CF Scholars Program

The CF Scholars Program, supported by institutional funds, recruits the brightest and best pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellows (both PhD and MD) in order to educate and mentor them to become preeminent CF researchers. The program includes in-depth and frequent interactions between CF clinicians and CF scientists so the trainee will be educated on the important role each plays in the lives of the CF patient and their family.

CF Scholars Program Banner Photo

In CF Scholars program's first year; with Joanna Goldberg, Ph.D. (Professor of Pediatrics) as Director and Seth Walker, M.D. (Asst. Professor of Medicine, and Director of the Emory Adult CF Program) as Associate Director of the program, there are about 6 Scholars. Three of our graduating CF Scholars from the program’s inaugural year have become faculty at Emory in the past year. This includes: W. Randy Hunt, M.D., Instructor of Medicine, recent winner of a CFF PACE Award; Jessica Alvarez, Ph.D., Instructor of Medicine, 2014 winner of an NIH/NIDDK K01 award; and A. Jay Freeman, M.D., winner of a recent CFF DIGEST Award. These three faculty will be taking on responsibilities as Facilitators in the CF Scholars Program, starting Fall 2014.

This ongoing program is open to outstanding predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows who have demonstrated commitment to CF research. Each cohort remains in the program for two years.

The Core of the CF Scholars program meets monthly. At present it is a set of didactic exposures intended to provide CF researchers in-depth knowledge of biology, physiology, and pathophysiology of CF, the specialized and multidisciplinary care to address these problems. These sessions alternate between two-hour educational sessions focused on a particular topic of CF disease and CF Grand Rounds sessions to incorporate patient/case-centered learning. The CF Grand Rounds combines a physician-led presentation of a clinical problem and a PhD presentation on the basic research aspects of the problem. The schedule is arranged so that the Grand Rounds is on the same topic as the CF Scholars session from the previous month. As often as possible, these sessions will be on the second Friday of the month at 2 PM. CF Scholars will be from 2 to 4 PM in the conference center of Egleston Hospital (Classroom 4), and CF grand Rounds will be from 2 to 3 PM at the CF Clinic at North Druid Hills (third floor, 1605 Chantilly Drive, Atlanta, GA 30324) so that CF clinicians and staff may attend. In this way, the CF Scholar sessions are tied to the focus of an upcoming CF Grand Rounds. Other sessions provide focus on specific research topics, approaches and tools, such as the use of systems biology approaches in CF research, and the use of exhaled breath condensate as an easily accessible patient-derived sample. For more information please contact Dr. Goldberg.

Each Scholar, regardless of their training to date, is assigned a patient to follow, whereby they meet with the patient/family and are asked to understand the course of disease and clinical care for that patient; we find that this helps to put a “face” to the disease, and encourages engagement on behalf of the trainee. Any new graduate student or postdoc would shadow a CF pulmonologist in the pediatric CF clinic (Dr. Stecenko) or adult CF clinic (Drs. Walker, Hunt, or Sueblinvong) for a half-day. At the end of the day, the pulmonologist would go over in more detail, the past medical history of one of the patients they saw. This is consistent with our overall philosophy that CF scientists and CF clinicians need to be intermingled, such that even bench-focused trainees are exposed to the clinical and pathological aspects of this disease.

Interested individuals may enter the program at any time during the year. However, new Scholars that enter the program after the September session will be expected to catch up on missed material by meeting separately with the presenter of that material. Applications to join the program may be sent to Dr. Goldberg at: Applicants should send their NIH-style biosketch along with a one-page letter describing their research plans and their motivation for joining the Scholars program. They should also arrange to have their research mentor/supervisor send a letter of support. The application packet will be reviewed by the Director and Associate Director and the applicant will be informed on whether they will be accepted to the program.

At present, the CF Scholars Program only requires ~6-8 hours per month. This will increase as new didactic presentations are developed by faculty within the Center to bring in career development concepts as shown in the above figure.

CF Scholars are expected to attend and actively participate in each of the didactic sessions and CF Grand Rounds, as well as regular departmental meetings relevant to CF research. These include the weekly Research Workshops hosted by the Center for CF and Airways Disease Research (CF-AIR) held every Wednesday. The first of these workshops in each month is a journal club, and the Scholars are expected to attend and lead at least one of these sessions. The CF Grand Rounds and CF-AIR Research Workshops are open to the public. However, individuals who are engaged as CF Scholars are expected to actively participate in all sessions. Scholars will be expected to submit an abstract for presentation at the North American CF Conference. Scholars will be expected to prepare and submit an extramural grant application for their research, to the CF Foundation, the NIH, or another relevant agency. Scholars will be expected to present their own work in the Research Workshop and/or the Grand Rounds.

The Emory+Children’s CF Center of Excellence also is planning to initiate an annual CF Regional Symposium and Research Retreat in which the involvement of CF Scholars will be expected. The symposium is a one day retreat which includes CF investigators and their trainees from around the Southeast US to attend and participate in a 1-day Research Symposium. This will highlight some of the technologies available in our research cores as well as other research ongoing related to CF at neighboring institutions. The members of the Center’s External Advisory Board (EAB) also will be invited to this Symposium. The following day, the EAB will remain to review and participate in a highly educational 1-day CF@LANTA Core Center research retreat held off-campus with presentations by our faculty and trainees. We will link this to the submission of abstracts to the NACFC; faculty and students will give the talks and posters they intend to submit at this national meeting. CF Scholars will be especially required to present their research at either the Symposium or Retreat, if invited by the organizers.

We expect for the CF Scholars to gain a stronger understanding of CF as a complex disease requiring multidisciplinary care. They will also gain many valuables connections and contacts in the exciting world of CF research. Ultimately, the program will provide a strong base of knowledge and skills to prepare the scholars as excellent CF researchers.