Friday, June 12, 2009

Clinical research focus

MGH Clinical Research Day addresses obstacles and opportunities

RESEARCH EXPLAINED: MGH researchers display their working during Clinical Research Day.

At a time of unprecedented scientific progress and widening public support for clinical and translational research, young and mid-career investigators are faced with challenges of limited funding and competing personal and professional demands that cause many to abandon research careers, noted Janet Hall, MD, of the MGH Reproductive Endocrine Unit, at a May 28 panel discussion during MGH Clinical Research Day. In particular, women are not being promoted to higher academic levels, while more than 10 percent of medical school faculty nationwide are over the age of 65. "The need for physician investigators has never been greater, but we must address the issues affecting career attrition," she stressed.

Joining Hall in the discussion, "Clinical Research 2009: Obstacles and Opportunities," Nancy Sung, PhD, of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, outlined the growing importance of foundation support in translating scientific discoveries into new therapies. MGH President Peter L. Slavin, MD, also noted the growing importance of philanthropy, which currently supports about 20 percent of the hospital’s research program. Harvard Medical School (HMS) Dean Jeffrey Flier, MD, described the impact of new promotion criteria at HMS that were designed to reward the multiple contributions that faculty make, and David Korn, MD, vice provost for Research at Harvard University reviewed local and national efforts to increase exposure of scientific fundamentals to medical and pre-medical students.

Prior to the panel discussion, leaders of the award-winning research teams presented their investigations. Catherine DesRoches, DrPH, and her colleagues from the MGH Institute for Health Policy received the team award for their study of how the use of electronic health records affects the quality of care in U.S. hospitals. The translational award was given to Chris Newton-Cheh, MD, MPH, of MGH Cardiology, and his colleagues for their study identifying the first common gene variants associated with an increased risk of hypertension. Another 26 posters received hospitalwide or departmental awards.

"The 256 poster presentations were a real testimony to the vigor of the clinical research process here at the MGH and to the impressive institutional commitment of Peter Slavin and our leadership to its viability in otherwise very difficult times," says William Crowley, MD, director of the MGH Clinical Research Program.

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