Academic Affairs & Faculty Development

VPCAT Research Scholars Program

VPCAT Mentors

Lisa G. Aspinwall, PhD

Title:  Professor, Psychology | Member, Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program, HCI

As a social and health psychologist, I study how people think about their future health, particularly opportunities to proactively manage genetic risk through prevention and early detection. My work has been funded by NCI and NSF. As the immediate past chair of the Department of Psychology, I have mentored many junior faculty in the preparation of their initial grant submissions, and I am a primary mentor to one K-awardee. I founded and for 20 years have directed GASP, an alliance to foster professional development and an inclusive environment for LGBT students, faculty, and allies in my field.

I enjoy teaching and mentoring. I've benefited from outstanding mentoring, and look forward to the opportunity to help VPCAT scholars assess their priorities, navigate academia, and reach their goals – without burning out. I would also advise on ways to communicate about the programmatic and translational value of one's work to a diverse audience, including reviewers and stakeholders.


Anne J. Blaschke, MD, PhD

Title:  Professor, Pediatrics | Director, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Fellowship Training Program

I am a pediatric infectious diseases physician and translational researcher in the area of new diagnostics development and implementation as well as comparative pathogen genomics. My work involves contributions from industry, clinical and basic scientists.

As a junior faculty member, I received outstanding mentorship through the Pediatric Clinical and Translational Scholars Program in the Department of Pediatrics. Since 2014, I have served as a Senior Mentor for the University’s VPCAT Research Scholars Program. I enjoy working with junior faculty from across the U Health Campus actively involved in research. I think that a supportive mentoring environment is critical to success and happiness in academics, and want to give back to the U Health Community which has been very supportive of my work and goals.

As a mentor I meet regularly with my mentees to discuss approaches to research, academics and balancing obligations. I am happy to read and provide feedback on research proposals.


Benjamin S. Brooke, MD, PhD, FACS

Title:  Associate Professor & Chief, Vascular Surgery | Section Chief, Health Services Research Section, Surgery | Director, Utah Intervention Quality and Implementation Research (U-INQUIRE) Group | Co-Director, Surgical Population Analytic Research Core (SPARC)

I am an Associate Professor of Surgery, the Chief of Vascular Surgery, and an investigator in the VA SLC Specialty Care Center of Innovation and IDEAS 3.0 COIN. I lead the surgical health services research efforts at both the University of Utah’s Department of Surgery and the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, and I am the Chief of the Health Services Research Section and director of the Utah Intervention Quality and Implementation Research (U-INQUIRE) group. My research is focused on improving care coordination and patient safety during transitions of surgical care, which has been funded by grants from PCORI, NIH, VHA, and others.

As a VPCAT graduate, I know full well how valuable the program can be for early career faculty. My success is due in part to the knowledge, mentorship, and training I received while in the program. I am honored to now serve as a VPCAT mentor who will take every opportunity to support your successfully transition to independence.


Mollie R. Cummins, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI

Title:  Professor, College of Nursing | Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair | Adjunct Professor, Biomedical Informatics

I’m a biomedical informaticist and a nurse. My program of research is interdisciplinary in nature and focuses on informatics applications in poison control and exposure health informatics. I also oversee the research mission of the College of Nursing including the Emma Eccles Jones Nursing Research Center.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of trainees from a variety of disciplines, including students and junior faculty from nursing, biomedical informatics, medicine, and pharmacy. All of these individuals have contributed their unique perspective and strengths to our work. It is deeply gratifying to see trainees advance in their careers and go on to contribute in truly meaningful ways.  I wanted to serve as a VPCAT mentor because I’ve seen the difference it has made in developing our junior faculty. I value the program and I want to contribute to its success. I know that I will learn a great deal in the process.

My mentoring approach grows from the mentee, their goals, priorities, strengths and challenges. I don’t believe any single mentor can meet every need and so I strive to serve as “home base”, offering guidance and expertise from my perspective, but also calling attention to areas where the expertise of others is important and connecting mentees to the right resources. I tend to be very invested and sometimes find myself working with individuals far beyond their departure from the university.


Adam L. Hersh, MD, PhD

Title:  Professor, Pediatrics | Associate Director, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Fellowship Training Program

I am excited to join the VPCAT program as a mentor. I have extensive mentorship experience with clinical and research fellows and junior faculty. My approach to mentorship includes emphasizing development of technical skills for success in academia along with helping to nudge mentees towards high value opportunities that involve collaboration and network building.

My clinical interests include all aspects of the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases among patients ranging from infants to young adults. My research interests include health services research and clinical epidemiology. My work focuses on understanding variability in the use of antimicrobials in pediatrics and developing interventions to improve the quality and safety of antimicrobial prescribing for children.


Heather T. Keenan, MDCM, PhD

Title:  Professor & Vice-Chair for Research, Pediatrics | Director, Pediatric Critical Care and Trauma Scientist Development K12 Program

I am a pediatric intensivist and epidemiologist. I have mentored multiple junior faculty who are writing for their first extramural funding. I mentor two K-awardees.

I enjoy mentoring for VPCAT because the scholars are smart and interesting people who are very motivated to do excellent work. This makes working with them a pleasure. I also enjoy the variety of disciplines represented by the VPCAT scholars.

I try to help mentees define their goals and establish a plan for achieving them.


Jennifer J. Majersik, MD, MS

Title:  Professor & Chief, Vascular Neurology | Director, Stroke Center and Telestroke Network

I am a VPCAT mentor because one of my passions is to help junior faculty thrive. I mentor across career levels, which includes VPCAT, fellows and junior faculty within 2 neurology trials networks (StrokeNet & NeuroNEXT), and my own neurology residents and junior stroke faculty. For fun, I mentor elementary school children in writing and science fair project development. My mentoring philosophy is to individualize the relationship based on the mentee needs, to be an active listener, to help the mentee find their path, and be the best they can be. I will provide science mentorship for content areas in which I’m expert and can assist in being an outside ear in areas I’m not. Mostly I provide career development guidance, helping faculty to determine their passions, understand the needs of those around them, learn the opportunities, and to find a path through these sometimes competing demands. I believe in respecting all of our time, thus I pre-schedule q2 mo meetings requesting mentees bring an agenda. My content areas include stroke causes, treatment, & recovery; genetic epidemiology; systems of care; and clinical trials.


Maureen A. Murtaugh, PhD

Title:  Professor, Internal Medicine | Co-Director, Utah CTSI KL2 Mentored Career Development Scholar Program

I am a nutritional epidemiologist with my primary academic home in the Division of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine.  My work centers around the relationships of food consumption (diet) and chronic diseases.  My lack of specific disease focus reflects my curiosity about similar and different chronic disease processes. 

Many of my roles involve mentoring and teaching. I am co-director of the Utah CTSI KL2 (internal career development) program and Director of Graduate Studies for Population Health Sciences which has a PhD program with three emphases.  I have been teaching grant writing in the Masters’ in Clinical Investigator program since 2008. Teaching grant writing exposed my passion for mentoring around research program development.  Mentoring comes in many sizes and shapes. I like to think it can be personalized to the specific situation and time.   


Matthew T. Rondina, MD, MS

Title:  Professor, Internal Medicine | Director, Molecular Medicine Program (U2M2)

Raised in the Boston area, I have been a faculty member at the University of Utah since 2007. My research is focused on the roles for platelets and megakaryocytes during thrombo-inflammatory diseases. Our laboratory, located in the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics within the Molecular Medicine Program, utilizes complementary clinical studies and experimental in vitro and in vivo model systems.

I have been fortunate to receive exceptional mentoring throughout my career, and strongly believe that mentorship is critically important to a successful career in academic medicine. While I actively mentor students, residents, fellows, and early stage faculty, I also continue to receive mentorship (scientific and professional) from colleagues and senior faculty. I am very honored to be a Mentor for the VPCAT Program, which provides dedicated, robust, and effective training and mentoring to trainees and early stage faculty at the University of Utah. My mentoring philosophy is to work individually with each mentee to understand and establish their goals and objectives, identify and fill critical knowledge or career gaps, and systematically meet timelines and milestones.


Katherine A. Sward, PhD, RN

Title:  Professor, College of Nursing | Adjunct Associate Professor, Biomedical Informatics

I have been mentoring throughout my professional career, starting as a clinical nursing preceptor and evolving to peer, informal, and formal academic and research mentoring roles. Serving as a VPCAT mentor is a natural extension of the mentorship and peer support that I find so rewarding. Mentoring, to me, is a shared gift that I have found to be most successful when approached as a synergistic relationship. It becomes a process of development with both parties growing from the experience. This sometimes takes the form of a conversation in which we mutually set goals and determine strategies and solve problems. It can also take the form of experience sharing, a safe environment for exploring ideas, or simply walking the path of professional development together. I try to meet mentees wherever they are, being mindful of their goals and future careers. My current research is in the area of clinical research informatics, including clinical and translational research and the unique aspects of managing  research information in special populations (e.g., pediatrics, women’s health), as well as informatics to support exposure science, sensor monitoring.


Michael W. Varner, MD

Title:  Professor & Vice Chair for Research, Obstetrics & Gynecology | Co-Director, Utah CTSI KL2 Mentored Career Development Scholar Program

My wife and I joined the University of Utah faculty in 1987. It’s been a great place for our two-academic-physician family.  I have served as a Professor in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology since 1991 and as Vice-Chair for Research since 2006. I have had the good fortune to be funded by the NIH since 1996 for a number of clinical trials and networks and have orchestrated NIH-funded collaborations with Intermountain for that entire duration.

I enjoy figuring out how to help people succeed in research and I enjoy helping people put grants together.  I (almost) never pass up a chance to participate in study sections because I learn a lot and I get a chance to see what works (and what doesn’t).

I am at a point in my career where I don’t need to write my own papers or grants anymore. Helping to ‘launch’ the next generation has evolved to be the single most enjoyable part of coming to work. I look forward to participating as a VPCAT mentor and hope I can help our Scholars reach their goals.


Julie L. Wambaugh, PhD, CCC-SLP

Title:  Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders | Research Career Scientist, VA Rehabilitation, VA Salt Lake City Health Care System

I am a speech-language pathologist, Professor at the University of Utah, and a VA Research Career Scientist. My research is focused on rehabilitation of speech and language disorders following stroke or other focal brain injury. I have expertise in single-case experimental design and have been funded by Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research & Development and NIH.

I have a wealth of mentoring experience, both at the University of Utah and VA. I have served as a VPCAT mentor for five years (three cohorts) and have mentored several VA Career Development Awardees, doctoral students, and master’s students. I am a VPCAT mentor because I consider mentoring to be an essential component of a successful research/academic career. By serving as a “non-scientific” mentor, I aim to provide guidance in any aspect of career development and/or life balance that the mentee wishes. I strive to help my mentees access needed resources and develop strategies for success. I feel privileged to be a mentor and find mentoring to be personally rewarding.


David W. Wetter, PhD, MS

Title:  Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professor | Director, Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity (HOPE) | Associate Director, Practice Engagement and Translation at CTSI

Mentoring has been a core value and component in my academic career. I am truly excited to collaborate with VPCAT scholars to further their work and careers. I have had the honor to serve as the primary mentor for ~35 postdoctoral scholars, many of whom are now in major leadership roles at academic institutions across the country. In addition, I have served as the primary mentor for 13 funded, NIH K/American Cancer Society career development awards. I have received several mentoring awards including the receipt of the Robert M. Chamberlain Distinguished Mentor Award and the inaugural Leading Mentor in Cancer Prevention Award while at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Together, with my unique and strong collaborators, we perform research to eliminate inequities related to cancer, chronic disease, and infectious disease through translational research. Our research efforts specifically focus on theoretical models of health risk behaviors, the development and evaluation of theoretically-based interventions, and translational research to implement and disseminate those interventions in real world settings. We have a major emphasis on low socioeconomic status, rural/frontier, and diverse groups. I have an extensive NIH-funded grant portfolio of over 25 years and over 250 peer-reviewed publications.