K Accelerator Program (KAP)

Brooke Cunningham and her mentor Michele Allen

Former scholar Brooke Cunningham and her mentor Michele Allen

Position yourself for NIH K awards with support from this two-year career development program* for University of Minnesota junior faculty who are underrepresented in medicine.

* Formerly known as Pre-K Discovery Scholars Program

How we support scholars


$50,000 research funds to be expended over two years.


Requires a primary mentor and a data scientist, both chosen by the scholar. If you're unsure of who to ask, we encourage you to explore this list of potential research mentors

Training and networking

Weekly (Wednesdays, 1:15pm) K Scholar Multidisciplinary Seminars with CTSI K Accelerator and KL2 Scholars, BIRCWH (Women’s Health K12), MN LHS (Minnesota Learning Health System), and Individual K awardees.

Dedicated support

Individualized educational and training plan.


Take courses relevant to your career development needs. If you haven't taken the relevant formal coursework, the Certificate in Clinical Research equivalent or coursework in the MS in Clinical Research will be required. Funds for these courses will be provided by CTSI-Ed in addition to the $50,000 award.

“The support I’m receiving as a scholar has been a game-changer. Without CTSI funding, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”

Glenn Simmons Jr., PhD, on his COVID-19 research

Student cleaning lab equipment

How we evaluate program success

Current scholars

Current scholars

Sarah Kaja, PhD (ECRA Scholar)

Department of Pediatrics
Mentors: Iris W. Borowsky, Marla E. Eisenberg, Alicia Kunin-Batson, Claudia Fox, Daheia Barr-Anderson, Kade Goepferd
Project title:  A Synergistic Solution: Piloting a Physical Activity-Based Positive Youth Development Program to Support Transgender and Gender Diverse (TGD) Adolescents' Mental Health

Jesse Kowalski, PT, DPT, PhD (ECRA Scholar)

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine
Mentor: Damien Fair
Project title: Multimodal assessment of early sensorimotor function after perinatal stroke

Nathan Mesfin, MD (ECRA Scholar)

Department of Medicine
Mentors: R. Adams Dudley, Renda Soylemez Wiener, Steven Fu
Project title: Understanding hospital and provider level variations in end-of-life care delivery within the M. Health Fairview and in National Sample

Ebiere Okah, MD, MSCR (ECRA Scholar)

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
Mentors: Michele Allen, Pamela Lutsey, Diana Burgess
Project title: Cultural essentialism in clinical care

Edgar Peña, PhD (ECRA Scholar)

Department of Biomedical Engineering
Mentors: Hubert Lim, Brenda Ogle, Andrew Alleyne, Sayeed Ikramuddin

Gianna Rea-Sandin, PhD (KAP Scholar)

Department of Pediatrics
Mentor: Iris Borowsky
Project title: Exploring mechanisms of the intergenerational transmission of substance use during adolescence and adulthood using complementary causally informative study designs

Cliff Whetung, PhD (KAP Scholar)

Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health
Mentor: Kristen Jacklin

Saydra Wilson, MD  (KAP Scholar)

Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Mentors: Alik Wedge, John Connett
Project title: Feasibility of Closed-loop Phase-locked TMS

Serena Xiong, PhD, MPH (ECRA Scholar)

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
Mentors: Rebekah Pratt, Rahel Ghebre, Michele Allen

Former scholars

Former scholars

Sian Durward Akhurst, BVMS, MS, PhD

Veterinary Clinical Sciences
Mentors: Chris Stauthammer, Samuel Dudley, Aaron Rendahl
Project title: Genetic mechanisms of sudden cardiac death in racehorses as a model for sudden arrhythmic death syndrome in human athletes

Selma Carlson, MD, FACC

Minneapolis VA Medical Center/Department of Medicine
Mentors: Kristine Ensrud, John Connett
Project title: Evaluation of left bundle branch area pacing as a rescue strategy for cardiac resynchronization therapy non-response in patients with heart failure: A randomized controlled pilot study

Brooke Cunningham, MD, PhD

Primary mentor: Diana Burgess
Additional mentors: Kola Okuyemi, Todd Rockwood, Richard Lee, Jim Hodges
Project title: Health Equity Climate: Survey Development  

Naomi Duke, MD, MPH

Primary mentor: Michael Resnick
Additional mentor: Barbara McMorris
Project title: Identifying Mechanisms for Health Disparities: Exploring the Impact of Youth Survival Expectations on Future Health

Bernadette Gillick, PhD, MS, PT 

Primary mentor: Kelvin Lim 
Additional mentor: Lei Zheng
Project title: Safety of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Pediatric Hemiparesisurrent Stimulation in Pediatric Hempiaresis 

David Haynes II, PhD, MS 

Institute for Health Informatics
Primary Mentor: Anne Joseph
Additional Mentors: Tim Beebe, Adams Dudley, Constantin Aliferis, Sisi Ma
Project Title: Understanding Cancer Disparities at the Local Level

Guatam Jha, MBBS, MS

Primary mentor: Jeffrey Miller 
Additional mentor: Bardinath Konety, Bevan Yueh, and Chap Le
Project title: Potentiation of Cetuximab by Tregs Depletion With Metronomic Cyclophosphamide in Metastatic Squamous Cell Cancers of Head and Neck

Anne Marie Leuck, MD

Primary mentor: Gary Dunny
Additional mentor: Wiehua Guan
Project title: The role of rifampin in treatment of left ventricular assist device driveline functions

Stephanie Misono, MD, MPH

Primary mentor: Patricia Frazier
Additional mentor: Dipankar Bandyopadhyay
Project title: Development of Online Intervention for Distressed Voice-Disordered Patients

Nakita Natala, MD

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Mentors: Suma Jacob, Ann Brearley
Project Title: Designing a digital developmental screening package for Autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders in Ghana

Hai Dang Nguyen, PhD

Department of Pharmacology
Mentors: David Largaespada, Lin Zhang
Project Title: Targeting R-loop regulation in myelodysplastic syndromes

Ronald Ordinola Zapata, DDS, MS, PhD

Department of Endodontics
Mentors: Alex Fok, Weihua Guan
Project title: Optimization of root canal therapy through the use of minimally invasive procedures

Radha Rajasingham, MD

Primary mentor: David Boulware
Additional mentor: John Connett and Kathy Huppler-Hullsiek
Project title: Integration of Cryptococcal Antigen Screening into routine HIV care in Uganda

Scott Reule, MD

Primary mentor: Robert Foley
Additional mentors: Areef Ishani, David Gilbertson
Project title: Outcomes and Risk Prediction After Provider Switch

Erica Schorr, PhD, BSBA, RN

Primary mentor: Ruth Lindquist 
Additional mentor: David Vock
Project title: Utilizing Wearable Technology to Monitor Physical Activity and Sleep After Coronary Revascularization 

Rebecca Shlafer, PhD

Primary mentor: Michael Resnick
Additional mentor: Wendy Hellerstedt
Project title: Nutritional Status and Unmet Needs among Incarcerated Women of Reproductive Age

Glenn E. Simmons Jr., PhD 

Department of Medicine, UMD
Primary mentor: Peter Bitterman
Additional mentors: Ashley Petersen
Project title: Development of a novel lung cancer screening assay for high-risk patient populations

Stefani Thomas, PhD 

Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology
Primary Mentor: Reuben Harris
Additional Mentors: Rachel Vogel, Weihua Guan
Project Title: Proteome-level predictors of improved response to PARP inhibitor therapy in ovarian cancer

Lucie Turcotte, MD

Primary mentor: Mike Verneris
Additional mentor: Xianghua Luo
Project title: The Role of the Immune System in Development of Cardiometabolic Syndrome Among Survivors of Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation

Michael Usher, MD, PhD

Primary mentor: Anne Joseph
Additional mentor: Weihua Guan
Project title: Health Outcomes of Inter-hospital Transfers: Improving Health Care Delivery at the Local and National Level

Byron Vaughn, MD

Primary mentor: Alexander Khoruts
Additional mentor: Kyle Rudser
Project title: A Pilot Study to Characterize Bile Acid Metabolism and Dysbiosis in Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Beshay Zordoky, PhD

Primary mentor: Pamala Jacobson
Additional mentor: Haitao Chu
Project title: Preclinical Model of Juvenile Doxorubicin-induced Cardiotoxicity


Nancy Sherwood, PhD
Director, K Accelerator Program (KAP)


[email protected]

Megan Larson, Operations Manager
[email protected]