Home CHEST Thought Leaders How a CHEST Foundation grant changed Dr. Banerjee

How a CHEST Foundation grant changed Dr. Banerjee from a teacher into a researcher

By: Vanessa Claude

Debasree BanerjeeIn 2015, Debasree Banerjee, MD, MS received the CHEST Foundation Research Grant in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, and was also a 2016 NetWorks Challenge Travel Grantee as a member of the Women’s Health NetWork. This allowed her to attend the 2016 CHEST Annual Meeting and network with peers and leaders in chest medicine. Read our follow up interview with Dr. Banerjee on how her research is going, and how the grants she’s received have impacted her and the work she is doing.

What is the project you have been working on?

I have been researching the role of the specific sodium channel in the heart, and how it affects the conductance in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension, and how it might affect RV function. We know in some sources that about 25% of patients with PAH can die of sudden cardiac death and sudden cardiac death more common in patients with left heart disease.

Instead of dying of sudden death or end stage heart failure, we wanted a way to look, just based on physical exam, if there’s evidence of heart pump function not working well, belly swelling, etc. With the funding of the grant, I’ve been able to more than double the sample size of the original pilot data and add in two more large objectives to complement my original aim.

What has receiving the grant meant to you?

One of the reasons I was able to stay at Brown was because of winning this grant from CHEST. It was able to cement my interest in fully pursuing a physician scientist career. Which is huge because it is not what I had planning on doing. Because of this grant, I had an 80% protected research position in my first year. Just the feeling of that affirmation and validation of what you’re doing certainly motivates you to continue.

Going into fellowship, if you had asked me what I had envisioned myself doing, I would say I’d be a medical educator. That’s the track I would want to go into. I think I was surprised by my research year in fellowship when I was working on this project, because getting the grant does create excitement. I felt like I could actually do this, like getting the grant ups the ante of investment and keeps you excited. Plus, the grant allowed me to do everything, see the whole process, the full arc, and I’m not even done.

What barriers have you encountered with your research?

Not having all the control, like unplanned hospitalizations or advanced sickness in the patients. There are also things cost-wise that are needed for the research that I wouldn’t have had access to without the grant. I didn’t do much research in medical school and residency, since I was more focused on teaching, so I hadn’t been prepared for the administrative legwork. But, it’s something I’m learning.

Being able to follow up with the CHEST Foundation and attend CHEST are exciting ways to overcome any slumps or doubts, because you see the interest and encouragement for the work you’re doing. Receiving the travel grant and coming to the Annual Meeting as a new faculty member, it was the most high-yield conference I’ve ever been to. Everyday there is something new and interactive for development.

What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t received a grant before, but is considering it?

If they can get a good mentor, that’s invaluable. It takes perseverance, persistence, and passion, and if you believe your work is impactful, it’s absolutely worth doing. Even if you apply and don’t get it the first time, try, try again. I have so much more faith in CHEST because of the positivity I see from the investment in my own mentor, who was a past foundation grant recipient and encouraged me to apply. CHEST gives ample opportunity to network and help be steered in the right way. As a grant recipient and being folded into the CHEST community, you start to think, I want this feeling again. Someone thinks this is important work.