June 1, 2017

Forum highlights innovative approaches to bolstering biomedical research

How can we — together — make research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) better and stronger?

From left, Alan Bentley, Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., Susan Meyn and Roger Chalkley, Ph.D., spoke during Tuesday’s School of Medicine Research Enterprise Forum. (photo by Anne Rayner)

How can we — together — make research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) better and stronger?

That was the unifying question addressed during the second annual School of Medicine Research Enterprise Forum held Tuesday afternoon in Light Hall.

Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Executive Vice President for Research at VUMC, moderated the event, which highlighted several innovative approaches to bolstering biomedical research.

Alan Bentley, M.S., assistant vice chancellor for the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization, described how his center, which serves both the University and Medical Center, is helping researchers and inventors find support from industry as well as the government.

Industry engagement is a new core goal of the center, Bentley said. Apart from financial support, partnerships with industry can be an enriching experience for faculty researchers, he said. They can provide a new perspective and new avenues for inventors to pursue.

Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., associate dean for Clinical and Translational Scientist Development, discussed Edge for Scholars (www.edgeforscholars.org), a web-based community that encourages “candid conversation about life in academics.”

Built by scientists for scientists, the site offers opportunities for researchers to share concerns and ideas, provide and receive mentorship, contribute to conversations around advocacy and policy, negotiate for resources, cultivate writing and leadership skills and generally stoke their passions and intellectual fires.

The site now spans the globe, Hartmann said, and includes the profiles of more than 500 researchers from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean for Biomedical Research Education and Training, described the growing emphasis on “culturally aware” faculty mentor training in graduate student and postdoctoral fellow training grants supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Training is already underway at Vanderbilt to better prepare faculty members to mentor the growing number of students from different cultures and underrepresented groups, Chalkley said. It’s all part of Vanderbilt’s commitment to diversity.

Closing the session, Susan Meyn, director of research resources and planning at VUMC, encouraged researchers to contribute to Idea Share, an interactive website being piloted as a way of encouraging the exchange of ideas among all members of the VUMC community.

Users can submit new ideas or comment on ideas that have been posted previously by creating a unique account — different from their VUNet ID — at www.vumc.spigit.com. Around 150 ideas have been posted so far, some of which are already being implemented.

Other ideas “tell us what we could achieve,” Meyn said, “if we put the resources in place.”