The Duke CTSA KL2 program provides training and research opportunities for junior investigators. KL2 scholars will leave the program equipped with the skills to be successful, independent investigators, making contributions across the research spectrum from laboratory observations to health interventions for individuals and community populations. This year, three new investigators will join the program: Amanda Eudy, PhD; Kevin Southerland, MD; and Sarahn Wheeler, MD.
As a KL2 scholar, Amanda Eudy’s research will focus on the clinical care of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues, causing widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organs. In addition to inflammatory manifestations, patients often remain disabled by fatigue, myalgia, mood disturbance, and cognitive dysfunction. Through her project, Amanda hopes to develop a composite measure to distinguish between these two dimensions of SLE.
Amanda was initially drawn to this topic by the challenge it presented. Developing a model to differentiate between the two dimensions of SLE may help lead to better solutions for patients, something that clinicians have been working on for years.
“My hope is that this model will help improve patient-physician communication by acknowledging previously overlooked symptoms that are better understood through our conceptual model,” Amanda said.
When she heard she’d been accepted as a KL2 scholar, Amanda was excited that she’d have the chance to move this research forward. She is eager to work with investigators from the School of Medicine and Population Health Sciences on her project.
“I’m looking forward to working with my mentors and taking courses to learn new skills in qualitative methods, patient-reported outcome measures, and implementation science,” she said. “Ultimately, I’m excited to have the protected research time to dive deeper into our conceptual model and improve the quality of life for patients with SLE.”
As a vascular surgeon, Kevin Southerland’s research will look at peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a circulatory disorder in which narrowed blood vessels reduce blood flow to the lower extremities. His research has already shown that muscle satellite cells (MuSC) is a key determinant of the most severe form of PAD. He hopes to continue looking at this link.
Kevin has been treating patients with PAD for years, and that inspired him to tackle this research question. His goals as a KL2 scholar are to examine mechanisms for the development of the most severe form of this disease and discover new therapies.
Kevin was initially attracted to the KL2 program due to its commitment to helping scholars improve the translational process, a passion he shares. He is also looking forward to the mentorship and career development opportunities that come with the program.
“I was honored to be selected as KL2 scholar,” Kevin said. “It is an amazing community for scholarship. It is truly a privilege to be a part of this group.”
After hearing about the KL2 program for the last few years, Sarahn Wheeler decided to apply this year. As a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, Sarahn’s research will look at whether the incorporation of 17-P, a progesterone medicine for pregnant women, will help reduce preterm birth rates. Sarahn hopes to specifically look at non-Hispanic black women for this project.
“I work in the clinic, and I see women in the community who are affected by this,” Sarahn said. “I was drawn to the surgical field because I saw it as an opportunity to fix some of these problems.”
After seeing friends and colleagues go through the KL2 program, the knowledge gained and the value of the experience for these graduates, Sarahn is eager to get started. She is looking forward to working with mentors and team members who have different areas of expertise, and she’s also excited to use the funding as a means to jumpstart her research.
“Through the resources and independent funding the program offers, I hope to use this opportunity to help improve the lives of women and families in the community,” she said.