In her role as a research project leader, Brooke Heidenfelder, PhD, works with the CTSI Translational Population Health Research (TransPop) team to help manage the Durham side of Project Baseline. Coming from a background of academia, government, and industry projects, what Brooke enjoys most about her current role is the positive societal impact her project work can have.
“With Project Baseline, you can see the impact it has on people,” she said. “We can work toward making people’s lives better.”
Brooke and her team manage all aspects of the project lifecycle, from contracts and budgets to recruitment and community engagement. In addition, Brooke provides consultation services for Clinical and Translational Science Award pilot studies. She recently managed a Duke-UNC pilot study focused on reducing the number of blood transfusions for sickle cell patients. She is the only CTSI project leader with her hands in both TransPop and pilot studies.
Brooke became involved with Project Baseline when it was still in development. Prior to that, she was the manager of the Southeastern Diabetes Initiative (SEDI) study, which wrapped up in 2016. She was able to see the project extend its reach and make a tangible impact on people’s lives. One project that stands out to her is the effort by the former SEDI site in West Virginia to change the state policy to cover the healthcare costs of community health workers who provide home visits to high-risk diabetes patients. She hopes to be a part of more projects like SEDI and Project Baseline as the CTSI continues to grow.
“In population health, it’s important to be inclusive,” she said. “In West Virginia, we are seeing this work have a great impact not just through research, but at a policy level.”
Before coming to CTSI, Brooke helped conduct genomics and diagnostics research. It was advice from her former postdoctoral advisor at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Jane Gallagher, that helped her believe she could transition into project management.
“My advisor told me to think about myself and what I’ve done in broader terms,” she said. “So although I didn’t have specific project management experience, I had managed data, samples, and supplies for studies, met timelines and goals - all of that is project management.”
Another attractive feature of her CTSI role was the chance to take on a new learning opportunity. Brooke loves challenging herself and tackling new projects - even in her personal life, she enjoys art and cooking classes and taking up new crafts.
“I really enjoy learning new things,” she said. “If I can learn new things and have that go toward making people’s lives better, that’s always good.”