CTS M.D.-Ph.D. Student Ben Conner Receives Highly Competitive NIH F30 Award

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - 2:30pm

Clinical Translational Sciences Ph.D. candidate Benjamin Conner, a student in the dual-degree M.D.-Ph.D. program at the College of Medicine-Phoenix, has been selected for a prestigious F30 predoctoral research fellowship by the National Institutes of Health.  This award will support his dissertation research examining how an interventional robotic gait training program can improve mobility for children with cerebral palsy.  Mr. Conner has been conducting his research in the Biomechatronics Lab directed by Dr. Zachary Lerner, an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at  Northern Arizona University who also holds a research faculty appointment with the UArizona College of Medicine-Phoenix Department in Orthopedics.

Mr. Conner reports:
Over the past 2 years, I have been running pilot clinical trials of a novel robotic gait training program for children with cerebral palsy (CP), a pediatric-onset movement disorder. During these preliminary studies, we found that this new training modality could rapidly improve mobility for our study participants with CP. After training, our participants were able to walk faster, further, and more efficiently. 
To better understand these observed improvements and maximize the efficacy of our intervention, my project will explore potential underlying changes in motor control with training, investigate how users adapt to the device over time, and evaluate the retention of improvements once training has stopped. This project will help us lay the foundation for a future randomized controlled trial, with the ultimate goal of translating this therapy to the clinical and at-home setting.
Receiving this award would not have been possible without the support from my Sponsor and Co-Sponsors on the grant (Dr. Zachary Lerner, Dr. Michael Kruer, Dr. Ron Hammer, and Dr. Michael Schwartz), and the outstanding training environment at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.

Dr. Lerner adds, “The NIH predoctoral fellowship program is extremely competitive. It is awarded to only the best and brightest emerging biomedical scientists proposing highly meritorious research. Ben’s successful application speaks to the expected impact of his proposed project and to his potential to become a leading researcher in our field. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working with Ben, and I’m excited to see the outcomes of this award.”