Committee plans Emory's

future in biomedical research

A new steering committee has been named to oversee creation of a "reality-based" plan to propel the Woodruff Health Sciences Center into the forefront of biomedical research worldwide. The steering committee is co-chaired by Thomas Lawley, dean of the School of Medicine, and Dennis Liotta, vice president for research, with 16 faculty/researcher representatives from the medical, nursing and public health schools, Yerkes and The Emory Clinic.

At the steering committee's first meeting last month, Michael Johns, executive vice president for Health Affairs, told the group that the Woodruff Health Sciences Center is in the best position of any school in the second 10 research institutions in the nation to move up to the first 10. "We're on a three-stage rocket about to jettison that second stage," he said. "The challenge I'm setting before you is to look at what you think research will be in the year 2010 and decide the center's own future as a research institution: where we want and need to go (and where we don't want to go) and what we need to do and have in the way of infrastructure to get there."

He set the research planning process in motion to accompany the overall strategic planning process he began for the Health Sciences Center and the System of Health Care soon after he took office last July.

David Black, senior vice president for biomedical research, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), has been brought in to work with the committee as a consultant, alongside the Health Sciences Center's own director and manager of strategic planning, Barbara Shroeder and Shari Capers.

As the top research administrator for the AAMC, Black said he has "seen the power of strategic planning for research" and believes Emory is in an especially strong position. It's the only institution he knows that has singled out research for specific planning in this way, a concept he applauds, and one of the few institutions where the Health Sciences Center schools and clinical entities operate under one umbrella, making integrated strategic planning possible at the highest level. It also helps, he added, that Emory has resources that aren't overly committed and that it is the only academic health sciences center in a major city with no major academic competitor.

The objectives of the new research planning process are to:

"The strategic plan we create for research should be a guide that fundamentally changes how the institution and everyone involved with research makes decisions," said Liotta. "We need to allocate our time, money and space in a strategic way."

For that reason, the planning process will be a broad-based effort. Each of the three Health Sciences Center schools and the Yerkes Center is now in the process of developing its own steering committee. "That's essential," said Lawley, "because the schools know best their own strengths and ambitions and best understand where research is going in their fields."

Also being named this month, subcommittees in specific areas will draw in faculty from across the entire Health Sciences Center.

Douglas Eaton, professor of physiology and deputy chair of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Signaling, and June Scott, Candler Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, are co-chairs of a basic research subcommittee,

Dallas Hall, professor of medicine and director of the Clinical Research Center at Emory Hospital, and Vicki Hertzberg, chair of the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health, co-chair a clinical research committee.

Both groups are expected to assess the critical factors that affect the competitive success of their type of research, to identify those interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research areas expected to become increasingly important; look closely at the financial, programmatic and philosophical ramifications of technology transfer initiatives on research activities; and other issues. For example, the basic research subcommittee will evaluate interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research training programs within the Health Sciences Center and neighboring institutions, while the clinical research subcommittee will try to identify viable mechanisms to provide protected research time for clinical translational and population researchers. In some cases, overlap has been carefully built in to make certain the viewpoints of various groups are represented. For example, both the basic science and clinical research committees will look at technology transfer initiatives.

An infrastructure subcommittee co-chaired by Thomas Insel, director of the Yerkes Center, and Robert Pollet, professor of medicine and associate chief of research at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, will assess aspects of the Health Sciences Center research infrastructure, prioritize present and future infrastructure needs and develop plans for addressing these needs.

The steering committee will oversee the process, meeting monthly. Johns has asked the group to have a working document ready to present to him by September. Periodic reports of their progress will appear in Emory Report.

-Sylvia Wrobel

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