Bridging the gap between basic science and medical practice

The UC Davis School of Medicine is among 13 innovative graduate programs in the nation to receive funds from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to foster the translation of basic science discoveries into new medical treatments. The goal of the $10 million national initiative is to train scientists with a better understanding of medicine so they are better equipped to conduct research that benefits the diagnosis and treatment of human disease.

"The gap between basic biology and medical practice is growing," said Ann Bonham, executive associate dean for research and education at the School of Medicine and principal investigator of the grant. "As knowledge in molecular genetics and cell biology accelerates, the biomedical community is finding it increasingly hard to harness the explosion of new information and translate it into medical practice. Grants that support the training of scientists who know the process and language of medicine are crucial to bridging the information gap and finding innovative solutions to human health problems."

The $700,000 grant complements a strong translational research focus already under way at UC Davis School of Medicine and specifically supports expanded training for eight postdoctoral students who will enroll in a new, one-year curriculum beginning in the summer of 2006. Known as the Integrating Medicine into Basic Science scholars program, the new training builds on basic Ph.D. training through an array of clinical experiences and rotations, new courses, and a variety of small-group, interdisciplinary, active learning experiences with medical students, basic scientists and physician-educators.

"We've organized our postdoctoral and faculty scholars into Clinical Medicine-Basic Science Learning Groups to offer a comprehensive, hands on training experience in the area of vascular disease," said Bonham. "We've also established a dynamic, new summer institute that enables postdoctoral students to learn the fundamentals of clinical medicine using some of the most engaging components of our medical school curriculum."

Through the school's innovative Doctoring Course, for example, postdoctoral students work side-by-side with medical students, assessing realistic patient cases and actively exploring the dynamics of patient communication, clinical problem solving, and the application of psychosocial, cultural, bioethical and basic science concepts. Similarly, a new course on Medical Anatomy, Physiology and Pathophysiology enhances the study of the human body and its disease states with hands-on training with patient simulators at the UC Davis Center for Virtual Care.

Other program components include: rotations in clinical settings to expose scholars to the medical challenges; participation in clinical trial studies at the General Clinical Research Center and the Clinical/Translational Research Investigator Services Program; and new seminars and workshops that emphasize interactions with legislators, state officials, community advocates, medically underserved groups and other stakeholders.

The first class of postdoctoral students will focus on cutting-edge research in vascular biology, a key area of excellence at UC Davis that encompasses heart and vascular diseases, stroke and related areas of metabolic syndrome, nutrition and obesity. There are plans to later increase enrollment to 10 students per year and expand the areas of study to include cancer, neurological disease, infectious disease and other primary areas of research.

"Our goal is to create a ground-breaking translational research program that embraces cross-disciplinary teamwork to make bold new changes in how we train our basic scientist students so they can discover answers to medical challenges," said Bonham. "We are training the next generation of scientist scholars who will become the leaders of tomorrow. We want to prepare them to collaborate with their clinical colleagues and work as a team to transform basic research discoveries into high-impact clinical applications."

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Media Contact:
Carole Gan, UC Davis Health System
(916) 734-9047
E-mail: carole.gan@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu

UC Davis Health System is an integrated, academic health system encompassing UC Davis School of Medicine, the 577-bed acute-care hospital and clinical services of UC Davis Medical Center, and the 800-member physician group known as UC Davis Medical Group.

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