Posted 7/9/2012 12:00 am
Updated 10 months ago
A couple of months ago, anticipation was building for the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, but the promising colt never made it on the track.
In the world of research, like the horse with tendinitis, too many tantalizing studies wind up going nowhere. Knowledge and health findings that could benefit the general public too often remain trapped inside academic medical centers.
The issue, recognized nationally more than a decade ago, has led to major research reforms, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is among the leaders of this change.
UAMS began its reforms in 2008, and in 2009 it won a highly competitive Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is now among 60 academic medical centers across the United States with this prestigious award.
“Translational research” is the term used to summarize this effort. It means prioritizing studies that are most likely to be translated from the laboratory to benefit human health. It also means translating to communities the useful knowledge that’s bottled up on university campuses.
Through its Translational Research Institute, UAMS has transformed its research approach and is collaborating with the other CTSA medical centers. The changes have helped UAMS’ scientists begin to achieve better, faster and more relevant results for the general public.
For example, Holly Felix, Ph.D., a UAMS College of Public Health researcher, found that Medicaid could save $2.6 million over three years by connecting certain elderly and disabled adults to community-based long-term services. Her findings garnered an invitation to speak at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The financial support and expertise from the Translational Research Institute, she said, were of “tremendous value” to her research.
“People want to know that we’re getting the most out of our research efforts, especially when it applies to publicly funded research,” said Curtis Lowery, M.D., who leads the institute as principal investigator of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award. “I believe the institute represents a model of research for the future, and one that truly serves our mission of achieving better health for the people of Arkansas.”
The institute enjoys unified support from UAMS’ top leaders, including all five colleges and its graduate school. Such cohesiveness has led to a more collaborative environment. In one Translational Research Institute study, seven clinical and basic science researchers discovered new detection methods for so-called marijuana substitutes, such as K2, Summit and Spice. Their collaboration involved the state Health Department and Crime Laboratory and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute. The results included development of a human drug test, and their work gave scientific merit to efforts to address the increasing use of the drug. This knowledge is now being “translated” to other states.
The institute has added significantly to UAMS’ research infrastructure. Examples include:
• Creating access to data on more than 800,000 patients with its Enterprise Data Warehouse, which provides patient information to researchers without violating patient privacy.
• A 6,000-square-foot clinic, including imaging and lab space, dedicated to research involving volunteer research participants.
• Research support staff, such as navigators and coordinators, who help researchers through the regulatory process, find sources of funding, and recruit volunteer research participants.
In addition, to address health disparities and increase its pool of research subjects, the institute is fostering long-term partnerships with communities whose residents are helping guide the development of meaningful research projects.
The Translational Research Institute’s mission is about putting research into practice, and it’s working.
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