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WVCTSI’s Fellows Research Academy: Creating a Culture of Learning and Discovery

The West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI) is cultivating a community of learning and discovery by empowering the next generation of clinical investigators. Tailored to aspiring researchers, the Fellows Research Academy (FRA) is officially launching this fall to support the professional development of early career physicians by enhancing their research experience. The program started as a pilot program in 2020 and is co-directed by Dr. Peter Konrad, chair of Neurosurgery for the WVU School of Medicine and Dr. Joan Lakoski, WVCTSI director of Investigator Development.

“The Fellows Research Academy gives our clinical fellows the right tools to prepare themselves as astute clinicians and investigators,” said Dr. Konrad.

The two-year program provides an opportunity to learn about the numerous elements that contribute to conducting high quality, ethical clinical and translational research. The curriculum is designed to equip investigators with superior skills and knowledge needed to conduct research in an interactive, teamwork-oriented environment.

"The Fellows Research Academy helped me explore the exciting world of research at West Virginia University,” said Dr. Kurt Suter, 2022 Fellows Research Academy participant. “The education, guidance, and networking opportunities afforded to me by this program took my research to the next level."

A group of dedicated and experienced faculty serve as FRA Career Advisors to complement each fellow’s training. Collectively, these talented clinician investigators with first-hand knowledge of research challenges and opportunities offer thoughtful and constructive guidance during the fellowship training.

"The Fellows Research Academy brings together successful researchers and fellows for mentorship,” said Dr. Treah Haggerty, FRA Career Advisor, associate professor and director of the Rural Scholars Program with WVU’s Department of Family Medicine. “Each one of us brings something to the table that can be helpful to a future career as a clinician scientist. We also enjoy celebrating the successes of the fellows as they move through their training."

As professional development is a central focus of the program, fellows develop a research project, publish research findings, and/or prepare a small grant application for a WVCTSI pilot grant award. Fellows also engage in several organized FRA activities including bi-monthly didactic sessions related to conducting clinical and translational research, Principal Investigator Academy events, and quarterly networking/social events. In addition to Drs. Lakoski, Konrad, and Haggerty, the FRA program leadership team also includes principal advisor, Dr. Judith Feinberg, and co-associate directors, Ms. Debbie Lee and Dr. Jesse Thompson.

Upon graduation, fellows are equipped with the context and perspective necessary for leading and participating as a collaborator in clinical and translational research.

“The Fellows Research Academy has been a great addition to our Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program,” said Dr. Rebecca Reece, Fellowship Program director, associate professor and associate director of the Global Health Program for WVU School of Medicine and Health Sciences Center. The FRA provides a needed service to both trainees and program leadership. It provides our fellows with a foundation in research knowledge and funding opportunities while directly benefiting the professional development and program leadership in meeting ACGME requirements in our training program.”

The FRA Program accepts nominations from fellowship program directors for fellows in all years of their fellowship training program. However, Fellows who will be having a second year of training will be eligible to apply for a $10,000 Fellows Research Pilot Grant Award near the end of the academic year to conduct the proposed research in year two of the FRA Program. This will be a competitive grant application process limited to FRA Fellows who have identified a Mentor/Co-PI; these grants are for non-clinical trials only.

For additional information and questions, visit the Fellows Research Academy webpage, or email Jodie Saunders, FRA Program coordinator, at