI) are due by noon, Sept. 11, 2017, to Please contact Nia Indelicato at 501-526-0363 if you have any questions.


View the Request for Applications.

Download the Letter of Intent Cover Page.

Other key dates:
Full Applications InvitedSept. 18, 2017
Full Application Due Date/IRB Submission DateOct. 23, 2017
Announce AwardeesNov. 13, 2017on
Earliest Project Start DateNov. 15, 2017
Latest Start Date/IRB Approval DateJan. 1, 2018
Project End DateNov. 30, 2018

July/August TRIbune

Our latest TRIbune newsletter highlights data from the database of nearly 3,500 registrants that is sure to be of interest to UAMS researchers. This issue’s TRIbutary reflects on our Research Mentoring Workshop held this summer, and our TRI & Me features Jonathan Young, a leader in our Clinical Trials Innovation Unit (CTIU). You’ll also want to check out all the new publications by UAMS researchers who cited TRI for its support.

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TRI Open House Aug. 29!

The UAMS Translational Research Institute (TRI) will host an open house to showcase its many clinical and translational research services, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 4-5:30 p.m., in the Cancer Institute, 10th floor rotunda. We’ll have wine (starting at 4:30) and hors d’oeuvres as well as prize drawings. Best of all, you’ll get to meet the dedicated TRI employees who are providing these important services.

We’ll help you navigate the research process and arm you with the information needed to execute your study as efficiently as possible. Come see what you’ve been missing!

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TRI Issues Call for KL2 Scholar Applications

The UAMS Translational Research Institute (TRI) is pleased to invite full applications for 2017 TRI KL2 Mentored Research Career Development Scholar Award Program. The KL2 Scholar Awards provide support for early career UAMS faculty with a professional degree (M.D., Ph.D., Pharm.D., D.N.P., Dr.PH., D.O., etc.) who are committed to an academic career in multidisciplinary clinical or translational research.

The KL2 Scholar Award is a two-year program of intensive training in clinical and/or translational science research, combining an innovative educational program with mentored clinical/translational science research.

KL2 Scholars will receive:

  • Salary support/stipend of up to $95,000 (including fringe) per year.
  • Up to $25,000 of support per year for research, tuition, travel and educational materials.

Important Dates

  • August 23, 2017: KL2 Informational Session (4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Stephens Spine Institute Building 11th floor conference room, or join session via Blackboard Collaborate)
  • August 28, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.: Letter of Intent (LOI) due
  • September 15, 2017 at 12 p.m. (noon): Full applications due
  • September 29, 2017:  Awardees announced
  • October 1, 2017:  Scholar start date and earliest possible project start date


Read the Request for Applications

Read our Frequently Asked Questions



The Translational Research Institute’s Camille Hart, program manager for community engagement, attended NCATS Day with an eye for information that would be of interest to community partners — both organizations and individuals — back in Arkansas. Daniel Soñé Photography.

To gain more insight about patients’ needs and discuss opportunities to integrate the patient perspective into translational research, NCATS convened the first NCATS Day on June 30, 2017, on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. More than 150 people attended, including patients, their families and other caregivers, and representatives of more than 75 patient and disease advocacy groups.

With a theme of “Partnering with Patients for Smarter Science,” the all-day event enabled participants to learn more about NCATS and research supported by the Center. It also served as a forum for NCATS staff and researchers to hear directly from patients about their needs, establish new communication channels or strengthen existing ones and identify ways to enhance patient participation in research.

Read the full story…

Strong Mentorship Helps Researcher Discover Success

UAMS’ Craig Forrest, Ph.D., (left), credits his former mentors, Usha Ponnappan, Ph.D., and Xuming Zhang, Ph.D., D.V.M., with his early success.

Craig Forrest, Ph.D., recalled the day four years ago when one of his Department of Microbiology and Immunology mentors, Xuming  Zhang, Ph.D., D.V.M., came looking for him.

Forrest had sought input from Zhang and mentor Usha Ponnappan, Ph.D., on his first NIH National Cancer Institute grant application. Zhang found him in a fifth-floor lab of the Biomedical One building. There, standing at the freezer, the two had one of the more consequential mentoring sessions of Forrest’s early career.

“This is all wrong,” Zhang said, presenting his marked-up copy with an outline and arrows showing Forrest how to more effectively make his case.

“He knew exactly what he was doing,” Forrest said.

Ponnappan, who joined UAMS 25 years ago, and Zhang, who joined UAMS 20 years ago, said their approaches to mentoring are grounded in their own experiences as junior faculty.

Zhang, as an early career researcher, recalled his own need for the kind of detailed review he gave Forrest’s application. He loved getting thorough critiques from his mentors and colleagues because it gave him a better chance of being funded. Today, Zhang can bring to bear his expertise in the field and experience as an NIH reviewer to help mentees.

“Based on my own experience, for basic science faculty you have to have an NIH grant to be successful,” he said. “Without a grant, you can’t get promoted.”

Leading up to his grant submission, Forrest would pop into the offices of Ponnappan and Zhang to ask questions. “I bothered them constantly.”

Their advice was incorporated into his application, which achieved a rare perfect grant score and a five-year NCI grant totaling $1.83 million. The grant is helping further work on his discovery of a protein with a significant role in controlling herpes infections. Forrest’s early data gathering and a surprise discovery that were cornerstones of his grant application were supported by a UAMS Translational Research Institute pilot award and a COBRE grant.

The NIH application reviewers said they anticipate that his research “may reveal novel therapeutic targets,” and concluded, “In sum, there is considerable enthusiasm for the talented new investigator (Forrest) and the proposed work ….”

Forrest and his team have published three papers so far, and have three more in the works. He’s also filed a patent application through BioVentures.

Mentoring traditionally has been an informal practice, although some departments, such as Microbiology and Immunology in the UAMS College of Medicine, have a prescribed process. Department Chair Richard P. Morrison, Ph.D., started an official mentoring program eight years ago.  He describes it as “simple, straightforward and non-overbearing.”

Each junior faculty member has a three-person mentoring committee. The committees meet with the mentees once a semester to discuss progress and goals, followed by a written report.

Over the program’s eight years, the department’s five most senior junior faculty have produced five R01’s, three R21’s and three K22 awards – and all have received promotion and tenure, Morrison said.

Ponnappan and Zhang also helped Forrest become an associate professor, marking the official end of a six-year mentor-mentee relationship.

“Once they got me through the tenure process, it was kind of over,” Forrest said. “I’m on my own now, although I haven’t completely been away from them.”

Ponnappan said Forrest was a like a sponge and a pleasure to mentor. “He lives science,” she said. “His success is his own success. We just pointed him in right direction, that’s all.”

Forrest is now breaking new ground as a mentor himself, sitting on mentoring committees where he can learn from senior faculty.

He already has a key piece of advice for junior faculty, telling them, “Make sure you use your mentors.”

Seats Still Available for TRI-Sponsored Mentoring Workshop

UAMS researchers are invited to a free, day-long workshop June 22 to help improve their mentoring skills.
The workshop will be 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Institute on Aging, Room 1190.
Lunch will be provided.
Sponsored by TRI, the mentor training workshop is modeled after the nationally recognized University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) curriculum. Facilitators Mary Aitken, M.D., M.P.H., and Beatrice Boateng, Ph.D., have received CIMER certification to offer mentor training at UAMS.
Contact: Donna Mattingly,, or (501) 614-2287.

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May/June TRIbune

The May/June TRIbune features our recent Patient Scientist Academy, which is an outgrowth of an idea put forth by our Community Advisory Board. We also feature translational research successes with roots in TRI, such as our TRIbutary story about Amanda Stolarz, Pharm.D., Ph.D., whose team won the Governor’s Cup for commercialization of a discovery. We also highlight Camille Hart, program manager for our Community Engagement Program and include publication citations from your colleagues who have received support from TRI.

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Newsletter Archive

Power of Research Not Lost on Graduates of Patient Scientist Academy

Patient Scientist Academy graduates and Translational Research Institute academy leaders, (back, l-r) Dr. Kate Stewart, Richelle Brittain, Tamika Keener, Sharunda Henagan and Camille Hart; (front, l-r), Nicki Spencer, Cheri Thriver and Dr. Bonnie Hatchett. Not pictured are graduates Allene Higgins, Kaiden O’Suilleabhain and Veronica Warren.

Learning how research is done at UAMS and how they can be a part of it was an eye-opener for the nine new graduates of the Translational Research Institute’s inaugural UAMS Patient Scientist Academy.

Over four two-hour sessions in April, the academy covered research basics such as the difference between blind and double-blind trials, research ethics, and translational research. It was taught by Kate Stewart, M.D., M.P.H., with guest researchers who provided their unique perspectives, from biostatistics to working with heart patients and cancer patients.

“I didn’t know about translational research,” academy participant Cheri Thriver said during one of the classes prior to the graduation ceremony on May 4. “I didn’t realize how much we can be involved in the research process.”

UAMS’ Dr. Tiffany Haynes encouraged the graduates to continue their involvement in research.

UAMS honored their participation with a brunch and an inspirational talk from Tiffany Haynes, Ph.D., an assistant professor and researcher in the College of Public Health.  She noted that UAMS conducts research across the health spectrum, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental health.

“What’s at the heart of that research?” she asked. “Y’all!”

“That’s why it’s so important that you took this first step of coming to this Patient Scientist Academy and learning more about the research process and learning how to get involved because it really doesn’t work without you,” said Haynes, also a graduate of TRI’s KL2 Scholar program.

At the end of the ceremony, when the graduates were asked if they would like to share any thoughts before leaving, several expressed their appreciation for UAMS.

“UAMS saved my life,” said Tamika Keener, a lupus survivor who said she was turned away from other treatment centers. “I always say, ‘thank God for UAMS.’ Kudos to the staff and everyone who was a part of this academy. I have a new part of my family – new friends.”

Graduate and cancer survivor Shalunda Riley spoke of her gratitude for research.

Shalonda Riley shared a short video about her battle with late-stage throat cancer, and her successful treatment at UAMS.

“Those treatments came from research,” Riley said. “That’s why this has become so important to me. I am so glad to be here.”

Bonnie Hachett, Ph.D., described herself as a life-long learner and a breast cancer survivor. “I have survived because of research,” she said. “I am thoroughly excited about this opportunity and plan to continue my involvement with UAMS.”

“I’ve already been telling everybody about it,” Thriver said. “I appreciate everyone in here. It was great.”

Shalunda Riley, Cheri Thriver and Kaiden O’Suilleabhain work on a class exercise.

Stewart, a professor in the College of Public Health who leads the Translational Research Institute Community Engagement Program, said the graduates will have the opportunity to become involved in a number of ways, including serving on research advisory boards, patient advisory boards, and as citizen reviewers of research grant applications.

“We had a great group of participants,” Stewart said. “We hope the academy has given them knowledge that will enrich their involvement and really make a difference in the quality of our research and patient care.”

The graduates are: Richelle Brittain, Bonnie Hatchett, Ph.D., Sharunda Henagan, Allene Higgins, Tamika Keener, Kaiden O’Suilleabhain, Shalonda Riley, Cheri Thriver, and Veronica Warren.400

Fire Alarm Disrupts, Does Not Deter TRI ‘A-Team’

Despite a fire alarm evacuation, the TRI study team kept testing on schedule in UAMS Parking 3 for research participant Homer Paul (center). Team members are (l-r) Cynthia Witkowski, Angela Moore, Ashley Sides, Dr. Rohit Dhall and Shannon Doerhoff. (photo courtesy Homer Paul)

Homer Paul, a research participant, was in the midst of a 10-hour series of blood draws and neurological tests for a new Parkinson’s disease drug when the fire alarm sounded at the UAMS Translational Research Institute’s (TRI) Clinical Trials Innovation Unit on the fifth floor of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute building.

The research team, which included TRI Director of Clinical Trials Cynthia Witkowski, R.N., Angela Moore, R.N., and Ashley Sides, a research coordinator, grabbed supplies and walked with Paul to the adjacent parking garage. Witkowski said Paul was at the two-hour point after receiving his first dose of the drug and needed neurological and blood tests every 30 minutes.

Paul, 57, who lives near Conway, recalls being impressed by their determination to complete the study that April 27. “They were pretty adamant about getting blood samples exactly on time,” he said. “We went down a walkway that connects other buildings, and we found a spot and took a blood sample right there. I still had all my IV stuff hooked up on my arm.”

“It was kind of funny because I thought, ‘these nurses are relentless,’” he said. “I started calling them the A-Team.”

He asked to have his photo taken with the research team, which is posted above.

Also present as part of the study team were Rohit Dhall, M.D., a UAMS neurologist who is the study’s principal investigator, neurologist Lotia Mitesh, M.D., sub-investigator, and Shannon Doerhoff, A.P.N.

Dhall said the study team performed exceptionally under the circumstances. “I was impressed with the team’s professionalism and how it managed the situation with the best interest of the patient at heart,” he said. “Mr. Paul also responded wonderfully. He helped ensure the integrity of that day’s results.”

Paul’s admiration for the nursing staff didn’t stop with their work during the fire alarm. He said he had also watched them figure out how to fix a malfunctioning electrocardiogram (ECG) machine. “I was impressed. From mechanics to nurses – I have so much gratitude for their dedication.”

With an extended dose, the drug being tested could potentially provide longer-lasting relief from Parkinson’s symptoms than existing medications. Dhall, Paul’s doctor, alerted him to the study, telling him he would be a good candidate for it.

Paul agreed to participate, saying it is a way for him to give back.

“This is my way of contributing to the cause – to finding new drugs that let us go through our everyday lives like a normal person,” he said.