October 19, 2017

Forum highlights strong clinical, translational research efforts

Clinical and translational research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is thriving.

From left, Paul Harris, Ph.D., Gordon Bernard, M.D., Kathryn Edwards, M.D., and Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., pose for a photo at last week’s Vanderbilt Translational Research Forum. (photo by Steve Green)

Clinical and translational research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is thriving.
Nearly 80 percent of tenure-track faculty members in the School of Medicine participate in extramurally funded research. Supported in any given year by more than $550 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), their investigations span more than 720 active NIH grants and large-scale federal contracts.

With those statistics Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Scientist Development, called to order the 2017 Vanderbilt Translational Research Forum last Friday, Oct. 13.

At the same time, the number of young scientists transitioning from career development funding to large-scale research project grants from the NIH has been “exceptionally impressive,” Hartmann said. “Developing and retaining talented scientists at all levels is central to our strategy,” she said.

The daylong forum in the Vanderbilt Student Life Center began with the presentation of awards for Distinguished Service to Translational Scientists to Paul Harris, Ph.D., and for Excellence in Mentoring Translational Scientists to Kathryn Edwards, M.D.

Harris, professor of Biomedical Informatics and Biomedical Engineering, was honored in part for his development of REDCap, a human subjects research data collection and management software platform that has been adopted by some 2,500 institutions in 115 countries.

“And mind you, this is without any formal advertising,” said Gordon Bernard, M.D., VUMC’s Executive Vice President for Research, in announcing the award. “This is because it’s good and people just want to use it.”

Bernard, the Melinda Owen Bass Professor of Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, said Harris is “cherished” by his colleagues. “He is indeed the most humble genius most of us have ever met,” he said.

Edwards, the Sarah H. Sell and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, was honored for her deep and dedicated service to the careers of others.

Edwards’ award was presented by Hartmann, who is the Lucius E. Burch Professor of Reproductive Physiology and Family Planning, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and professor of Medicine.

Edwards said she was honored to be recognized by her trainees. “I think the most important thing that many of us do is to train young people,” she said, “so that they can articulate and clarify and improve our treatment and maybe even prevent some diseases.”