Summer 2017

Promising Futures

Two Maine Medical Center faculty members received KL2 awards.

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Photo: Courtesy of Maine Medical Center (hospital)

Alexa Craig, a neonatal and pediatric neurologist, and Teresa May, a pulmonary and neurocritical care specialist, are the first Maine Medical Center faculty members funded through the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) career development program.

They have been awarded KL2 awards (of around $325,000 each)—only about 15 percent of applicants receive funding, which comes from the National Institutes of Health. Beyond research, the grants fund Sackler School coursework, training, mentoring and seminars, explained Karen Freund, professor at the School of Medicine and KL2 program director. “These are the resources to really launch careers.”

Craig is focused on improving long-term cognitive outcomes for babies who undergo heart surgery. Research has shown that slightly reducing infants’ temperatures appears to slow or halt brain cell damage in those who have been deprived of oxygen at birth. Similarly, babies undergoing operations to repair cardiac defects are cooled to protect their brains, Craig said, and the practice has been to then warm them quickly. “My hypothesis is that the rapid rewarming was contributing to poor developmental outcomes,” she said. Her solution is postoperative hypothermia intervention, or placing babies on cooling blankets to warm them more slowly.

May is reviewing the International Cardiac Arrest Registry to see how sedation affects brain function and neurological recovery in adults who have suffered cardiac arrest. Most patients were revived via CPR, then brought to the hospital, where therapeutic hypothermia is often used to slow or prevent cell damage. May is analyzing the link between sedatives used in this treatment and any subsequent brain damage.

The relationship between Tufts University and Maine Medical Center was always intended to extend beyond student education. “Our future as an academic health center relies on growing our own scientists, and the K awards are a critical step in a young person’s scientific career,” said Peter Bates, academic dean for Maine Medical Center-Tufts School of Medicine. “Having [May and Craig] do this now is inspiring for others here, and makes others think about a career path that’s possible for them at Maine Medical.”  —Helene Ragovin

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