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Thiboutot steps down from Early-Stage Investigator Training Program (KL2)

Dr. Diane Thiboutot was a part of Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Early-Stage Investigator Training Program (KL2) since the beginning. Her contributions to the program are a significant source of its success in establishing independent investigators. After nearly a decade of mentoring a total of 22 early-stage faculty, Dr. Thiboutot stepped down as co-director of the program earlier this year.

Dr. Thiboutot, Endowed Professor of Dermatology, exemplifies a dedication to the Hershey campus’s commitment to patient care, research and education missions.

“I’ve had a fulfilling career as a physician-scientist at Penn State,” Dr. Thiboutot said. “My initial focus, nearly 30 years ago, was on maintaining a translational research laboratory, clinical research unit and clinical practice in dermatology while training undergraduates, medical students, MD/PhD students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.”

Dr. Thiboutot served leadership roles in Penn State’s Clinical Research Curriculum Award (K30) program and MD/PhD programs before joining the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. She was a member of the team that organized Penn State’s Clinical Translational Science Award Program application in 2010, served as co-director of the Early Stage Investigator Training Program since 2011 and was the principal investigator of the organization’s KL2 grant through 2020.

“A key focus of mine for the past several years has been mentorship of our next generation of translational researchers,” Dr. Thiboutot said. “I intended to provide research training and leadership opportunities for promising junior faculty as a way of ‘paying it forward.’ The KL2 was the perfect program for junior faculty that aligned with this intention as it allowed me to provide hands-on training in research and career development.”

Dr. Thiboutot co-directed the program most recently with Lorah Dorn, professor in the College of Nursing.

“Lorah Dorn has been a pleasure to work with as KL2 co-director,” Dr. Thiboutot said. “Her years of experience in research, mentorship and her devotion to our scholars is key in the current and future success of the KL2.”

Likewise, Dorn spoke highly of Dr. Thiboutot’s contributions.

“Diane was instrumental in making things happen for a successful KL2 program within the Clinical and Translational Science Institute,” Dorn said. “She was a pleasure to work with. Not only was her expertise about developing a funded lab and conducting excellent research useful to our scholars, but her extensive leadership skills were instrumental in helping them get to the next step in their careers. Diane was generous in her time, provided helpful mentorship, and knew the resources at Penn State that were helpful to junior faculty.”

Dr. Thiboutot also stepped away from her laboratory and clinical research unit and her role as associate dean of clinical and translational research education at the College of Medicine. The change gives her the flexibility and time to concentrate on contributing in different ways.

“I’ve been fortunate to have met my goals and am confident that I have exceptional colleagues to lead the teams and programs that I’ve established both within my department and the KL2,” Dr. Thiboutot said. “I enjoy seeing patients and will spend more time in clinics while continuing to mentor junior faculty within our department and within our Physician Scientist Development Programs.”

According to Dr. Larry Sinoway, director, Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute, her presence will be missed.

“I can’t even begin to summarize the influence Dr. Thiboutot had on not only our scholars but the institute in general,” Dr. Sinoway said. “She helped develop a robust KL2 award program which strengthened clinical and translational research at Penn State. Her collaborative nature and investment in the success of others are traits we will miss. She should be proud of her accomplishments, but even more so because of what a wonderful and brilliant person and colleague she is. We wish her the best in the next stage of her career.”

Of her accomplishments, Dr. Thiboutot said there is one she holds above the rest.

“I’m most proud of our scholars, their resilience and their accomplishments,” Dr. Thiboutot said. “It makes me hopeful for our future in research.”

Thoughts from program participants

The program’s scholars offered the following thoughts:

“Dr. Thiboutot has been an incredible role model for how to develop and sustain a highly productive clinical research career through a combination of talent, persistence and interpersonal effectiveness. She’s also a gifted mentor, and I’ve benefitted tremendously from her constructive and supportive feedback on my papers and research proposals over the years.”

Steffany Jane Fredman
Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies
2018-2020 Scholar

“The best thing about Diane as a mentor is that she really listened. Her calm and composed nature and clear thought process are always evident in her words. Diane went beyond her role to help her mentees. I valued her opinion and advice a lot. As a very accomplished woman physician-scientist, Diane is my inspiration.”

Chandrika Gowda, MD
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics
2018-2020 Scholar

“The part of the KL2 program that stands out to me was the monthly KL2 Seminar Series that Dr. Thiboutot arranged. She set up a mentoring network of our peers and an assigned senior research mentor not related to our research program, giving each of us KL2 trainees outstanding networking opportunities outside of our normal research circles. The monthly meetings also had a curriculum with topics key in early investigator career development that I would otherwise not have gotten early on in my career. For instance, I recall a talk about PCORI funding opportunities and creating a patient advisory board. This specific topic sparked an idea of a rheumatoid arthritis patient support group and advisory board that led to a successful project about rheumatoid arthritis patients’ interests in types of exercise programs. Thank you to Dr. Thiboutot for her support of the CTSI training programs.”

Ray June, MD
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine
2015-2017 Scholar

“As a member of the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute Executive Committee, I worked weekly with Diane and am very familiar with her mentorship roles within our KL2 Career Development Program. I have seen first-hand Diane’s incredible dedication to our University faculty and staff and her outstanding mentoring service that goes beyond the requirements of her position. Diane’s efforts have significantly benefited the University in creating successful translational scientists.”

Jennifer Kraschnewski, MD
Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Medicine
2012-2014 Scholar

“When I think of Dr. Thiboutot, I think of her wise advice and steadfast, kind support. During the KL2 experience, she gave excellent suggestions on training/coursework opportunities and co-led our regular KL2 meetings, which had very helpful topics and speakers. In the years after KL2, I continued to seek out her valuable advice as I was making key decisions. I’m greatly appreciative of her supportive mentorship throughout the past 10 years.”

Greg Lewis, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation
2012-2014 Scholar

“I remember seeking out Dr. Thiboutot at the beginning of the application process for the KL2. I expected to get maybe a few encouraging words. Instead, she sat down with me and asked me in detail about my work, application, and career goals. Just that one conversation was very motivating for me during the process of writing my application. The warm, friendly, and very astute and helpful direction continued throughout the program. Dr. Thiboutot always had thought-provoking questions and could draw upon linkages that encouraged me to stretch myself. The training environment that she created was outstanding for growth and development, and my colleagues and I owe so much of our success to her dedication!”

Erika Saunders, MD
Shively-Tan Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health
2012-2014 Scholar

“Dr. Thiboutot is very supportive of junior faculty’s research. She dedicates her time to talking with each of our KL2 scholars individually to learn about our progress and challenges and provide her useful suggestions. I really benefited from these talks and am thankful for Dr. Thiboutot’s effort. She was a wonderful director of the program, and under her leadership, my KL2 experience was a great fortune in my career.”

Ming Wang, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences
2015-2017 Scholar

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