November 20, 2009

New effort draws bench, bedside closer together

New effort draws bench, bedside closer together

A new educational effort at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in conjunction with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will bolster efforts to bring basic scientists together with medical clinicians, bridging gaps in culture and training, to address some of medicine's biggest challenges.

The program, called the HHMI/VUMC Certificate Program in Molecular Medicine, was announced this week as one of 23 HHMI “Med into Grad” programs.

Louis Muglia, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair for Research Affairs in the Department of Pediatrics, will direct the Vanderbilt program.

“The changes in basic science are moving rapidly with novel technology,

Louis Muglia, M.D., Ph.D.

Louis Muglia, M.D., Ph.D.

Eight Ph.D. students will be selected per year to participate in the three-year education program.

Next July, Muglia and a committee headed up by co-directors Joey Barnett, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology, associate professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and Sarki Abdulkadir, Ph.D., associate professor of Pathology and Cancer Biology, will review the first applications from students.

The students selected will begin their second year of post-graduate training with a clinical mentor, in addition to their Ph.D. mentor, to guide them in building 100 hours of medical/clinical experience in their areas of interest.

“So, for example, if a Ph.D. student has a basic science interest in cardiac ion transport, they would be matched with a mentor in clinical cardiology,” Muglia said.

“They would be able to select portions of medical school curriculum, or attend grand rounds, or even travel to attend meetings to gain experience related to diverse areas such as cancer biology, cardiac physiology, infectious diseases and birth defects, to name a few,” he said.

“This will offer structure and strategy for bench-to-bedside education in a programmed way,” said Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean of Biomedical Research, Education and Training at VUSM.

“We are training a new kind of individual, in addition to the outstanding physician scientists in the M.D./Ph.D. program. We expect it will prove to be a very popular choice for our graduate students.”

The HHMI is awarding a total of $16 million through its Med into Grad Initiative.

Each school will receive up to $700,000 over four years to develop the programs. Vanderbilt is one of 12 universities receiving Med into Grad grants for the first time.

“It is important for Ph.D. biomedical scientists to gain an understanding of the real life medical problems faced by physicians in practice,” said William Galey, director of HHMI's graduate education and medical research training programs. “Too few biomedical scientists appreciate how their research can help change the practice of medicine or public health.”