Grant Awardee Harnesses the Power of CTSI
If you sit down with Allison Hyngstrom, PT, PhD, she will tell you that success early on in your career doesn’t come without the right resources, great mentors, meaningful collaborations and … campaigning?
“You know the saying, ‘it takes a village?’ I attribute my success [as a researcher] to the full support offered by Marquette University and the College of Health Sciences and the Clinical & Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin (CTSI). With the state of funding right now, as horrible and tenuous as it is, if I had not received CTSI Pilot [Award] funding, I don’t know if I could have gotten the seed money any other way so early on in my career. I’m going head to head with senior labs that are fighting for money,” said Dr. Hyngstrom, “so having a track record of funding from the CTSI allowed me to prove that I can make good on my commitments to the grant and all of the resources it provides.”
“…having a track record of funding from the CTSI allowed me to prove that I can make good on my commitments to the grant and all of the resources it provides.”
In 2011, Dr. Hygnstrom applied for and received both a Pilot Award and a three year Mentored Career Development (KL2) Award from CTSI. She followed those up with another Pilot Award in 2013 studying the affects of inadequate blood flow to paretic limbs in patients post stroke. If CTSI offers the resource, chances are she has used it. To call Dr. Hyngstrom a CTSI “power user” would be an understatement.
“We used the IRB coordination and navigators for the blood flow study, as well as the Adult TRU, the biostatisticians, the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Library for medical journals, and the REDCap system to gather and store research participant data,” said Dr. Hyngstrom. “I have to say the Clinical Research Scholars Program has been so helpful in developing my skills in grant writing, reviewing articles, and opening my eyes to the resources available through CTSI.” The Clinical Research Scholars Program, led by Jane Kotchen, MD, provides training and individual mentoring in career development and clinical research to junior faculty who are committed to pursuing careers in academic medicine as independently funded clinical and translational investigators.
Mentors, a Key to Success
Dr. Hyngstrom also attributes much of her success to her mentors. “I cannot say enough about Dr. Ted Kotchen (director of the Mentored Career Development Award),” said Dr. Hyngstrom. “He provides honest feedback which allows you to avoid getting crushed in your review section. I have also had strong mentorship from Brain Schmit, PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University and Dr. David Gutterman at MCW.”
Dr. Hyngstrom not only works across CTSI institutions, but her collaborations have gone global. After presenting at a motor neuron conference, a colleague at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee suggested that she talk with Dario Farina, PhD and his research team in Germany. Dr. Farina had developed a non-invasive, 64-channel electromyography (EMG) array to measure muscle fiber activity, and he is considered one of the world’s leading experts on multi-electric surface arrays. A non-invasive approach was important to Dr. Hyngstrom and her study population. “We don’t want to cause stroke patients any more pain, and this EMG gives us more data than we could have gathered [otherwise].” There are approximately six of these systems in the world and, because of Dr. Hyngstrom’s work, one of them is now here in southeast Wisconsin.
“The interest and the excitement in how we were using the electrodes resulted in me being invited to speak at an international conference in Sydney a year and a half ago to present data. The data that this technique produces is so robust compared to the other methods,” explained Dr. Hyngstrom, “and it had never been applied to a patient population before. The CTSI [support] helped by allowing me to go to that meeting and present in front of an international audience. It’s kind of a great moment as a junior faculty member: You present your data, and there are jaws dropping, because no one else is doing what your team is doing.” Dr. Hyngstrom stressed the importance of budgeting some of your dollars to travel, presentations, and campaigning. “You have to go out and campaign, brand yourself, and build your reputation. The people that you meet along the way will be the people sitting on study sections. It all helps build credibility in the program.”
From Bedside to Bench … and Back Again
“I think the CTSI is really good at identifying the unique strengths that will help brand you as a scientist,” said Dr. Hyngstrom. “I was trained as a clinician; I worked at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which is where I made clinical observations about people with stroke. Then, my PhD work was in basic neuroscience. I was doing electro-physiological recordings of the spinal cord. I went from humans to bench … and now back to bedside or translational work.”
“The CTSI was really helpful in showing me how to leverage my unique qualities to differentiate myself from other candidates. You guys have been doing a great job so far. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but I can’t think of any obstacles that CTSI couldn’t help its researchers overcome.”