While the launch of the Integrated Clinical Enterprise is a focus point for UAMS this year, Dean Pope L. Moseley, M.D., assured faculty researchers at a Sept. 15 Town Hall meeting that a key objective of the service lines, and his top priority, is strengthening research and education programs.
“My goal is to make us better as an academic enterprise,” said Moseley, who is internationally known for his laboratory research in cellular adaptations to exercise and his expertise in biomedical informatics. He became dean in July after chairing the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine for 14 years.
The forum, co-hosted by pediatrics Professor and Executive Associate Dean for Research Charlotte Hobbs, M.D., Ph.D., was well received by faculty members.
Stavros Manolagas, M.D., Ph.D., lauded Moseley’s arrival and strong support for the research enterprise as well as the commitment of UAMS leaders to support research with greater funding resources that are anticipated to be generated through the new clinical service lines.
“This is the most exciting news, I believe, at this institution in the 20 years that I have been here,” said Manolagas, a distinguished professor and director of the Division of Endocrinology and the internationally recognized UAMS Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases. “I want to wish you the best of luck,” he said, drawing a round of applause for Moseley.
Moseley noted that research and education are not self-supporting and that clinical revenue is by far the largest funding source for UAMS. “Research and education need fuel from the clinical engine,” he said.
An institution could hypothetically optimize the clinical delivery system at the expense of everything else, Moseley said.
“But that’s not who we are,” he said. “We didn’t come here to be a multi-specialty practice group. We came here to be a community of scholars. We are here to develop new knowledge and to train the next generation of scientists and clinicians.”
Moseley said he came to UAMS because he was impressed that an academic medical center had “the will” to completely change the clinical delivery model and system for managing the flow of its revenue in an effort to improve patient care while also generating new revenue for strategically planned research and education initiatives. “What we are all trying to do is to find that balance point,” he said.
Moseley outlined priorities for enhancing the research environment, including working with chairs to recruit outstanding researchers at all levels and in key areas that support research. He cited the recent recruitment of Fred Prior, Ph.D., from Washington University in St. Louis as the inaugural chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics.
He said the college will work to support successful, established research programs and develop a systematic, central approach to bridge funding for successful investigators who experience lapses in extramural funding. Additionally, Moseley said he will work with research leaders to “lower the activation energy” required for successful research by addressing any barriers in areas such as human subject and animal care review.
Emphasizing the importance of chairs in determining how funds are allocated for research, he said a research-focused strategic retreat is being planned. Investigators can have input in the process through their chairs, he added.
An immediate priority is obtaining renewal of the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which Moseley said is a “defining grant of an academic medical center.”
The UAMS Translational Research Institute (TRI), under the leadership of pediatrics Professor and TRI Director Laura James, M.D., has been preparing the CTSA renewal application to meet the Sept. 25 deadline. Moseley urged faculty members to support the final efforts that were underway.
Longer-range major institutional initiatives include building the biomedical informatics program under Prior’s leadership and preparing the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute’s application for National Cancer Institute designation in a couple of years, Moseley said.
The majority of the meeting was devoted to questions and comments about research priorities and needs. Recommendations from faculty members included developing an inpatient clinical research unit, improving access to research core services, and working more closely with the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHS) and leveraging VA grant opportunities for both basic and clinical researchers.
“Compared to other institutions that have VA facilities next door, we tend to underutilize their Career Development Program and the VA Merit Review Program,” said Curt Hagedorn, M.D., a Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology who serves as vice chair for VA Affairs in the Department of Internal Medicine and chief of Medicine at CAVHS.
Michael Jennings, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and executive associate dean for Basic Sciences, said there is a misconception that VA awards aren’t available for basic scientists and lack of understanding about how to get into the VA system. “But this is something we can really take advantage of,” he said.
Moseley and faculty members spoke about the importance of growing the numbers of physician-scientists through recruitment, mentoring, training programs and other means.
John Arthur, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Nephrology, used a football analogy in advocating for maximizing training grant opportunities, such as the NIH’s career development K awards.
“If you really want, over the long term, to have a team that can compete for the SEC championship year after year, you really have to grow it from the bottom up,” Arthur said.
The meeting opened with a presentation by Hobbs on new services for researchers, including improvements to the COM research website and the UAMS Grant Repository, which will provide junior faculty researchers with examples of submitted grant applications as a training resource to help them to improve their applications and chance of funding.
Hobbs showed a graph reflecting the downturn in NIH funding over the past five years. “We are really focused on turning that around,” she said.
Moseley also referred to the downturn in his remarks. “That is behind us,” he said. “It is our job to change course, and I am excited because we are going to do that.”
For more of Moseley’s thoughts on the importance of research and the academic mission, read his Executive Blog posts on the Inside UAMS intranet.
For information about eligibility and applying for VA grants, contact Sue Theus, Ph.D., deputy associate chief of staff/research, CAVHS, at (501) 257-4841 or Sue.theus@VA.gov.
Editor’s note: A version of this article also appears in the September COMmunication newsletter.