• By Dana Sparks

Helping Others Heal: Making an IMPACT

June 5, 2019

Advancements in the field of medical research do not always follow a straight line. There are obstacles, challenges and questions that are seemingly unsolvable. When researchers reach an impasse, what can they do?

They can start with a new question. If everyone in the room is saying, “Yes, but ...,” then it may be time to find someone who is asking, “Why not?”

That’s the genesis behind Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Curative Therapies, known as IMPACT. The program brings together undergraduates from all fields of study and from colleges and universities around the Midwest. The students form teams, each with a faculty mentor, to form hypotheses for a single, shared research question.

The question differs each year, but it is always a real issue facing researchers. The students’ answers potentially have real results.

Timothy J. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., and Katherine Campbell, Ph.D., a former graduate student and research fellow in Dr. Nelson’s lab, formed the IMPACT Program to infuse research labs with fresh, creative ideas.

“Sometimes [the students] commit to an interpretation of data that is 180 degrees from the way we interpret that data,” says Dr. Nelson, the director of the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome at Mayo Clinic. “When that happens — and that happens every year — as researchers, we get to sit back and say, ‘Why did we think that was wrong, and why did we think we were right?’

“It creates a wonderful dialog that allows us experts to fundamentally challenge the dogma we live by every day.” Read the rest of the article.

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