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May 6, 2002

Clinical research center opens at Grady Hospital

By Alicia Sands Lurry


Thanks to a three-year, $4.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the School of Medicine has opened Grady Hospital’s first-ever General Clinical Research Center (GCRC).

The renewable grant brings the promise of innovative treatments for Grady patients, new educational and training opportunities for Emory and More-house School of Medicine students and staff, and a large infusion of revenue for Grady’s bottom line.

Grady’s Unit 8A has been made over for the GCRC, which opened in April, said Juha Kokko, associate dean for clinical research and Asa G. Candler Professor of Medicine, who pushed for the Grady center and organized the NIH application.

The center features six inpatient beds, one outpatient bed and five infusion bays where patients can receive intravenous medications. The new grant represents a major source of patient care income for Grady, as well as an indispensable vehicle for helping to develop new treatments for disease.

“A General Clinical Research Center is a well-defined hospital area that is completely funded by the NIH,” Kokko said. “It’s very unusual to find a GCRC in a non-university-owned hospital. The care of all patients will be completely supported by an outside payer (the NIH), although in some cases support could come from a pharmaceutical company or another sponsor of a clinical study in the GCRC. Thus, the hospital—as well as the patients—will benefit. In addition, Emory and Morehouse students and residents will have an unprecedented opportunity to learn from faculty how to conduct clinical research.”

The GCRC will support Emory and Morehouse physician-scientists in tackling some of the most intractable problems found at Grady and other large urban hospitals, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, kidney disease caused by sickle cell anemia and traumatic injury.

From an administrative standpoint, the Grady GCRC will function as a satellite to a long-established GCRC at Emory Hospital. The program director of the Grady GCRC will be Lawrence Phillips, professor of medicine, who worked with Kokko in developing the grant application. The Grady GCRC is being funded outright by the NIH for three years, after which it can be renewed in five-year increments, contingent on the renewal of the “parent” GCRC grant at Emory.

Phillips emphasized that all research studies at the center must first be considered and approved by institutional review boards to assure patient safety and the protection of human subjects. It is also important, he said, that clinical studies take into account the concerns of Grady’s patient population. To this end, the grant supports the hiring of a research subject advocate, who will be an expert in health education and communications, and a patient care advocate, defined as a clinical nurse specialist who will serve as a liaison between doctors, research oversight committees, staff and patients.

New techniques developed in the center will be applied to the rest of the hospital. Physicians, residents, medical students and nurses will rotate through the center, which also will have a permanent core staff of nine nurses and many participating physicians from both universities.

The new center deepens a decades-long partnership between Grady and the School of Medicine, which furnishes most of the hospital’s medical staff; the remainder are faculty and residents from Morehouse. Grady is the primary clinical training site for both schools. About one of every four physicians in Georgia has worked in Grady.

“The [GCRC] at Grady is a win-win for everyone involved,” said medical school Dean Thomas Lawley. “Patients will benefit, and the hospital’s bottom line will benefit. The GCRC will have a very important impact on the treatment of patients at Grady, as well as on the finances of the hospital.”