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GSBS Alum Kelly Reveles Follows Her Passion As an Assistant Professor

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Author: Kelly Reveles | Category: Career Development | GSBS Alumni | Translational Science (Ph.D.) | August 11, 2015

Kelly Reveles is an alumnae of the Translational Science Ph.D. program, a partnership between The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA)The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA)The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), and The University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH) Regional Campus in San Antonio

What is your title and what do you do now?

I'm currently an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas at Austin. In addition, I'm also an adjoint assistant professor in the Pharmacotherapy Education and Research Center at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

My primary appointment is a tenure-track academic position with the UT Austin College of Pharmacy. My responsibilities include developing and maintaining an independent research program, teaching and mentoring the next generation of pharmacists and scientists, and participating in university and professional service activities. 

My research program focuses on reducing the incidence and improving the outcomes of Clostridium difficile infections by designing, testing, and implementing effective clinical and translational strategies. 

My research approach emphasizes multidisciplinary, collaborative research in the areas of large database design and analysis, pharmacoepidemiology, comparative-effectiveness research, and implementation science.

Can you tell me about your career path? What did you study at UT Health Science Center and how did your graduate school education prepare you for your career?

In 2010, I obtained a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from UT Austin. This program provided me exceptional clinical training. My true passion, however, has always been in clinical research and the opportunity to improve patient safety through research. 

Throughout my professional program, I searched for opportunities to enhance my research skills and to discover the right path to become a successful researcher. I began this journey during my final two years of the pharmacy program, at which time I served as a research assistant for Dr. Christopher Frei. I gained laboratory skills and was also introduced to research methods and statistical analyses using national databases. This experience solidified my interest in research and prompted me to apply to graduate school.

Upon completion of my Doctor of Pharmacy degree in May 2010, I entered a research graduate program at UT Austin. This Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmaceutical Sciences program emphasized clinical research methods, biostatistics, research ethics, and medical writing. 

During my second year of this program, UT Austin, UT Health Science Center San Antonio, and UT San Antonio received accreditation for a joint Doctor of Philosophy in Translational Sciences degree. I was very interested in pursuing a degree in this novel discipline because it facilitates moving basic scientific discovery more efficiently and effectively into application. 

I applied to the Translational Science Ph.D. program the following spring and was admitted into the inaugural class. This program facilitated my growth as a researcher through coursework and multidisciplinary team building. The courses have helped me develop a strong foundation for conducting translational research. In addition to introductory translational science courses, the coursework included the following domains: research design and methods, evidence-based policy, leadership, scientific communication, responsible conduct of research, cultural proficiency, and the business of translational sciences. 

Importantly, this program enabled me to assemble an accomplished team of collaborators including the following disciplines: medicine, pharmacy, nursing, public health, biostatistics, and translational sciences. 

The rigor of the Translational Science Ph.D program enabled me to pursue high-quality, innovative research and become highly productive early in graduate school. 

I believe the quality and quantity of publications and grant funding that I obtained during the Translational Science Ph.D program greatly facilitated my offer to become UT Austin faculty immediately following graduation from the Translational Science Ph.D program and improved my competitiveness for funding during my first year as faculty.

How did you know that this was the career that you wanted?

In graduate school, I tried to give myself as many different experiences as possible, including research, teaching, and service, to tease out if there were certain areas I liked more than others that would ultimately drive my career decision. 

In the end though, I liked everything about academia - the freedom, but also the challenge, of building my own research program and being able to serve as a mentor to students. 

Teaching has always been important to me, so to be able to combine my love of research and teaching in an academic position was perfect. I also developed a passion for the study of healthcare-associated infections, and ultimately looked for a position that would allow me to pursue that passion. 

I absolutely loved coming to work every day during graduate school and I can definitely say the same now that I am in the career I envisioned.

Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you?

I spend approximately three-quarters of my time conducting clinical and translational research in infectious diseases, with a focus on Clostridium difficile infections. 

This includes a variety of activities, including project design, data gathering and analysis, manuscript preparation, and grant writing. The other quarter of my time is devoted to teaching and university and professional service activities. 

Some of these activities include providing lectures, supervising laboratory courses, mentoring Pharm.D. and graduate student research projects, advising student organizations, and participating on university committees.

What advice would you give to graduate students looking to get into the same field?

Early in graduate school, develop a vision for your future career and take as many opportunities as you can to develop the skills needed to succeed. Work to improve your writing skills and aim to publish in peer-reviewed journals regularly. 

If you are planning on pursuing an academic position where you will support yourself through research, write grant proposals now and have them critiqued by senior mentors. Grant funding received during graduate school will greatly increase your competitiveness for jobs following graduation. 

Lastly, learn how to develop a research budget and how to actually use the funds once they are awarded. This has been one of my biggest struggles as a new faculty member.

What did you wish you had known in graduate school?

Graduate school is hard, but an academic position is harder. There are definite perks to being out of school, but there are far more responsibilities once you become independent of your graduate school mentor. 

You have to balance other tasks, like teaching, college committees, and supervising your research staff. There is also the pressure to independently fund your research program, which is especially difficult as grant funding becomes more and more competitive. 

That being said, use your time in graduate school to prepare you for these things by participating in multiple activities you are likely to encounter in the career you want and build a network of professional and personal support to encourage you along the way. 

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