Providing a bridge to an academic career in sleep



By Doug Dusik
Monday, June 4, 2012

In 2009 David Plante, MD, received an ASMF Physician Scientist Training Award, a grant that supports a one-year sleep research fellowship either before or following a clinical sleep fellowship. The grant enabled Dr. Plante to study altered regional brain GABA in primary insomnia using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). The research led to a manuscript that has been recently published in Neuropsychopharmacology, a highly ranked journal in psychiatry and neuroscience.

The research aided Dr. Plante in obtaining his first faculty position as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The PSTA Award year occurred the year following clinical fellowship training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“The grant has truly helped me transition into an academic position where I can blend research and clinical work,” he said. “The ASMF grant provided salary support at a crucial time in my career and gave me an additional year of time after clinical fellowship that I could dedicate to research.”

Dr. Plante maintains many of the collaborative relationships stemming from that work, which centered around the central nervous system’s chief inhibitory neurotransmitter and its role in chronic insomnia. He has worked extensively with John Winkelman, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and with colleagues at the Brain Imaging Center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.

“A lot of other studies will develop from that cohort of participants,” Dr. Plante said. “We were able to collect several types of neuroimaging data besides MRS that we will be able to use to test other hypotheses in primary insomnia.”

In the meantime, Dr. Plante has been enjoying his time as an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin. “It has a unique sleep laboratory with the ability to perform high density EEG studies during wake and sleep, and excellent senior faculty who have been invaluable in guiding me as a junior faculty member,” he said.

Thanks to another grant from the ASMF, Dr. Plante is now taking advantage of the technological resources available at the University of Wisconsin to explore new avenues of research. He recently received a 2012 ABSM Junior Faculty Research Award to conduct a high density EEG investigation of hypersomnia in major depressive disorder. Funded by an endowment from the American Board of Sleep Medicine, the ABSM Junior Faculty Research Award provides research training for young faculty members who wish to pursue careers as physician scientists in sleep medicine.

With the help of the ASMF, Dr. Plante has been able to transition from his fellowship training and establish a promising career in academic sleep medicine.