According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any other year on record. Opioids, primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin, are the main drugs associated with overdose deaths. Deaths from drug overdose are up among both men and women, all races, and adults of nearly all ages. With statistics like these, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) see an opportunity to combat this national epidemic together.
On June 8th, more than 70 researchers from UTHSC and UAMS attended the inaugural Research in Substance Abuse Mini-Symposium. The mini-symposium, hosted by UAMS, was created to foster communication and collaboration between investigators on both campuses. Conceived by Steven R. Goodman, PhD, vice chancellor for Research at UTHSC, and Lawrence Cornett, PhD, vice chancellor for Research at UAMS, the event showcased addiction research being done on both campuses and allowed researchers the opportunity to meet and identify common interests.
The UTHSC/UAMS Southeastern Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) Awards, the first of several said to be awarded from Phase 3 of the CORNET Awards, were also announced during the event. Designed to promote new lines of team-based substance abuse research, two collaborative projects worth up to $100,000 combined will be awarded to investigative teams with principal investigators from both UTHSC and UAMS on each proposal. Funding for the two UTHSC/UAMS CORNET Awards will be provided for one year with each institution giving equal support.
At the event, attendees learned about each institution’s substance abuse research programs from keynote speakers representing both universities. There was also a poster presentation during which researchers shared their work and ideas for future collaboration.
Both Drs. Goodman and Cornett expressed that they were very pleased with how the day unfolded. They were encouraged to see researchers from both campuses com- ing together to advance substance abuse research.
“What I liked about it is that although there are some overlapping strengths, we’re also complementary to each other,” said Goodman. “For example, UTHSC is particularly strong in mouse genomics while UAMS has highly regarded psychiatric research programs.”
Dr. Cornett compared the mini-symposium to a school dance where players from both sides came together.
“Both of our institutions share commonalities in research, and we want to build upon those to strengthen our respective programs,” said Cornett. “We also want to find meaningful collaborations that might address this growing problem with substance abuse and addiction in the US. I actually saw some dancing going on as the day progressed.”
Both universities are already looking towards the Fall where UTHSC will host a mini-symposium on cancer research, another area of research overlap between the two campuses.