If necessity is the mother of invention, can a recession make you work smarter?
UAB’s Center for Clinical and Trans-lational Science (CCTS) is answering that question affirm-atively.
|The CCTS has initiated a partnership with UAB’s interdisciplinary research centers to develop pilot awards funded jointly by the CCTS and individual centers to substantially increase the research monies available to translational investigators.
Created with a five-year, $26.9 million Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health, the CCTS has been confronted by financial exigencies in its first year — quite the challenge for a center charged with restructuring UAB’s research enterprise to facilitate translational science in ways that improve the overall health of the population and reduce health disparities.
But Director Lisa Guay-Woodford, M.D., says the challenge has paid dividends. “We sustained a substantial budget cut, and we’ve had to reorganize and readjust, but these challenges have, in a sense, brought us to a better place,” she says. “We have been pushed to a new level of creativity that has yielded a whole new set of opportunities. They aren’t just pie-in-the-sky ideas; we’ve got product.”
Those evolutions and innovations emerged with the help of leaders across UAB’s campus, says Guay-Woodford, also the Anderson Family Chair in Medical Education, Research and Patient Care. “We are one of the few CTSA recipients in the country centered in a full-spectrum university with active faculty participation from all schools and the libraries,” she explains. “We bring teams of people together to address questions; we don’t have a silo view that presumes health questions are entirely the purview of the academic health center.”
Partnerships and products
The CCTS has initiated a partnership with UAB’s interdisciplinary research centers to develop pilot awards funded jointly by the CCTS and individual centers to substantially increase the research monies available to translational investigators. And the newly formed Council of Center Directors brings together leaders of all UAB’s scientific centers for the first time.
Another partnership exemplifies the center’s ability to foster collaboration between two schools that may benefit all others. The CCTS linked the School of Nursing expertise with Web-based curriculum development with Department of Philosophy expertise on the ethical conduct of research, historically a lecture-based course. Now a Web-based resource is being developed, one that Guay-Woodford says may provide a broader range of scientists with ethics information in a readily accessible format and better enable them to deal with ethical issues that arise in their work.
“We’ve taken a paradigm the School of Nursing developed and brought it to bear on an issue that is important across the institution — to transform the way we’re thinking about delivering that important content,” Guay-Woodford says. “And because of the philosophy faculty’s ethics research expertise, this site could be something that, under the right circumstances, we could share with the national CTSA consortium, which would be richer for having this content.”
Its new Research Commons is a physical and virtual space in which CCTS participants interact, share information and gain knowledge to support research initiatives, and the center already is working with UAB Information Technology to expand the interactive capabilities of the site.
Guay-Woodford says the completed site will enable the CCTS to learn about the researchers, understand their needs and facilitate their research. “It will be like Amazon.com. If you click in as a return customer, it will show a list of resources that might interest you based on what you’ve looked at or ‘bought’ on previous visits. It will be terrific to use technology to enhance and amplify what the Research Commons can do. Its primary goal is to get investigators exactly what they need.”
These developments will help UAB researchers translate new discoveries into new methods of diagnosing and treating health problems. But Guay-Woodford adds that they are only the first steps for the CCTS.
“Come back next year and see where we are,” she says.
Learn more about the CCTS research, training and outreach activities and sign up for membership or its quarterly newsletter online at www.ccts.uab.edu.