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COM research has promising future

The College of Medicine is perfectly positioned to become a leader in translating basic research into improved patient care, Regional Campus Dean for Research Michael Muszynski explained at an Oct. 21 Grand Rounds lecture.

Muszynski, a pediatric infectious-diseases specialist who also is dean of the Orlando regional campus, said the medical school has begun a Translational Research Initiative.

“There’s no reason why our distributed, community-based idea cannot be (excuse the term) translated to our own research endeavors,” Muszynski said. “Our regional campuses basically are practice-based entities. So we are sitting on a potential goldmine of clinical material to take our basic science ideas, our human clinical research findings, and drive them through our clinical sites at six different cities across a very large state, the third-most-populous state in the country.

“We’re in a really interesting position to make some exciting things happen.”

Academic medical centers have had the advantage in research funding, he said, but that’s probably going to change soon.

“The question here is not ‘Who’s doing the right kind of care?’ or ‘Who’s doing the best care?’ The question is ‘What care is most feasible in the real-world setting?’ And the academic medical center answer to that can be quite impractical at times.”

By contrast, he said, studies involving practice-based research networks occur where patients receive most of their care. They can identify problems in everyday practice that create gaps between care recommendations and delivery. They can test interventions in real-world settings. And they can function as laboratories to test system improvements in medical care.

“It’s an invaluable approach that is just now gaining more funding and more and more attention,” he said, “especially in the family-medicine literature.”

He cautioned his audience that setting up a viable, effective research network takes at least three years. “You have to go slow before you can go fast,” he said, and the College of Medicine has barely begun. But things are starting to happen:

·         The college has hired Roger Mercer to head its new translational science laboratory.

·         It has hired Jessica DeLeon as clinical research projects director for the network it hopes to build.

·         Florida State and the University of Florida have created a Community Research Collaborative Program. They have identified two pilot projects, which would inaugurate the Florida State research network. They have written a grant, but “should we not get funded,” Muszynski said, “both institutions at the highest levels are committed to funding it.”

The pilot projects both involve testing the feasibility of using assessment instruments in a real-world setting. “They’ve worked in the academic center, but no one has the foggiest idea whether they’ll work in private physician’s offices across a large demographic area,” he said. “That’s where we come in.”

            Though he urged everyone to be patient, Muszynski was clearly enthusiastic.

“This is really big,” he said. “The other [clinical and translational science institutes] around the country have other outreach programs within the community, but they’re small. One or two locations, three maybe at the most. We have the potential to have six different cities participating with a whole bunch of different practices all across the entire state. Pretty heady stuff.”