“I want to see our research changing the way people are cared for"
Dr. Caitlin O’Meara’s lab within the Department of Physiology studies cardiac regeneration and repair, trying to determine what guides the proregenerative process found in certain animal species and the implications it can have on repairing human hearts that have experienced some form of trauma. Her journey to this point in her career started exactly where she’s at now.“One of the things that drew me to the program was that at the time it was one of the top funded physiology departments in the country,” she shared. It was Caitlin’s familiarity the Department of Physiology through previously participating in MCW’s Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) that led her to applying to its graduate program. “Before SPUR, I had really never had any exposure to biomedical research as a career."
After just four and-a-half years and four first-author papers from her genetics-focused research in the lab of Howard Jacob, Caitlin graduated with her PhD degree. “I had a great relationship with my mentor, and had a really productive experience,” she said. Her incredible success at the PhD level lead her to a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. But Caitlin and her family had interest in returning to Wisconsin. Fortunately, she identified an opportunity within the very department that she received her PhD degree from. “I think overall my expertise in regenerative medicine and cardiac physiology was a good fit for the department,” she shared. Within three years of starting her faculty role at MCW, Caitlin received her first Research Project Grant (RO1) award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Caitlin aims to eventually make the type of scientific discovery that has a more direct translational impact on improving health outcomes. “I want to see our research changing the way people are cared for…and maybe some of the things we’re doing now will eventually accomplish that.”