July 15, 2005

‘Bench to bedside’ training focus of upcoming Pharmacology conference

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Joey Barnett, Ph.D.

‘Bench to bedside’ training focus of upcoming Pharmacology conference

In recent years, training programs nationwide have shifted away from bench-to-bedside training and become more focused on molecular biology and genetics. But Vanderbilt University Medical Center has continued its quest to train more scientists in the area of drug discovery and development.

As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) identified its concerns about the deficit of trainees entering the drug design and development arena, Joey Barnett, Ph.D., began working on ways to bring the directors of graduate training programs together to talk about what could be done to reverse the trend.

“After talking informally with a number of other directors, we decided to develop a dedicated working meeting where participants could discuss both challenges and opportunities that they had encountered at their institutions,” Barnet said. “I offered to host the meeting at Vanderbilt expecting that we would have 30 or so program directors.”

The National Meeting of Directors of Graduate Studies in Pharmacology is the first ever conference highlighting the challenges and solutions facing Graduate Studies Programs, specifically Pharmacology. More than 70 directors will attend the conference set for July 21-23.

“The NIH has expressed concern over the loss of such programs,” said Barnett, associate professor of Pharmacology, Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology. “It too recognized the need for students to know how to turn discoveries made in the labs into new treatments for patients.”

Questions to be explored include:

• How can training programs respond to reorganization of medical school curriculums, i.e. the movement to organ-based instruction, that often prevent participation of graduate students in core curriculum courses?

• Medical Pharmacology — Do we train students in the medical school course or develop a special course for graduate students?

• How can we increase the visibility of Pharmacology as a discipline in undergraduate curriculums? Do current undergraduate programs in Pharmacology represent a fertile ground for recruiting students?

• What core knowledge and approaches do all Pharmacology trainees need?

The group hopes to provide answers that will allow graduate programs to expand curriculums to meet the needs at all levels.

“The goal of graduate Pharmacology programs is to train investigators who will be leaders in academia, the pharmaceutical industry as well as regulatory agencies,” Barnett said. “It is my hope that we come up with a workable solution that meets the needs of our ever-changing scientific and medical communities.”