Testimonies

Mai ElMallah, MD:
She joined the Fuller laboratory in 2010 as an MD with no prior laboratory research experience. Her training and interactions with the broader UF respiratory community led her to reevaluate her goals as a physician and convinced her to pursue an academic career. Dr. ElMallah joined the Fuller laboratory during her pediatric pulmonary fellowship because of her clinical experiences in providing respiratory care to patients with Pompe disease, and conversations with Dr. Fuller concerning ongoing studies of gene therapy attempting to reverse respiratory dysfunction in a murine model of Pompe. She quickly learned how to conduct respiratory research, and published a series of papers describing novel gene therapy approaches targeting respiratory-dysfunction. After her fellowship, Dr. ElMallah received an NIH K08 award, followed shortly by her appointment as an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts. She has already received an NIH R21 award as PI, and is an emerging leader in translational research in respiratory control. When asked about her experiences at UF, Dr. ElMallah said: “My time at UF provided me with the foundation for a successful research career. The UF respiratory
community is second to none, and I could not 
imagine a better
environment for an MD such as myself to learn the fundamentals
of respiratory research.

Daryl Fields (MD/PhD candidate):
After working as an MD/PhD student in Dr. Mitchell’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Fields chose to defer clinical training for one year to gain additional research experiences at UF, funded by an NRSA F30 and a fellowship from the United Negro College Fund. His PhD thesis concerned novel signaling pathways giving rise to respiratory motor plasticity. His decision to rejoin Dr. Mitchell at UF was fueled by his desire to refine his skills in project planning, manuscript preparation, laboratory management and translational research. During this year, he developed several novel projects related to cancer, sleep apnea and spinal injury, including conceptualization of a patent application recently filed with the USPTO. He defended his PhD in June, and resumed clinical training in July 2016. His collective experience will result in >12 publications in strong journals, and he was recognized with several national awards for research excellence. Although back in Wisconsin, he continues to maintain frequent contact with his UF collaborators and mentors. He plans to enter a residency that will allow him to advance novel therapeutics to patients with compromised breathing ability. He said about his UF experience: “the strong collaborative environment at UF exposed me to leading investigators in the respiratory neurobiology field. I know the multidisciplinary skill-set that I’ve developed has prepared me for future success as an independent physician scientist. I look forward to working with my UF colleagues on future projects!

Lauren Tabor (CCC-SLP, MS):
Lauren is a speech pathologist with a specialization in dysphagia, and is currently in her third year of the UF Rehabilitation Science PhD program. She reports: “my experience has been incredibly fulfilling. As a clinician, my training consisted primarily of anatomy and physiology and behavioral manifestations of disease, and touched very little on the neural pathways and cellular adaptations that underlie these behavioral changes. Our classes, including Neuroplasticity and the Control of Breathing and Airway Defense: Implication for Rehabilitation, consist of basic, translational and clinical scientists, which provides a comprehensive understanding of rehabilitation from the cellular through patient levels. The interdisciplinary discussion and potential for translational collaboration is one of my favorite aspects of the RSD program. As a result, my own research questions and goals are more sound, with a solid understanding of mechanisms of change
supported by principles of neuroplasticity.”