March 12, 2004

Bernard named assistant vice chancellor for Research

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Gordon R. Bernard, M.D.

Bernard named assistant vice chancellor for Research

Gordon R. Bernard, M.D., professor of Medicine and chief of the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine has been named the assistant vice chancellor for Research. He is the second faculty member to hold this post.

Alastair J.J. Wood, M.D., who recently assumed the post of the newly created position as associate dean for External Affairs, was the first appointed.

Bernard, who also serves as the medical director of the Institutional Review Board, along with Robin Ginn, R.N., clinical instructor in Nursing, has spent the last four years rebuilding that program as well as focusing the most efficient manner to support clinical research.

“Over the last five to 10 years, there has been a tremendous increase in the interest in conducting translational research and clinical research,” Bernard said. “The [National Institutes of Health] and other funding agencies have now fully recognized that the rapid advances being made in molecular biology and cellular biology are not being translated into experiments that have the potential to directly improve human health.

“There was a bottleneck at the clinical research level. As the funding opportunities have increased the community has increasingly responded to the call for more clinical research.”

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is among those institutions moving quickly to respond to this call with the creation of the Department of Biostatistics and two new training programs for fellows and faculty interested in clinical and translational research — the Masters in Public Health and Masters of Science in Clinical Investigation programs.

Now that the IRB is running more smoothly, Bernard can focus his attention and that of other colleagues on continuing to refine the review process as well as work on the processes that will allow for a seamless administrative support system for clinical research.

“There are clearly some items already on my plate that need to be dealt with, but there are new initiatives that will be undertaken in the next few years too,” Bernard said. “As we construct new strategic research directions, I hope to bring the clinical research perspective to these strategies as they develop.

“Virtually every major thrust of the research enterprise here is going to have the strong potential for a clinical or translational component. I want to make sure that this aspect of the enterprise is encouraged and supported.”

And Bernard admits it’s clearly not for one person alone to tackle. Working with Jeffrey R. Balser, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Research, in the development of a new strategic plan for research will require input from and collaboration among many departments.

His biggest challenge, he said, will be getting Vanderbilt on board in recognizing the investment that will be required to fully support the type of clinical research enterprise envisioned for the institution. The investment in bench research and various cores set up to assist bench researchers is similar to what will be needed for clinical research programs, Bernard said.

“Everyone’s out there asking for more resources,” he said. “We in the clinical research community will get in line with all the rest of them. I just hope that the institution will recognize this for the substantial growth opportunity that it is and will be willing to put resources into it.

“It will pay off dramatically — in the short term and long term both for public health and the health of the institution.”

Bernard, the Mary Owen Bass Professor of Medicine, received his medical degree from Louisiana State University in 1976. After internal medicine training at the University of Kentucky, he became a Parker B. Francis Fellow in Pulmonary Medicine at Vanderbilt in 1979, where he did his initial research training.

In 1987, he was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt and later became professor and interim chief of the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

Bernard is a member of many professional societies and has received numerous honors. He serves on the Advisory Council for the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the NIH Steering Committee Chairman for the NHLBI ARDS Clinical Trials Network.