Laura James, M.D., and Cornelia Beck, Ph.D., R.N., are inviting all researchers to bring their ideas as plans for UAMS’ research enterprise are drafted for the next five years.

New TRI Leaders Bring Complementary Research Perspectives

The distinguished research careers of Laura James, M.D., and Cornelia Beck, Ph.D., R.N., have been built at opposite ends of the human lifespan.

James, a pediatrics researcher, and Beck, a geriatrics researcher, had not worked together until they were recently named by Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., to leadership posts at the Translational Research Institute (TRI). James is director, while Beck is associate director, and both are co-principal investigators for the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

“We’re excited to have this opportunity,” said James, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics. “We each bring somewhat different backgrounds that I believe will contribute to a productive partnership for UAMS’ research enterprise.”

James takes the role previously held by Curtis Lowery, M.D., who stepped aside to focus on his duties as chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the Center for Distance Health. Greer Sullivan, M.D., M.S.P.H., who was leading the CTSA application process for TRI, recently accepted a position at the University of California at Riverside School of Medicine.

James and Beck are taking up the mantle to produce a successful application for a second CTSA, which provides comprehensive support for collaborative, multidisciplinary research by investigators in UAMS’ five colleges and Graduate School, UAMS regional centers, and several partner institutions. The current five-year, $19.9 million CTSA expires at the end of March, but it is anticipated that bridge funding will be made available to support the CTSA until the next request for applications is released.

James said one of her goals is to ensure an inclusive approach to the work of TRI.

“I think it’s crucial to hear as many voices as possible as we develop our plans for the next five years,” she said. “All UAMS researchers are invited to participate in the process.”

James’ research career has focused on acetaminophen toxicity and addresses the study of mechanisms and biomarkers of toxicity in animal models and clinical samples. She previously served as the director of the Pediatric Pharmacology Research Unit at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) and is section chief of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at ACH. James also oversees clinical trials in children that are addressing the appropriate and safe use of a number of medications.

Beck is a professor in the Department of Geriatrics and the Louise Hearne Endowed Chair in Dementia and Long-Term Care. She has served as a TRI co-director for the last five years. Her research career has been focused on improving the care of people with Alzheimer’s disease though clinical trials of non-pharmacologic interventions. Beck also is the co-director of the UAMS John A. Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence and has been responsible for the research arm of that center for the last 12 years.

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