Clinical Fellowship Program @ NIMH

>>MARK NICIU: I first learned about
the Clinical Fellowship in 2010 when I was invited to the NIMH for the
Outstanding Resident Training Program as a third-year adult
psychiatry resident at Yale. At that time, I met Dr. Joyce Chung,
the Clinical Fellowship Training Director, and my
eventual research mentor, Dr. Carlos Zarate, whose work I was
already aware of due to my burgeoning interest in ketamine as an
experimental treatment for major depression. On this visit, we discussed the
possibility of coming to the NIMH for fellowship after residency,
and, in the following year, I was torn between remaining at
Yale or joining the NIMH Experimental Therapeutics and
Pathophysiology Branch. After much deliberation,
I decided on the latter, which has been the best
academic decision of my life. The clinical research resources at
the NIMH are unparalleled in the United States and
maybe even in the World. There are three
research-dedicated inpatient units, including the 12-bed Mood and Anxiety
Disorders unit where I have worked for the past six years, and a
dedicated outpatient psychiatric research clinic. Both have amazing clinical, nursing
and other ancillary staff dedicated not only to the NIMH’s research
mission but also to providing the best psychiatric treatment possible. I have had the opportunity to work
with some of the largest depression datasets in the world to answer
critical research questions on the antidepressant response to ketamine
and other experimental therapies in treatment-resistant depression. I have received exceptional
supervision from Carlos, Joyce, the Office of the Clinical
Director and the Office of the Scientific Director. I’ve also had access to world-class
colleagues in neuroimaging and statistics for didactic
instruction and consultation. Finally, I had the opportunity to
write and initiate a new clinical research protocol on potential
alcohol-sensitive biomarkers of ketamine’s antidepressant response. This study was approved in 2014 and
was the basis for my 2016 K99R00 NIH “Pathway to Independence” award. There have also been incredible
opportunities for collaboration both within the NIMH and across
other NIH Institutes and Centers. My branch’s collaborations with the
NIMH Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy core facility has been instrumental
for the high-resolution detection of glutamate in the prefrontal cortex of
depressed patients both prior to and during alcohol and ketamine
infusions in the scanner. I have also fostered and sustained
numerous collaborations with the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The NIAAA Section on Human
Psychopharmacology instructed me in the technical aspects of
pharmacokinetically-defined alcohol infusions. Finally, my collaborations with
the NIAAA Laboratory of Human Neurogenetics allowed me to follow my
basic and translational interests in pluripotent stem cell models of major
depression to study the molecular and cellular effects of ketamine, its
bioactive metabolites and potentially other compounds in the future. This collaboration was critical in my
receipt of a 2-year NARSAD/Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
Young Investigator Award in 2016. Finally, and where the rubber
really hits the road for any training program, I felt very confident to
enter the academic job market in 2017. After a competitive recruitment, I
was offered a tenure-track Assistant Professor possition with a
generous start-up package to start my independent clinical/translational
neuroscience research career at The University of Iowa Carver College
College of Medicine and Iowa Neuroscience Institute. As I hope is clear, this would
not have been possible without the excellent training and
clinical support from the NIMH Clinical Fellowship.

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