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New UTHSC Tennessee Clinical and Translational Science Institute Established to Improve Human Health for Southerners

Dr. Michelle Martin and Dr. Karen Johnson, co-leaders of the TN-CTSI.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center have formed the Tennessee Clinical and Translational Science Institute (TN-CTSI) to address health inequities in the Southern United States.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the American South represented the largest population growth by region in 2017. Comprised of 17 states, the South also has a large minority population with heightened levels of poverty and health disparities.

“TN-CTSI will catalyze the development of methods and technologies that lead to more efficient translation of medical discoveries into interventions that improve human health across the translational research spectrum, from basic science to population science,” Karen C. Johnson, MD, MPH, co-leader of TN-CTSI and Endowed Professor of Women’s Health in the UTHSC Department of Preventive Medicine said (pictured right). “Our mission is to improve the health of Tennesseans and underserved populations in the South by providing education and training, fostering interdisciplinary teams, improving quality and efficiency, and engaging community stakeholders and partners in meaningful collaboration.”

Michelle Martin, PhD, director of the Center for Innovation in Health Equity Research: A Community Cancer Alliance for Transformative Change at UTHSC and professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine (pictured left), will serve as the other leader of TN-CTSI.

“TN-CTSI will have participation from all six colleges, as well as participation from all campuses at UTHSC,” Dr. Martin said. “The institute will also collaborate with other UT units, such as the UT Institute of Agriculture, especially the extension service, and the UT Advanced Computing Facility in Knoxville. We are forming an integrated institute that spans the entire state to address the most-pressing health needs in our area.”

Research Institutes at UTHSC are comprised of faculty from multiple colleges and multiple campuses, and are often catalysts for interdisciplinary team science that can lead to large Center or Program Project grant applications, collaborations, and awards.

TN-CTSI, in collaboration with the University of Mississippi Medical Center Clinical Research Institute and the Tulane University Translational Science Institute, have together formed the Delta Clinical and Translational Science Consortium. The collaborative consortium is designed to support high-quality interdisciplinary team-based clinical and translational research locally, regionally, and nationally, by fostering innovation in research methods, training, and career development. What makes this Delta Consortium unique is its focus on underserved populations, addressing health disparities by uncovering interrelationships of disease phenotypes with genomics, health-related behaviors, environmental exposures, and social factors that may affect health across the lifespan.

Long-term, the Delta Consortium’s goal is to obtain a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), which will identify the consortium as a hub linked to a national network of medical research institutes recognized by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. UTHSC and Tulane are partners, with UMMC a collaborating Institution, within this consortium. Each university-created research institute will have cores designed to carry out the work of the Delta Consortium.

“We will build on decades of accomplishments in clinical and translational research at our respective institutions, along with robust workforce training programs, career development, and collaborative community engagement,” UTHSC Vice Chancellor for Research Steven R. Goodman, PhD said. “The vision of the Delta Consortium is to be a model environment that covers three states (Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana) to facilitate research across the translational spectrum from basic science to population science that is responsive to community priorities, conducted by interdisciplinary teams, and that results in acceleration of discoveries into practice leading to improvement of human health.”