The research of April Stempien-Otero, M.D., Fel. ’97, FACC, is deeply informed by her work as a clinician, and vice versa.
“I realized the difference that research could make when I was in college,” she says. As part of a three-month research project at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, she looked at the outcomes of patients who were given calcium chloride after a cardiac arrest. All the patients died, she says, and “a year later, calcium chloride was taken off the protocol.”
The impact of that experience ultimately resulted in Stempien-Otero, who now holds the Craig Tall Family Endowed Professorship in Heart Failure Research, coming to UW Medicine for a fellowship in basic research in cardiology.
Meanwhile, clinically, she became interested in treating heart disease — and in becoming a mentor. “I think it’s critical to train translational researchers,” she says, “people who bridge the gap between basic science and clinical practice.”
By giving clinical fellows exposure to the work in her lab and helping Ph.D. students to understand the experience of working with patients, Stempien-Otero and her colleagues are trying to bridge the gap between the lab and the clinic.
More formally, one way UW Medicine is bridging the gap is through the Division of Cardiology’s Research First program, a specialized fellowship pathway that begins with two years of dedicated research training followed by two years of clinical training.
“Our Research First program is specifically targeted to train young physicians who want to be physician-scientists so they can pick up the baton,” says W. Robb MacLellan, M.D., UW professor of medicine, head of the Division of Cardiology, and holder of the Robert A. Bruce Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Research.
“Regenerative medicine is going to dominate research for the next several decades at least, and we’re trying to make sure that we’re producing the cardiologists who are going to be leading in this area,” MacLellan says.