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Research funding up for the sixth straight year

Published: November 9, 2011 By: Matt Galnor
Alan R. Berger, M.D.
Robert C. Nuss, M.D.

Research funding continues to grow at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville and the latest numbers show an increase for the sixth consecutive year.

All told, the college was awarded more than $19.4 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year that ended June 30 – a 5 percent increase since last year. Annual funding has more than doubled in the past six years.

More than 230 projects were funded – a slight increase from the 225 in 2009-10.

Research is becoming more and more engrained into the culture of the Jacksonville campus, said Tina Bottini, assistant dean of research administration and compliance.

Part of the change is recruiting leaders that emphasize scholarly research – and being seen by candidates as an institution where research efforts are encouraged and rewarded, Bottini said.

College of Medicine-Jacksonville faculty are participating in several nationally recognized federal and state funded research programs, said Alan R. Berger, M.D., associate dean of research and professor and chairman of the department of neurology.

A few of the notable research programs include the National Children's Study, a multiyear study examining the affects of the environment in the growth and development of children; HIV/AIDS research to increase the understanding of HIV and to develop new treatment options; programs in health safety, healthcare technology and diagnostics advances; a diabetic retinopathy clinical research network and National Institute of Health stroke prevention and therapeutic programs, Berger said.

Bolstering research helps attract and retain high-quality faculty and can also be a significant recruiting tool in drawing residents and fellows, said Robert C. Nuss, M.D., UF associate vice president for health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine’s Jacksonville regional campus.

And as the reputation for research grows, so may the opportunities for more funding in the future, which Nuss said is key to the overall bottom line.

"As you develop that skill level and expertise and outside recognition, after a while that may make you a better candidate for funded studies," Nuss said.

Both Berger and Bottini credit Nuss for laying the groundwork and making it easier for faculty on the Jacksonville campus to conduct research.

In 2009, the University of Florida was awarded a Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI) award, one of only 60 in the nation. The CTSI award has provided the Jacksonville campus access to project management resources, funding and training opportunities, database support and community engagement opportunities which has led to cross campus collaborations and grant applications, said Berger.

Some of the key components to on-campus research include:

- Center for Health Equity and Quality Research (CHEQR): The center that opened in 2008 focuses on health services and population health research, health disparity research and clinical outcomes. The center has developed collaborative relationships with faculty in multiple departments providing research support such as consulting and biostatistical services for all faculty on campus. This spring, it hired the first Ph.D.-level biostatistician to work on campus. The center will be recruiting other M.D. and Ph.D. level researchers.

- Cardiovascular Research Center: The heart research center includes the Thrombosis Research Center, an investigative model that is among international leaders in the field.

- Basic Sciences Research Center: the 16,000-square-foot building opened in 2007 and several faculty members have dedicated labs inside the building.

- Clinical Research Unit (CRU): dedicated research unit to perform inpatient studies and administrative and coordinating services for large outpatient studies.

"What we’re building is a platform for faculty to do research," Bottini said.

Dozens of clinical trials are underway at any given time – looking at the effects of different medications on cardiac patients to whether literature about the harm of third-hand smoking and subsequent smoking cessation classes will get parents to kick the habit.

The research here also tries to capitalize on the large industrial footprint health care has in Jacksonville, partnering with the Mayo Clinic, Brooks Rehabilitation and the University of North Florida. The college also has clinical trials that recruit patients from other local hospitals.

"We have made major investments into research," Bottini said, "and our hope is that it only continues to grow."

Alan R. Berger, M.D.
Robert C. Nuss, M.D.

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