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Brain Health Training Program (BHTP)

The Brain Health Training Program (BHTP) represents a comprehensive and integrated vision for the region’s research and clinical efforts around dementia, AD, and brain health.  The rapid growth of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) diagnoses and accompanying federal research funding increases are driving the need to recruit and rapidly train a new generation of investigators who will accelerate ADRD research efforts. The BHTP provides a long-term foundation to sustain and grow a robust education and training effort to develop the next generation of scientists, clinicians, and other frontline health care workers fighting the disease. 

From our weekly Journal Club and Collaborative research Workgroup, JayCReW, to didactic offerings, to informal one-on-one mentoring and hands-on projects, trainees will develop skills that will benefit them throughout their careers.

The BHTP consists of parallel and cohesive tracks for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students:

  1. Graduate Scholars Program for Ph.D.and M.D./Ph.D. students 
  2. Fellowship for Postdoctoral Fellows 
  3. Summer Program for undergraduate and medical students – in development
  4. Clinical Fellowships in
    • Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology  
    • Stroke – in development
  5. Clinical Fellowship for Advanced Practice Providers (nurse practitioners and physician assistants) – in development

BHTP Fellows will be funded for a period of 2 years to advance their postdoctoral research and training.  The objective of the Postdoctoral Scholars Program is to develop ADRD researchers with essential research skills who will have an immediate impact on aging and dementia research. Postdoctoral fellows employed by KUMC or KU-Lawrence under the mentorship of a BHTP mentor (see Primary Faculty Mentors and ADRD Research Areas) are eligible to apply.   

Postdoctoral fellows will spend the majority of their time in their mentor’s laboratory or research group working on their research project. Postdoctoral fellows will also complete all the Core Training Activities, including submission of an NIH F32 or K-type training grant by the first quarter of their second year.  

The BHTP has identified core competencies at each level of training based on expert analysis and the CTSA system. See Core (Required) Training Activities for BHTP Graduate Scholars and Fellows  information.

The program is open for applications at various time points throughout the year.  Email Brenda Aylward at baylward2@kumc.edu for information.  

BHTP Graduate Scholars will be funded for a period of 2 years to advance their Ph.D. work.  Students in any Ph.D. program whose interest aligns with brain aging and dementia on the KU Medical Center and KU-Lawrence campus are eligible beginning in their 2nd year after identifying their research focus and mentors.  Students must be working with an approved BHTP mentor (see Primary Faculty Mentors and ADRD Research Areas).

Scholars will complete the BHTP’s Core Training Activities, which include submitting an F30 (for M.D.-Ph.D.s) or an F31 Predoctoral Fellowship award (or equivalent external predoctoral training grant) by the end of their first year as a funded BHTP scholar.

See Core (Required) Training Activities for BHTP Graduate Scholars and Fellows  information.

The program is open for applications at various time points throughout the year.  Email Brenda Aylward at baylward2@kumc.edu for information. 

The KU ADRC’s Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology Fellowship is accredited by the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties (UCNS), the premier organization in the U.S. committed to promoting high-quality patient-centered care across neurologic subspecialties.   

The program director, Dr. Ryan Townley, received UCNS training at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, and has created a training program that focuses on establishing strong clinical training. Dr. Townley directly mentors the allocated clinical training in the first year of the fellowship. Being the only tertiary academic center within a 250-mile radius, we see all variations of neurodegenerative diseases: dementia with Lewy bodies, variants of primary progressive aphasias, posterior cortical atrophy, young-onset dysexecutive Alzheimer’s disease, amnestic predominant Alzheimer’s disease, hippocampal sclerosis, normal pressure hydrocephalus, behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal syndrome.  Case-based lectures are offered monthly and trainees become proficient in recognizing and managing these diseases throughout the fellowship.  

Cognitive and behavioral neurology is a rapidly evolving field with new biomarkers assisting with diagnosis and improving our clinical trial enrollment process. Currently, we think of these cases as putting a puzzle together and coming up with the most accurate diagnosis. The clinical history and the ability to ask the right questions in the right manner make up an essential piece of that puzzle and are the backbone of clinical training. The clinical examination, from basic cognitive screening tools to more advanced testing tools, i.e. simultanagnosia testing for posterior cortical atrophy, is another essential piece of that puzzle. Being able to evaluate and interpret neuroimaging (i.e. MRI and FDG-PET) represents another important piece that is often overlooked. Molecular neuroimaging is the future in helping confirm difficult diagnoses and to help understand the neuroanatomy and pathophysiology underlying these diseases. This will be an additional focus of this fellowship.  

The fellowship is flexible with a one-year track focused on clinical training and a two-year track allowing more time for gaining research experience. Drs. Jeffrey Burns, Russell Swerdlow, and Eric Vidoni are assistant program directors of the fellowship and have built a world-class Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center with a large body of NIH-funded projects.  The KU ADRC offers diverse research experience (e.g. clinical research, lab/bench research, exercise physiology, drug trials, and grant writing) to help train fellows interested in all aspects of a career in academic neurology. We will offer flexible time for any statistical classes or grant writing classes/workshops as well.    

At this stage of the BHTP Pipeline, BHTP faculty will work with junior faculty to navigate use of KU ADRC resources, especially with consultation, scientific resources and undergraduate and graduate assistants from further up the BHTP pipeline. Junior faculty are strongly encouraged to consult with BHTP faculty and apply for the ADRC Developmental Project Program.

Undergraduate Internship

We believe that providing research opportunities to undergraduates is critical to building a strong medical research workforce. The Developing Scholar Internship will expose undergraduate students* to research training in brain aging and dementia through structured projects. Projects will emphasize developing good research practice skills.

Participants will be assigned projects based on KU ADRC members' ongoing research programs. Example projects include neuroimaging processing through established protocols; analysis of existing datasets to answer a hypothesis; development of a standard operating procedure for handling of activity monitoring devices and data for an exercise prescription trial; and exposure to molecular-based biomedical research laboratories pursuing AD research projects.

*We are unable to accommodate individuals under 18 years of age for volunteer or training opportunities in our research or clinic offices.

Emporia State University/KU ADRC Developing Scholars Summer Internship Program

The KU ADRC and Emporia State University are partnering to increase the diversity of our scientific workforce through the BHTP Internship program. The program selects one individual with a background that is historically underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences, which includes: individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. If you are an undergraduate student at Emporia State University with an interest in a research career related to issues of aging contact Dr. Jennifer Thomas, jthomas@emporia.edu. A small stipend is provided for the 12-week internship on the KU Medical Center campus through the Marian Van Dyke and Faith Vidoni Educational Fund.


First-Year Medical Student Training Program (PAIRS)

As part of the University of Kansas, the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center is dedicated to helping prepare the next generation of health care providers. We have established the PAIRS program in partnership with the Landon Center on Aging and the KU School of Medicine. The approach “pairs” first-year medical students with people who have been diagnosed with MCI or are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. The program enables the students to expand their knowledge and understanding of the subtleties and implications of early diagnosis.

For additional information, contact Michelle Niedens at cniedens2@kumc.edu

Watch a news clip about the PAIRS program.

Program Coordinator: Brenda Aylward is the BHTP program coordinator and is responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the program 

The BHTP is led by a Board of Directors that defines the overall direction of the program and reviews applicants for training slots.  The Internal Advisory Committee is responsible for monitoring the overall progress and quality of the program and reviews and approves the Board’s recommendations for new scholars. 

BHTP Board of Directors

Board Member

Title

Jeffrey Burns, M.D.

T32 Co-PI, ADRC P30 Associate Director, Clinical Core Director

Sandra Billinger, Ph.D.

T32 Co-PI, ADRC P30, Asst Director, Imaging Core

Eric Vidoni, Ph.D.

ADRC P30, RL5/P30 Research Education Component Director

Russell Swerdlow, M.D.

ADRC P30 Director

Jaime Perales, Ph.D.

ADRC P30 Director of Inclusive Science

Jill Morris, Ph.D.

ADRC P30 Developmental Projects Director

Amber Watts, Ph.D.

Director, BRANCH Clinical Psychology Research PracticumKU-Lawrence

Ryan Townley, M.D.

Behavioral Neurology Clinical Fellowship Director

Internal Advisory Committee

Committee Member Title

Randy Nudo, Ph.D.

T32 Program Director, Neurological and Rehabilitation Sciences; 
Director, Landon Center on Aging 

Margaret Smith, M.D.

Associate Dean, Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Assistant Director, Orr Learning
Director, Orr Learning Society

Brenda Rongish, Ph.D.

Associate Director of the Medical Scientist Training Program (T32)

Jaime Perales, Ph.D.

Director of Inclusive Science, KU ADRC; Assistant Director of the ORE Core, KU ADRC

Doug Wright, Ph.D.

Kansas INBRE Principal Investigator; Co-Director, Bi-Campus Neuroscience Graduate Program; Obesity/Metabolism T32 Co-Director

Julie Christianson, Ph.D.

Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program; Director Biomedical Research Training Program

Scholar Representative

TBN

KU Alzheimer's Disease Research Center

KU Clinical Research Center
4350 Shawnee Mission Parkway
Mailstop 6002
Fairway, KS 66205
913-588-0555
Email: kuadrc@kumc.edu