November 5, 2004

VA names two first-ever Clinical Research Scholars

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photo by Dana Johnson

VA names two first-ever Clinical Research Scholars

Two junior faculty members have been selected as the first Veterans Affairs Clinical Research Scholars. Through the VA Clinical Research Center for Excellence, the investigators will be supported by a $400,000 per-year grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Christianne Roumie, M.D., instructor of General Internal Medicine, and Harvey Murff, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine, will have their research supported in an effort to “jump start” their clinical research careers.

“These types of awards are crucial to be able to recruit and train the next generation of clinical researchers,” said Marie Griffin, M.D., professor of Preventive Medicine and Medicine, and primary investigator for the grant.

“The award brings in substantial resources both for direct faculty support and for the enhancement of the infrastructure for clinical research at the VA.”

Griffin said the current clinical research programs, such as the collaborative Geriatric, Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), were recognized strengths in her proposal, and helped the institution garner one of the two grants awarded in the nation.

The funding provides start-up packages for junior faculty and enables them to have protected time to do research, while they work to obtain their own financial backing.

“The aim of the VA Clinical Research Center of Excellence is to help the career development of researchers who are interested in translating 'what we know' into 'what we do' to achieve better health for patients,” Griffin said.

According to Griffin, both Roumie and Murff are doing just that.

Roumie's research focuses on quality improvement, specifically evidence-based prescribing of medication as it relates to veterans with high blood pressure. Her work will help develop the infrastructure to identify at-risk patients and design effective intervention using VA databases.

“The training grant is a good opportunity to continue work that I started during my fellowship and masters of public health training. It would have been difficult to do this research otherwise,” Roumie said. “It's also a great opportunity to work with Dr. Griffin, who is an excellent mentor.”

Murff is interested in the influence of family history on cancer risk. He is working to determine how genetic information will be integrated into primary care.

“I'm asking 'are high-risk people being identified and managed properly?' and more basically, 'what are the genetic reasons for increased risk?'” Murff said.

“This grant is a very good opportunity to free up my time to work on this research, as well as work with seasoned researchers, such as Dr. Griffin, who is a very accomplished and skilled researcher.”

Both junior faculty members are interested in using VA information systems to identify problems and design solutions.

“The Center is committed to developing the VA's extensive patient medical information systems for clinical research,” Griffin said. “Successful system changes developed at our hospital have the potential for widespread adoption in other VAs.”

The ability to change medicine for the better is why Roumie focused her career on clinical research.