We have the honor to award 2 deserving candidates each year with a K12 grant for their CTS research, and we aim to expand that number to 4 per year in the future. The long-term goals of the LINCATS-K12 are to: (1) Develop a clear and sustainable pathway for the training of scholars and mentors focused on CTS; (2) Enhance the CTS scholar and mentor pipeline, emphasizing recruiting and retaining women, underrepresented groups, individuals with disabilities, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds; and (3) Create an innovative, robust, and sustainable infrastructure and methodology for learning and disseminating best practices in CTS training.
Awardees are matched with a Primary Research Mentor, receive 2 years of salary support ($125K per year), $25K in research supplies support, and a written commitment from their home department for 75% protected time for research and career development. Candidates may come from within LINCATS collaborating institutions or from other institutions.
Andrew S. Handel, MD, FAAP
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases
"Rickettsia amblyommatis as an Emerging Tick-Borne Pathogen"
Dr. Handel is studying the impact of Rickettsia amblyommatis infections on human health. This microbe is found in more than half of lone star ticks on Long Island, yet little is known about its effect on children and adults. The few patients who have been infected with R. amblyommatis seemingly had mild, self-resolving illnesses, but we suspect a wide range of associated symptoms. We also believe that many people with positive antibody tests for R. Rickettsii (the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a severe illness) are actually infected with R. amblyommatis. This likely leads to anxiety and unnecessary antibiotics. A better understanding of R. amblyommatis will help to avoid confusion and to inform better diagnostic and treatment decisions.
To describe the impact of R. amblyommatis, we plan to enroll children on Long Island who have been recently bitten by ticks. We will test blood samples collected within 2 weeks of the tick bite and again 1-2 months later for antibodies against multiple Rickettsia species. Development of antibodies will signify a recent infection. We will also ask parents about any symptoms that develop during the study period. We will correlate the presence of antibodies with associated symptoms to identify illnesses resulting from R. amblyommatis. We also plan to use a novel device for collecting blood samples. This tool can be applied by the patient’s parent at home and is nearly painless, making it easier for families to participate in the study.
In a related study, we will use residual blood samples from children tested for Lyme disease to determine the proportion with evidence of a prior R. amblyommatis infection. Blood samples will undergo screening for antibodies against three Rickettsia species. The results will give us to better understand the extent of R. amblyommatis infections occurring in children on Long Island.
By identifying the symptoms caused by R. amblyommatis infections and the rate of prior infection, we hope to describe the impact of this emerging pathogen on children’s health.
Clare Whitney, PhD, MBE, RN
Assistant Professor, Department of Doctoral Studies, School of Nursing
"Engaging Clinician Outcomes and Moral Dimensions of Practice to Advance Sustainable Solutions for Wellness (EnCOMPASS-Wellness)"
Dr. Whitney is studying the interpersonal mechanisms and modifiable factors that contribute to clinician burnout. The wellbeing of clinicians on the front line of care delivery is crucial for the provision of high quality, compassionate patient care, with overwhelming evidence demonstrating the detrimental impact that clinician-level factors such as communication challenges, moral distress, burnout, and mental and physical health strain have on patient outcomes. These same indicators of clinician wellbeing are also associated with concerning workforce outcomes, like attrition from practice through early retirement, career changes that involve pivoting away from the bedside or the discipline entirely, or severe mental-health related morbidity or mortality. Importantly, these workforce outcomes can amplify aspects of the healthcare work environment – such as dangerously high patient ratios and inadequate time to provide care – creating a positive feedback loop that perpetuates both clinician and workplace (un)wellness, and reinforces poor patient outcomes as a consequence.
In order to advance sustainable approaches to improve clinician wellbeing, we aim to determine how contributing conditions related to workplace wellness interact and come to impact care delivery. We plan to conduct a mixed methods secondary analysis of data collected from Stony Brook Medicine clinicians who participated in the Alda Healthcare Experience -- a medical improvisation workshop designed to improve interprofessional communication skills. First, we will determine the association between personal and interpersonal clinician-level factors and clinician wellbeing, and triangulate quantitative findings with qualitative data from interviews with clinicians. After characterizing the dimensions of clinician wellbeing from this cohort of healthcare professionals, we will extend and refine a preliminary theory on clinician wellbeing in a new cohort of clinicians practicing at a different university-affiliated academic medical center.
By leveraging the interpersonal mechanisms that underlie how clinician wellbeing impacts care delivery, we hope to uncover future directions for the development of sustainable wellness interventions that target the modifiable dimensions underpinning both clinician and workplace (un)wellness.
April Castillo, PhD
Resident, Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine
"Assessing whether antenatal colostrum expression improves duration of breastfeeding and rates of breastfeeding exclusivity"
Dr. April Castillo is a Preventive Medicine physician who focuses on maternal and infant health and breastfeeding medicine, with an emphasis on decreasing health disparities. Her goal is to improve breastfeeding/chestfeeding support for parent-infant dyads, to increase breastfeeding rates and prevent death and chronic disease for infants and birthing parents.
Antenatal hand expression of colostrum, or antenatal colostrum expression (ACE) promotes positive breastfeeding outcomes; it is believed to prevent delayed lactogenesis II (helps milk to come in sooner), and it provides mothers with stored colostrum in case her child needs supplementation, preventing the need for early formula supplementation. Additionally, it increases maternal confidence in their ability to breastfeed and comfort with the skill of hand expression. However, this skill has not traditionally been taught to pregnant women due to unproven concerns about the possibility of impacting birth outcomes. Multiple recent studies have shown the safety of ACE, however little research has been done on the efficacy of ACE education programs towards improving breastfeeding outcomes. The purpose of this unblinded randomized controlled trial will be to test the theory that counseling women on antenatal hand expression of colostrum will increase duration of breastfeeding and rates of breastfeeding exclusivity. A secondary measure will be time to lactogenesis, measured with milk biomarkers to see when composition of milk changes.
Amanda Levinson, PhD
Counselor, Postdoctoral Fellow
Stony Brook University Psychology Consortium
"Developing an Ecologically Valid Toolkit for the Assessment of Postpartum Maternal Reward Responsiveness"
Dr. Amanda Levinson uses EEG, a non-invasive affective neuroscience technique, to study the way the human brain adapts to parenthood. Her goal is to better understand how we can best support parents as they take on the challenging and important role of caregiver.
The first year of parenting a new baby can be a wonderful period of growth and development (for parents as well as for the baby), but it can also be a challenging time with many unique demands and pressures. The adjustment to parenthood is a time when new mothers are at increased risk for depression and anxiety. Brain responses to rewards are an important indicator of mental health.
Currently, there are no research methods for specifically measuring the unique rewards of early parenthood. As an SBU LINCATS fellow, Dr. Levinson is using interviews with new mothers (within the first year after baby is born) to find out what they see as most rewarding about their role as parents. Dr. Levinson's study will then use EEG/ERP techniques to measure brain responses to these specific rewarding experiences of parenting. The goal of this study is to create effective, reliable ways to measure responsiveness to the rewards of new parenting.