Research Scholars Program welcomes 4th cohort, advancing health care perspectives

Dr. Aubrey Jones of the College of Social Work is part of a new UK cohort to advance research by diverse faculty member disciplines.
Top row left to right: Mautin Barry-Hundeyin, Cheavar Blair, Aubrey Jones. Bottom row left to right: Erica Littlejohn, Hend Mansoor, Jessica Thompson.

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This article was originally published by Lindsay Travis of UKNow.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 6, 2024) — The University of Kentucky’s Research Scholars Program (RSP) has welcomed its fourth cohort made up of six faculty whose expertise spans a broad range of research foci. The program is aimed at advancing research by promoting the success of a diverse group of faculty.

RSP was created by the Office of the Vice President for Research in 2020, with support from the Office for Faculty Advancement, the Center for Health Equity Transformation and the many units that provide support for participating faculty members. In 2024, RSP is being supported by the colleges of Medicine, Social Work, Pharmacy and Nursing.

RSP is aligned with national priorities for research diversity, including the National Institutes of Health’s goal of creating cultures of inclusive excellence by implementing well-integrated, evidence-based strategies and evaluating their impact. ​

“We eagerly welcome a fourth cohort of members to the Research Scholars Program and look forward to seeing the valuable contributions they will make, adding to this program’s success,” said Nancy Schoenberg, Ph.D., RSP co-director. “Our goal is to bring a diverse group of junior faculty to the table, nurture their talents and set them up for continued research success here at UK. This is an intensive program with a concerted focus on mentorship and we are thrilled to see that continue with this incredible cohort.”

There are three main pillars of RSP:  professional development, multilevel mentorship and networking. Those categories were determined after using survey, focus group and interview data, evidence-based programs and input from a 15-member Faculty Advisory Committee.

“The design of the Research Scholars Program was purposefully and intentionally crafted to reduce isolation and facilitate connections within the research community and across campus,” said Kevin Pearson, Ph.D., RSP co-director. “We can’t do it alone and have so many of our talented faculty to thank for their diligence and continued support of this program.”

Scholars receive extensive training in writing research grant applications through a boot camp led by Hannah Knudsen, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Behavioral Science in the College of Medicine.

RSP also trains junior faculty in publishing, communication and networking. They receive coaching, and mentorship from near-peers, senior investigators and sponsors, and are embedded in a supportive community of scholars. While an intensive program, the goal also includes enjoying interacting through monthly meetups, writing groups and other special events.

The faculty cohort will receive sponsorship through UK’s health-related transdisciplinary Research Priority Areas (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes & obesity, equity, neuroscience and substance use).

Programming for Cohort 4 runs from April 2024 to March 2025. You can learn more about RSP online here.

Cohort 4 faculty

  • Mautin Barry-Hundeyin, Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, Leveraging innate immune networks to reverse resistance to check-point based immunotherapies in pancreatic and gastric cancer.
  • Cheavar Blair, Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, The use of human induced pluripotent stem cell–derived cardiomyocytes to study the impact of cancer drugs, inherited mutations, and altered circadian rhythms on the mechanical function of the heart. 
  • Aubrey Jones, College of Social Work, Health equity for women and families, focusing on access to mental and physical healthcare for new mothers and rural families. Improving social worker outcomes in rural communities​.
  • Erica Littlejohn, Department of Behavioral Science, College of Medicine, Childhood maltreatment’s impact on the risk and progression of cognitive impairment and dementia across the lifespan, as well as the mechanism(s) driving its neuropathology.
  • Hend Mansoor, College of Pharmacy, Identifying factors and disparities associated with poor medication adherence and risk factor control among patients with cardiovascular disease and stroke. Designing targeted interventions and prediction tools to improve clinical outcomes among these high-risk individuals.
  • Jessica Thompson, College of Nursing, Guideline-directed medication therapy in heart failure, particularly looking at gender differences and systematic implementation issues. Supplemental interests include end-of-life attitudes and beliefs related to patients with a cardiac device.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It’s all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.  

For over 85 years, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky has been a leader in education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the CoSW works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways.

As the state’s flagship university, our mission is actualized through our deeds. Our faculty are renowned academicians dedicated to fostering the development of high-quality practitioners and researchers. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world.