New CRTU ushers in unprecedented clinical research for Mississippi
Published on Thursday, September 5, 2019
By: Karen Bascom
Clinical research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center rose to new heights Aug. 30 as UMMC dedicated its new Clinical Research and Trials Unit on the seventh floor of University Hospital.
The CRTU is a state-of-the-art facility that expands and supports the Medical Center’s research mission. The unit has 22 inpatient/outpatient rooms, a research pharmacy, workspace, a conference room, sample processing lab, infusion center and encounter rooms. The CRTU has access to all of the institutional resources necessary to facilitate clinical research of the highest safety and quality standards.
“Effective treatments and cures are what our state and our world desperately need, and what many of you here today are so passionate about,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs, said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The Clinical Research and Trials Unit is designed to help us find those cures. As Mississippi’s academic medical center, it is our imperative to be at the forefront of medical innovation to serve our patients.”
The CRTU embodies the intersection of two of UMMC’s three missions: research and clinical care.
“Some of the most successful institutions doing clinical research have dedicated units,” said Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research. The CRTU, which has been five years in the making, now gives UMMC its own space.
“Mississippi has a patient population with a high burden of diseases such as diabetes, cancers and heart disease,” Summers said, making UMMC’s CRTU a valuable resource and platform for discovering and testing new treatments.
The CRTU will also help educate the next generation of physicians, Summers said, as fourth-year medical students will have the opportunity to do clinical rotations in the unit and learn about both research and the medical advances that may someday be commonplace in their own practices.
The CRTU will be used for clinical research in adult participants across the Medical Center’s specialties, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurology and other areas. It is designed to conduct multiple kinds of research, such as studies where participants answer surveys or questionnaires about their health, studies that assess the safety of new therapies, and studies that show that a new therapy works.
Dr. Gailen Marshall, medical director of the Clinical Research Support Program and Clinical Research and Trials Unit, said that conducting clinical research is important for several reasons.
“Clinical research is the way to better understand how our bodies work in health and what goes wrong when we develop a disease,” Marshall said. “It helps us to develop new therapies based upon that understanding, who the new therapies work best for and the challenges in successfully implementing the therapies for the largest number of patients possible,” Marshall said.
The CRTU’s construction started in 2017, after the Mississippi Legislature passed an $8 million appropriations bill. Representatives from both state and federal legislative offices attended the ceremony.
The CRTU is part of broader effort across UMMC to increase its capacity to conduct clinical research. Earlier this year, the Medical Center opened its Office of Clinical Trials, whose missions include making sure that research agreements are followed, standardizing training for clinical research staff, recruitment and data management, and making the trial set-up process more efficient.
Also in attendance at the dedication ceremony was Jenny Weis, administrative director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Since 2010, UMMC and Mayo have worked together to enrich clinical and translational research at both institutions. The CRTU is critical to expanding that relationship, Summers said.
“When the Mayo Clinic asks patients why they come there for treatment, the first answer patients give is ‘because you do clinical research and have cutting-edge medicine,’” Summers said. “I want people to come to UMMC for that reason as well.”
Summers said that the CRTU can also be an engine for economic development, citing Duke University and other institutions anchoring North Carolina’s Research Triangle as major influences in transforming the state’s economy in recent decades.
With the creation of the CRTU, Woodward said UMMC “will be able to conduct studies on treatments that haven’t even started to be developed yet – truly the future of medicine.”