The Division has held an active NIH T-32 Fellowship Training Grant since 1975, supporting the development of future investigators in Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine. To facilitate the development of an academic career, approximately one half of the Fellow’s time is devoted to research training during the 3 years of fellowship. These mechanisms of support, in conjunction with fellow-specific mentorship programs led by the Program Director and an Associate Program Director for Research, have enabled many of our fellows to establish careers in academic medicine. A list of graduates from our program who have taken positions at academic medical centers can be found at the following link: Recent graduates.
The North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute at UNC-CH is one of 60 medical research institutions working together as a national consortium to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. This consortium, funded through the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA), shares a common vision to reduce the time it takes for laboratory discoveries to become treatments for patients, and to engage communities in clinical research efforts. To achieve these goals, TraCS offers a number of programs and services to assist researchers, including pulmonary fellows, through all phases of the process of translating basic science discoveries into meaningful health advances. The NC TraCS institute sponsors a CTSA KL2 Program whose mission is to train and develop junior investigators who will become the next generation of successful translational and clinical researchers. Clickto read more about our CTSA KL-2 program.
Planning for research begins during the clinical year. In the fall of the first year, each fellow meets with the program directors to discuss their research interests and career goals, and the research opportunities that will best serve the fellow in achieving his or her career goals. Over the winter the Fellow’s research interests are solidified and prospective mentors are discussed. By the spring of the first year a research mentor is chosen and a research plan formulated. Each fellow develops and executes, with the help of a faculty mentor, a basic or clinical research project. Fellows are trained in grantsmanship and are guided in the 1) submission of applications for extramural funding, 2) presentation of their work at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, 3) submission of manuscripts to peer-reviewed scientific journals, and 4) presentation of their work through seminars at Division research conferences.
Basic and translational research in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at UNC is conducted out of three distinct centers on the UNC Medical Campus. A brief description of each center is provided below:
Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology (CEMALB)
This is a UNC research center that Prof. Philip Bromberg (Pulmonary Medicine) was instrumental in establishing in 1979, and directed until 2002 at which time the current director, Dr. David Peden, was appointed. Peden is Prof. of Pediatrics and the director of their division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology. CEMALB is located on the UNC Medical Campus in a building (Human Research Facility) leased by the US Environmental Protection Agency. CEMALB has had a continuous series of Cooperative Agreements with US EPA since 1980. Other sources of funding include NIH, FAMRI, Health Effects Institute. The building contains multiple human exposure chambers staffed and equipped to deliver various gaseous and particulate air pollutants such as ozone, chlorine, diesel engine exhaust, wood smoke, etc. There is a well-equipped bronchoscopy suite as well as pulmonary function testing equipment and exercise equipment. Dr. William Bennett’s laboratory conducts human studies involving gamma camera imaging of deposition and clearance. Dr. Bennett (Pulmonary Medicine) collaborates with Dr. Scott Donaldson (Pulmonary Medicine) in studies of cystic fibrosis. The building also has cell culture and pollutant exposure facilities, cell and molecular biology laboratories, a confocal microscopy laboratory, a flow-cytometry laboratory, a “Sea-Horse” machine for measuring mitochondrial function in intact cells, etc. We collaborate with EPA scientists housed in the building. Bromberg’s principal EPA collaborator is Dr. James Samet (e.g., P. Wages, K. Lavrich, Z. Zhang, W-Y. Cheng, E. Cortiselli, A. Gold, P. Bromberg, S. Simmons, J. Samet. “Protein Sulfenylation: A Novel Readout of Environmental Oxidant Stress”, Chem. Res. in Toxicol. 2015). Drs. Peden, M. Hernandez and N. Alexis (Dept. Pediatrics) study mechanisms of acute airways inflammation provoked by various inhalational exposures and the effect of administration of agents designed to mitigate such effects. Drs. Samet and Hai-yan Tong (EPA) are studying the effect of administration of fish oil and olive oil on cardiac and vascular changes provoked by ozone exposure. Cardiology collaborators in the Human Research Facility include Dr. Wayne Cascio (director of the Environmental Public Health Division of EPA’s Health Effects Laboratory) and Prof. Alan Hinderliter (UNC Cardiology). There are macro- and micro- (retinal) vascular ultrasound and imaging laboratories. Other EPA scientists with whom we collaborate include Dr. David Diaz-Sanchez, Dr. Robert Devlin, Dr. Andrew Ghio, Dr. Michael Madden and Dr. Shaun McCullough. Profs. Milan Hazucha (Pulmonary Medicine) and Johnny Carson (Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine) have made many important contributions over a 40 year period but will soon be retiring from UNC.
Dr. Ilona Jaspers, Associate Director of CEMALB is the director of the UNC Toxicology Curriculum. Apart from her own research she collaborates with Dr. Rebecca Fry and Dr. Jason Surratt in the Environmental Sciences and Engineering Dept (UNC School of Public Health, also located on the UNC Medical Campus). Prof. Surratt is a leader in the study of atmospheric chemistry and the generation of secondary organic aerosols which may well turn out to be important species of toxic ambient air particulate matter. Citations of recent publications of above-mentioned, highlighted individuals can be found in PubMed.
For more information about ongoing research in the CEMALB, please follow the link here.
Cystic Fibrosis/Pulmonary Research and Treatment Center (CF-PRT)
Originally developed to study the pathogenesis of cystic fibrosis (CF), this center has grown into one of the world’s largest research centers in epithelial cell biology. Research involving all aspects of airway epithelial cell biology is conducted in the CF-PRT, housed on 5 floors of the Thurston-Bowles Building. Researchers in the CF-PRT have used physiologic, genetic, molecular, and informatics techniques to dissect the pathophysiology of CF, and are now using this knowledge to translate their basic science discoveries into new therapies for patients. In addition to continued investigation into the pathogenesis of CF, the research infrastructure developed in the CF-PRT over the past 30 years is now being exploited to study other major airway diseases including COPD, asthma, and non-CF bronchiectasis. For more information about research in the CF-PRT, please use the following link: CF-PRT
Center for Airways Disease
The goal of the Center for Airways Disease is to further our conceptual and mechanistic understanding of diseases that affect the airways of the lungs, particularly smoking-related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, as well as lung infections, including pneumonia. The Center’s mission is to stimulate research that defines airways disease at a molecular level, enabling early diagnosis, prognosis and personalized treatment of patients with these lung diseases. The ultimate goal is to translate research findings into better care for residents of North Carolina and throughout the nation, addressing both the disease predictors and therapies and the social and behavioral aspects of these diseases through the tools of individualized medicine. The Center for Airways Disease is located in the Medical Biomolecular Research Building on the UNC Medical Campus.
While the CEMALB and CF-PRT conduct clinical trials in addition to basic and translational studies, the majority of clinical research is conducted out of the Division. The UNC Pulmonary and Critical Care Division conducts clinical trials and outcomes research in a number of areas including asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis (including CF, PCD, and idiopathic bronchiectasis), sarcoidosis, pulmonary hypertension, ARDS, sepsis and prolonged mechanical ventilation. As a member of the NIH-supported ARDSnet clinical trials network, we have the opportunity to lead and participate in clinical trials of the most promising new therapies for acute lung injury. Clinical trials in critical care are complemented by outcomes studies using longitudinal cohort models and analyses of large databases. The clinical trials group seeks to translate innovative medical ideas into useful clinical therapies and assess the impact of those therapies on patient outcome. Clinical trials research staff and clinical researchers are based in the administrative home of the Division in the Bioinformatics Building.