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Published May 02, 2019
New University of Wyoming Assistant Professor Danielle Bruns has earned a prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to fund research on heart disease, expanding UW’s medical research program and increasing Wyoming’s appeal to other top researchers.
Bruns joined UW in August 2018 and teaches in both the College of Health Sciences’ Division of Kinesiology and Health Promotion and the University of Washington School of Medicine’s WWAMI Medical Education Program at UW.
She says her research focus is to “identify new or repurpose existing therapies for patients with heart failure,” with her grant-funded project specifically testing an FDA-approved diabetes drug for potential benefits in cardiac health.
Bruns’ five-year, $660,510 grant -- the Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award, which comes from NIH’s National Institute on Aging -- brings prestige to Wyoming, says Division of Kinesiology and Health Promotion Director Derek Smith.
“Dr. Bruns is an outstanding scientist on a very positive trajectory,” Smith says. “The peer-reviewed award she earned and worked tirelessly to transfer to UW is evidence of her innovative research and growing national reputation.”
This achievement brings tangible benefits. According to WWAMI Director Tim Robinson, Bruns’ accomplishment increases UW’s “appeal to other top scientists drawn to faculty positions.” Additionally, the medical research opportunities Bruns offers medical students means they can do high-quality research in Wyoming without having to transfer out of state for research opportunities.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.,” says College of Health Sciences Interim Dean David Jones. “Dr. Bruns’ award and research expertise in heart disease demonstrate the commitment of the College of Health Sciences to elevating the research mission of the university -- and our desire to find answers to causes and treatments of prevalent diseases and conditions that will have a significant impact on the health and well-being of the people of Wyoming.”
When teaching WWAMI students, Bruns says she focuses on the idea that “what I do in the lab has to be relevant to the patients they will eventually treat.” She makes sure students also consider the impact of laboratory science in advancing clinical practice.
“Dr. Bruns’ molecular and animal research models have already made two significant impacts. They have significantly advanced translational bench-to-bedside research capacity to solve pressing health issues and opened tremendous experiential learning and research training opportunities for kinesiology and WWAMI students,” Smith says. “This is attractive to and valued by students in both programs, as evidenced by several students joining her research team.”
Robinson says, “The NIH has endorsed (Bruns’) research to the point that they’re willing to fund it at a high level. We have top researchers at UW, and she’s an example of that.”
WWAMI also welcomes new instructors Emily Schmitt, another assistant professor in the Division of Kinesiology and Health Promotion; and Karen Mruk, an assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy.
Smith says Department of Molecular Biology faculty members Jason Gigley and Peter Thorsness supported Bruns’ research while the Division of Kinesiology and Health Promotion finished renovations to support research capacity for Bruns, Schmitt and their teams.