Research Expo 2022 arrived at a great time for Lisa Jansen, Ph.D., and more than 100 other researchers wanting to learn about and leverage the numerous research resources available at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Arkansas Children’s Research Institute (ACRI) and the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHS).
“I am a new researcher, so I came to the Expo today to learn about all the options and possibilities that are out there,” said Jansen, who joined UAMS in January as an assistant professor in the College of Health Professions Department of Dietetics and Nutrition. “I love being able to directly ask questions to the representatives of these services. It’s better than just clicking on a website, and they were great at helping me understand how their services can benefit my research.”
Sponsored by the UAMS Translational Research Institute and the Division of Research and Innovation, the Research Expo on Sept. 21 promoted at least 47 research services and resources. The late afternoon event included food, beverages and door prizes.
Translational Research Institute Director Laura James, M.D., told the crowd that the event has grown from its origins six years ago to include research resources from UAMS, ACRI and CAVHS.
“I’m thrilled with this turnout,” she said. “It’s great to see everybody here and feel the enthusiasm in this room tonight.”
Shuk-Mei Ho, Ph.D., vice chancellor for the Division of Research and Innovation, said she was also thrilled that so many colleagues participated, noting that UAMS’ faculty, staff and students are hungry for new knowledge and innovations that can improve human health. Successful research projects, she said, require the support of a large group of research administrators.
“They are the heroes behind the frontline. They work tirelessly behind the scenes helping researchers with protocols, submissions, compliance, regulatory affairs, fiscal management, contracts and tech transfer,” Ho said. “They are the bells and whistles of any new research endeavor. Research Expo 2022 was a great event allowing the ‘engines’ to meet the ‘bells and whistles.’”
Nadim Nicolas Ghanem, M.D., a first-year fellow in the UAMS/Arkansas Children’s Clinical Informatics Fellowship Program, is new to the United States, so having face-to-face conversations with people at the expo was especially valuable, he said.
“Seeing all the available resources for research was great for someone like me coming from abroad,” Ghanem said. “It was a great day to meet new people and to learn more about the different tools I can potentially use in research.”
Zhong Su, Ph.D., MBA, who joined UAMS from the University of Florida in 2021, said the expo was a great way to gain institutional knowledge that he needs as a researcher.
“It’s a really good opportunity for people to get all the different aspects of research-related information right away,” said Su, a professor in the College of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. “You can talk to the people directly, quickly, instead of having to dig on the website.”
Su, a medical physicist, said he was happy to learn about the many sources of support, including grant funding opportunities, which he plans to pursue as part of his work with Arkansas’ first Proton Center. Proton therapy is a state-of-the-art technology that serves as an alternative to conventional radiation therapy, using a precisely focused high-energy proton beam to target tumors, often in hard-to-reach areas, with minimum impact of surrounding healthy tissue.
Sharon Sanders, Ph.D., MPH, said the expo is helpful to her role as research program manager at the Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention based at ACRI.
“As a community engagement person, I’m always looking for an opportunity to network with different people,” Sanders said. “The resources represented here at the expo can be helpful for our researchers at the Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention. We want to make sure we have as many resources and tools available to them as possible to make them more successful.”
For example, she said the Translational Research Institute-supported Center for Health Literacy can be a good resource for researchers at her center.
“Like our community engagement program, the Center for Health Literacy emphasizes the importance of communication and making sure that researchers use plain language and avoid jargon,” Sanders said. “We will point our researchers to the Center for Health Literacy because that is a resource that will be very helpful to them.”
Jansen pointed to the Center for Implementation Research and Center for Health Literacy as examples of newly discovered beneficial resources.
“They can help me with clinical trials as I am setting them up to ensure that they go smoothly and the methodology is sound,” Jansen said.
Ghanem said he especially enjoyed talking with representatives of the Translational Research Institute-supported Arkansas Clinical Data Repository and from the Institute for Digital Health & Innovation and BioVentures.
“As a Clinical Informatics fellow, that was more of my domain,” he said. “We can analyze UAMS’ data repositories to find new patterns and hopefully help improve care. And as family physician, I enjoyed playing around with the point of care devices IDHI had to offer while discovering new opportunities to provide care in the digital era.”
“It was also great to connect with the Institutional Review Board representatives,” Ghanem said. “It’s always important to ensure that the process goes smoothly with the IRB. Everyone was really nice, and it was great to connect with them.”