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New program focuses on important skills required of clinical translational researchers

New program focuses on important skills required of clinical translational researchers
Kelsey Mauk, Ph.D. candidate ‘25.

Kelsey Mauk, Ph.D. candidate ‘25, is among the first cohort of 19 students to complete Baylor College of Medicine’s Clinical Translational Research Certificate of Added Qualification (CTR-CAQ) program. This new program for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences was implemented in 2020 to offer an opportunity for all Baylor Ph.D. graduate students to learn the important skills required of clinical translational researchers.

Tell us a little about your background and the Ph.D. you are pursuing at Baylor.

I’m a fourth-year student in the Baylor College of Medicine Immunology and Microbiology program studying chronic inflammatory responses to fungal infection in the Corry Lab. I was interested in the program because of the fantastic research being done in the fields of immunology and immunotherapy, and the ample opportunities for collaboration within the Texas Medical Center.

What attracted you to the CTR-CAQ program?

I knew I was interested in translational research when I started graduate school and hope to study and develop therapeutics for autoimmune diseases after graduating. The CTR-CAQ program seemed like a great way to supplement my graduate education and to prepare me for my future career goals.

What inspired the research you presented on veterans and their travel habits at the CTR-CAQ program retreat in August?

I’ve never worked with clinical data before, so it was a valuable experience to learn how to manage and analyze a clinical dataset through the travel medicine project. It was also a great opportunity as a basic scientist to look at an infectious disease issue from a purely clinical perspective. In the lab, we are so used to approaching an issue through the minutiae of biological mechanisms that we often forget how social and community factors have an equally important impact on healthcare. In the case of travel medicine, it’s essential to develop vaccines and prophylactics that are biologically effective and to ensure that all patients have the proper resources, information and access to benefit from these measures. This is particularly important for distinct patient populations, like veterans, who may be affected by different factors than the general population. To fully serve these populations, we need to understand and overcome the specific barriers to healthcare that they face.

What value has the CTR-CAQ program added to your education at Baylor? What lessons do you hope to apply in your career?

The program has improved my graduate education by exposing me to the tasks and barriers that translational researchers face and by giving me the tools and resources to overcome them. A large portion of the program focuses on hands-on experience, so I had the opportunity to practice these skills as a graduate student. I hope that my understanding of translational project planning, protocol development and clinical data management will help me succeed as I conduct translational research in the future to develop effective but accessible therapeutics to promote equity in healthcare.

Learn more about the CTR-CAQ program here.