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Translational science has its day at USC

Craig Jordan of Georgetown University delivers a keynote address. (Photo/Rick Pham)

The university’s first Translational Science Day hosted by the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) gave researchers and community leaders an opportunity to share ideas.

More than 200 members of USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), along with community leaders and industry representatives, discussed topics that revolve around translational science — the process of advancing research discoveries into health applications.

“In order to develop creative solutions to complex health problems, we need to encourage faculty members across a wide range of disciplines to participate in translational research teams,” said Thomas Buchanan, director of the SC CTSI. “Hopefully events like this help demystify translational research for those who are not in the traditional health sciences and encourage all disciplines to gather around a common interest — improving human health.”

The event, which was held in November, opened with remarks from Randolph Hall, vice president for research, who set the stage by highlighting USC’s current research priorities and the university’s goal to strengthen its stature in medical research.

“Building our capacity for clinical and translational research at USC is vital,” Hall said. “This event brought together key internal and external stakeholders who participate in translational research every day.”

Attendees at the inaugural event heard presentations from renowned translational researchers.

“You’ve got to have a passion. You’ve got to get something to get you out of bed every day to say ‘I really want to do this,’ ” said morning keynote speaker Craig Jordan of Georgetown University, who delivered an inspirational presentation on his translational work developing tamoxifen — an anti-cancer treatment credited with saving the lives of more than 1 million women worldwide.

From left, Lloyd Michener of Duke University with Michele Kipke, Susan Autry and Thomas Buchanan of SC CTSI, and Craig Jordan of Georgetown University (Photo/Rick Pham)

“If you’re going to do this [research], check your ego at the door because this is … really about service, and it’s about serving,” said afternoon keynote speaker Lloyd Michener of Duke University, who challenged attendees to recall the purpose and spirit of translational research.

He also shared his pioneering work redesigning health care to improve community health outcomes and decreasing health care costs by transforming health care delivery systems through teams, community engagement and practice redesign.

Both speakers led motivational discussions with panelists who represented the full spectrum of translational research.

“Don’t be afraid to say yes to challenges. Just because it’s hard, or perhaps a little bit out of your range of expertise, does not mean that you should be discouraged from pursuing things in a way that really advances our mission to advance our science into patients,” said Stephen B. Gruber, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“If we’re going to be successful … our partnerships have to extend far beyond just the work that we’re going to do inside our care delivery system, and that’s where, for sure, the SC CTSI and people with initiative from USC and other places can really play an enormous role in bringing partners together,” said Anish Mahajan, a member of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. “Today is an example of that.”

For many, the event also offered an opportunity to better understand the wide range of activities the SC CTSI is involved in to produce partnerships with the community and support the research and careers of faculty members across USC.

“Events like these are what keep a culture of research alive at an academic institution,” said Michele Kipke, vice chair for research in the Department of Pediatrics at CHLA. “It was important for me to hear what the university’s priorities are and how we all might work together to have meaningful impact.”

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