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    A Crash Course in Clinical Research at SB Med School

    Mansoor Khan

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Studentsenrolled in the MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at Stony BrookMedical School recently organized a symposium entitled ‘?What is ClinicalResearch, Anyway?’

    The lecture series, subtitled’?Field Experience from Our Clinical Warlords’, featured currentStony Brook faculty members who conduct research in a broad array of clinicalareas.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

    The first of the lectures was given by Dr. Wadie Bahou, MD,Chief of the Division of Hematology. His topic, ‘?Career Opportunities inAcademic Medicine’, revolved around the development of the MD/PhDdegree.Hr offered an overview ofthe prospects facing medical researchers today.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘?Theprogram was instituted because physician-scientists are in need to makescientific progress in the U.S.,’ said Bahou, a graduate of University ofMassachusetts medical school.

    The MD/PhD program represents theintegration of two programs, the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC), aninstitution designed to assist doctors and medical researchers to conductclinical studies seeking to better understand and treat disease, and theMedical Scientist Training Program, an initiative designed and funded by theNational Institute of Health (NIH) in order to promote biomedical research.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

    Bahou briefly reviewed the history of the MSTP program,which was conceptualized in 1984. The first three programs were established atAlbert Einstein Medical College, NYU, and Northwestern Medical. Stony BrookUniversity’s MSTP program was launched in 1992.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Currently,while only two and a half percent of medical school graduates achieve theMD/PhD degree as medical scientists, 35% of all NIH government funding goes tothose with the dual degree.

    ‘?It is the opportune time topursue biomedical investigation. The NIH values the service ofphysician-scientists,’ Bahou said.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

    Receiving the dual degree is not the only way to pursue acareer in research, however. Physicians with a normal MD degree, whom Bahouterms as ‘?late bloomers’, may enter the world of biomedicalresearch as well. The only problem, according to Bahou, is that ‘?latebloomers don’t get as comprehensive training.’

    MD students receive dispersedexposure to research throughout their medical education, as opposed to the 8years of training and focused research undertaken by MD/PhD candidates.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

    The advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a career as aphysician-scientist, according to Bahou, must be weighed heavily against oneanother. While the ‘?stimuli to pursue’ research are many, includinginterest in investigation, discovery, and education, the disadvantages are alsonumerous, such as long training, uncertainty of success, and considerable debt.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Tohelp students handle their debt, the NIH has been working to assist physicianspursuing research. In 1998, the NIH implemented several strategies, includingexpanding the GCRC budget, new grants for training in clinical research, and anew loan repayment program. The NIH also pays salaries for new researchers,running up to $90,000 per year.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Thetask of explaining clinical research in itself was left up to Dr. Marie Gelato,MD, PhD, director of the University Hospital GCRC. She explained the process ofpreparing a grant application and providing a general overview of designing acompetent project in clinical research.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘?Youneed an idea from which you can generate a question and a hypothesis,’Gelato said.

    Topics are often derived fromexperiences in the lab, from transitional research (what Gelato calls’?bench to bedside’), or from an interesting patient population.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

    Researchers must also gather preliminary data in order toshow that the project has potential and is feasible. An experimental design andmethods must also be drawn out. In addition, appropriate approval andjustification must be acquired in order to utilize human subjects in any way,shape, or form.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘?TheGCRC can really play a major role in helping you throug
    h the wholeprocess,’ Gelato said.Oneof the center’s main purposes is to assist researchers in preparinggrants.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Afterthe first two general lectures, the symposium shifted to a forum for facultymembers to discuss their own specific research endeavors at theUniversity’s Health Sciences Center.

    Lecturers included Dr. Sharon Nachmanof Pediatrics, who presented ‘?Pediatric HIV and You’, and Dr.Irving Krukenkamp, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery, speaking about’?Lasers and Microwaves in Cardiac Surgery’.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

    The audience was comprised of undergraduates, medicalstudents, graduate students, physicians and researchers.

    ‘?The lectures were prettyinteresting,’ said Stony Brook senior Mohammed Imran, who is currentlyapplying to medical schools. ‘?The first two lectures were a bit morefocused on research grants and things like that than I thought they would be,but were overall pretty informative.’

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