Manasi Murthy Mittinty, MD, PhD | Global Clinical Scholar Research Training

Manasi Murthy Mittinty.

Manasi Murthy Mittinty, MD, PhD, is a physician scientist and senior lecturer at the Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health. Her work centers around mental health equity, particularly for Indigenous Australians and people with musculoskeletal pain in the culturally diverse communities in Australia. 

She was completing a prestigious Australian government-funded Endeavor post-doctoral fellowship when one of her colleagues introduced her to Harvard Medical School’s Global Clinical Scholar Research Training program. Hoping that it could be useful training to help her move forward with her goals, Mittinty decided to apply after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Since participating in the 2022–2023 cohort, Mittinty has seen some impressive benefits of Global Clinical Scholars Research Training in her professional life. Amongst her many recent accolades, she was awarded the National Emerging Leader in Health Award by the Women’s Agenda Australia in 2022. In 2024, Mittinty was awarded India's highest diasporic Hind Rattan-Jewel of India award, chosen as the winner of the 2024 Gargi Science and Research Award, and given the 2024 Adelaide Marathi Mandal honor. And, shortly after graduating, she obtained a new position that's leveraging her skills and research in ever more impressive ways. 

Bringing Understudied, Underfunded Research to the Fore

A childhood fire accident left Mittinty with chronic pain, and the complexities and nuances of the experience left a lasting impression on her. In part because of her background, she pursued a focus in pain management as a physician and researcher. 

"Pain is a subjective experience that varies greatly from person to person. Often, it's not just the physical sensation of pain that individuals struggle with, but also the emotional distress, limitations in daily activities, and the way others perceive and treat them," she explains. “I want to shift the focus from simply treating the pain to developing specialized programs that not only address pain management but also empower patients to tackle the mental health aspects that often accompany chronic pain.” Her vision is to take a patient-centric approach, considering physical, emotional, and social aspects of pain to develop programs that help patients lead more fulfilling lives.

She was running a national clinical trial and working to meet all its myriad requirements when she began Global Clinical Scholars Research Training. There, she finally found a space where she could ask questions of the experts. "I got really honest feedback from the faculty, including, 'Look, this is a challenging issue, here's how you could consider the problem another way.' It was reassuring to realize that you can't always plan ahead for every aspect of a research study," she said. Drawing from her classwork (including her capstone), Mittinty hopes to develop a larger patient-centric program. The trial has won two national awards; the 2021 NSCA Foundation/GIO Workers Compensation National Safety Award and the 2021 Comcare National Work Health and Safety Award. 

For the National Emerging Leader in Health Award, which she received while completing the program, the selection committee honored Mittinty for her work in chronic pain and mental health. In addition to her ongoing research with arthritis patients, she also developed the first culturally sensitive chronic pain related fear assessment tool for First Nations people in Australia—something she identified during her PhD.

Furthermore, in 2023, extensive Global Burden of Disease research she had been contributing on as joint first author since 2021 was published in The Lancet Rheumatology. It centered around lesser-studied musculoskeletal disorders like fibromyalgia and gout—conditions that will only become more prevalent in a large aging population—that will have a critical economic and sociological impact on communities. These research areas merit further study, and the paper represented an important step in shedding light on a lesser-known issue. 

"At times, these can be subject areas that don't see heavy funding or as much attention," she says. "It's incredibly fulfilling and enriching work. And my desire is to connect with people who wish to collaborate and combine efforts to create synergies within these subject areas." 

Moving Forward—and Being Recognized—as a Subject Matter Expert 

One of the biggest impacts of Global Clinical Scholars Research Training happened a few months after graduation: encouraged by her time at HMS, Mittinty applied for a senior academic position at Flinders University. "As a woman of color in science, from a minority background, I would find myself often hesitant to apply for a position. Instead, I would constantly strive to acquire additional skills, thinking that I would apply in future. However, interacting with the Global Clinical Scholars Research Training faculty and receiving critical positive feedback on my work has had a profound impact on both my abilities and self-assurance, empowering me to finally take the leap and submit my application with newfound confidence."

The visibility from her recent work has also meant several invites to participate in clinical units that are dealing with underrepresented communities. Working with others who share her research focus and passion, which will in turn lead to more collaboration, has galvanized her even further. 

In the midst of this work, the Hind Rattan-Jewel of India award was an unexpected honor and a source of recognition from Mittinty's country of origin; the award recognizes those individuals from India who, even though they no longer live there, continue to represent the country's values. "It was an emotional experience," she remembers. "Moving countries is always challenging, but to be recognized from your home country is just a heartwarming honor and experience." 

Mittinty's been honored in Australia as well. She was nominated and selected as a finalist for the 2023 Australia's Stellar South Asian Women Award. "This particular award is organized by women of color, and when I attended the award ceremony, it was just blissful—to see so many women who look like me, taking such strong, concrete steps in their respective work," she remembers. 

Thus, she has experienced the community and collaboration that, prior to this program, she didn't know was possible. Throughout, the program's emphasis on teaching and research excellence, combined with the ongoing accomplishments of her cohort, has kept her pushing forward. 

"I think Global Clinical Scholars Research Training prepares you to embrace a certain level of ambiguity while striving for excellence simultaneously," she says. "The inspiration to explore uncharted territories and delve deeper in my subject is what I was missing before the program."

Learn more about Global Clinical Scholars Research Training 

This article was originally published in December 2022.

Written by Katherine J. Igoe