February 10, 2015

Clinical Investigator Rewarded by Grad School’s Clinical and Translational Science Program

Feb. 10, 2015 | A desire to grow as a clinical investigator led Konstantinos Arnaoutakis, M.D., to earn a UAMS certificate in clinical and translational science.

“The clinical research field is evolving, and no matter how good your training may have been, there are many things that need to be learned, refreshed and updated,” Arnaoutakis said. Cancer biology, biostatistics, grant writing and research courses have all been relevant and enjoyable, in addition to meeting other UAMS researchers, he said.

Established in 2007, the UAMS Graduate School’s Clinical and Translational Science (CTS) Track Program is helping ensure that biomedical advances are being translated into patient care by offering a certificate and advanced M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. The CTS also receives support from the Translational Research Institute (TRI).

Arnaoutakis, a UAMS hematologist/oncologist, was so enriched by the certificate program that he went on to pursue a master’s degree in clinical and translational science. Both programs are tailored to his specialty.

“The CTS is a key part of UAMS’ growth as a national translational research leader,” said Robert McGehee, Ph.D., Graduate School dean. “We expect participation in the CTS to accelerate in the years to come.”

McGeehe noted that the Graduate School worked very closely with Issam Makhoul, M.D., the chief of the College of Medicine Division of Hematology/Oncology and the residency fellowship director to develop a tailored graduate certificate for Hem/Onc fellows.

“Dr. Arnoutakis is a wonderful example of how we can all work together in helping with the transition of subspecialty fellows into successful junior faculty positions,” McGehee said. “Working with Dr. Beatrice Boateng and Dr. Suzanne Klimberg, we have also developed similar tailored graduate certificates for pediatric and surgical oncology fellows, respectively. We would also welcome the opportunity to work with other fellowship directors in developing additional tailored programs.”

Boateng is director of the Office of Education in the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Translational Research Institute’s Evaluation Program. Klimberg is the Muriel Balsam Kohn Chair in Breast Surgical Oncology at UAMS.

To date, there have been 41 certificate graduates, eight M.S. graduates, and seven Ph.D. graduates. In addition, 35 are enrolled in the certificate program, 10 in the M.S. program, and five in the Ph.D. program. The CTS track is designed for students holding an advanced degree in a biomedical or health sciences field (e.g., M.D., R.N., Pharm.D., M.P.H., D.P.H. or Ph.D.), but is also available to others having significant clinical research management or clinical experience. Students in the CTS track take coursework designed to build a strong foundation in clinical and translational sciences including biostatistics, epidemiology, data management and analysis, clinical research methodology, clinical trials design, drug development, responsible conduct of research, grant writing and scientific communications. Courses are offered in the colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, and Pharmacy.

The knowledge he gained helped Arnaoutakis develop a clinical protocol for a UAMS investigator-initiated lung cancer vaccine.

“This is a complex process, developing protocols that are scientifically valid and that adhere to numerous regulations,” he said. “It’s also a multi-group effort, and the complexity underscores the importance of the clinical and translational science certificate.”

Ultimately, he said, the program is helping improve science and health outcomes. “Our patients, researchers and government leaders all want faster results that translate to the patient,” Arnaoutakis said. “Programs like the clinical and translational science certificate are helping us develop smarter and more cost-effective trials that accomplish these goals.”