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New Initiatives Shape Clinical Trials for Researchers

Pictured left to right: Dr. VanderWalde, Dr. Johnson, and Dr. Davis

Nine Cross-Cutting Platforms, essential to each of the Areas of Excellence and Focus Areas, are described in the Operational Strategic Plan for Research. The Cross-Cutting Platform “Clinical Research Systems” details the Clinical Trials Governance Board (CTGB) at UTHSC which will be developed as a “fully integrated model of developing and sharing best practices for clinical research through institution-wide offerings.” Imagined by Vice Chancellor for Research Steven R. Goodman, PhD, and based on a Federated Model for Clinical Trials, the CTGB’s primary goals are to support and grow clinical research by advertising access to resources and opportunities for scientists and faculty throughout the UT System, and develop a statewide Clinical Trials Network (CTN).

Heading the Clinical Trails Governance Board are Ari Vanderwalde, MD, associate vice chancellor for Research- Clinical Trials, and Karen Johnson, MD, MPH, Endowed Professor of Women’s Health in the Department of Preventive Medicine.

“Currently, there are a number of clinical research offices that exist at UTHSC each with specific expertise, focus, and infrastructure,” said Dr. Vanderwalde. “Through the CTGB we are beginning to integrate these offices and share best practices across Clinical Research Offices as well as encourage a staffing model that takes advantage of resources across groups,” he said.

Dr. Johnson adds that the CTGB aims to facilitate clinical research and promote collaborations within and across departments, colleges, and campuses as well as within the UT System and beyond.

“We look forward to understanding and improving our research capabilities with a focus on improving health to better serve the people of Tennessee,” Dr. Johnson said.

Part of the charge of the CTGB is to bring into the Federated Model for Clinical Trials clinical studies b ing done by the UTHSC Colleges of Dentistry, Nursing, and Health Professions. An additional goal is to create and foster opportunities for global partnerships in collaboration with the newly appointed Associate Vice Chancellor for Research & Global Partnerships Stephania Cormier, PhD. A long term goal- build a UTHSC Clinical Trials Network that crosses all four UTHSC campuses.

Intricately linked to the CTGB and ultimately the CTN is the development of a HIPPA compliant Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) for all UT affiliated medical center patients (including The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and UTHSC Nashville) that is linked to a heavily populated biorepository. Integration of biomedical informatics into clinical research systems will enhance database building, formation of trial networking capabilities, observational research, and patient recruitment tools. Robert Davis, PhD, Governor’s Chair in the UTHSC-ORNL Center in Biomedical Informatics and professor in the Department of Pediatrics, said work on the research Enterprise Data Warehouse and the biorepository is already underway.

“By linking the Enterprise Data Warehouse with the biorepository that we are creating, it will allow both junior and senior faculty, as well as graduate students and postdocs, to perform innovative research at a faster pace,” said Dr. Davis. “UT researchers will be able to collaborate on projects to develop products and solutions for health problems applicable to patients and our community no matter their physical location through these resources.”

With the Clinical Trials Governance Board already working to better support clinical research faculty and the creation of the UTHSC Clinical Trials Network and Enterprise Data Warehouse now underway, UTHSC is positioning itself to contest for competitive grants and attract and retain faculty members with the ultimate goal of stimulating research initiatives and growing its research footprint.