The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has awarded four grants through its New Investigator Program.

This grant program is designed to provide opportunities for early-career faculty to initiate new, innovative educational or research pilot projects that, if successful, can lead to further support from federal or other granting agencies. The new awards provide up to $150,000 each for the following projects:

Addressing Black Infant Mortality in Wisconsin through a Collaborative Health Equity Approach to Community-Based, Group Prenatal Care and Infant Support

Led by Jasmine Zapata, MD, MPH, Department of Pediatrics, in partnership with the Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center and its collaborative partners:  Project Babies (project of Today Not Tomorrow, Inc.), Harambee Village Doulas, and the African American Breastfeeding Alliance of Dane County, Inc., this project will implement the Today Not Tomorrow Pregnancy and Infant Support Program (TNT-PISP). This novel prenatal care approach combines three evidence-based intervention approaches: community-based doula programs, group-based models of prenatal care such as Centering Pregnancy, and community based pregnancy support group. This pilot model builds upon emerging evidence about how to effectively implement and sustain prenatal care models in Black communities. By focusing on culturally relevant care, the project aims to address the inequities in African American birth outcomes in Wisconsin.

Defining Host-Microbiome Interactions in Diabetic Wound Healing

Diabetic foot ulcers—a major, prevalent complication of diabetes—are slow healing and recurring chronic wounds that can last months or even years. A project, led by Lindsay Kalan, PhD, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, will address one of the biggest hurdles to the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers, the ability to predict if the wound will become infected and if it will eventually heal. Dr. Kalan will study how diabetic foot ulcers heal in response to treatment, and will interpret the interactions between wound tissue and the microbiome. The project will potentially guide new therapies to improve health outcomes for patients.

Identifying the Mechanisms of Nerve Regulation of Heart Regeneration

Ahmed Mahmoud, PhD, Department of Cell and Regenerative Biology, will lead a project to explore new strategies to repair the adult human heart following injury caused by heart disease, which can cause irreversible loss of part of the heart muscle. Specifically, this project aims to define the mechanisms by which a particular group of nerves—cholinergic nerves—regulate heart regeneration, following ischemic injury. The project’s findings have the potential to identify new therapeutic pathways to stimulate regeneration of the adult human heart.

Kinetochore Integrity and Cancer

Studies have implicated the failure of proper chromosome segregation, a process that is critical for cell proliferation and for maintaining life in all organisms, in both birth defects and cancer. A highly innovative project led by Aussie Suzuki, PhD, Department of Oncology, will explore the scientific premise that the kinetochore, a protein structure that forms during cell division, ensures proper chromosome segregation and prevents mitotic errors. This study will provide fundamental insights into cancer and developmental diseases by yielding new understanding of kinetochore functions.

The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health is committed to improving the health and well-being of Wisconsin residents through investments in research, education and community partnerships. It was established at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health through a gift from Blue Cross Blue Shield United of Wisconsin as a result of its conversion to a stock insurance corporation.