Thomas Buchanan�professor of medicine and obstetrics and gynecology, chief of the division of endocrinology, metabolism and diabetes at the Keck School of Medicine, and director of the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) at LAC+USC Medical Center�has just added another title to his resume. Buchanan has been named as the Keck School’s first-ever associate dean for clinical research.
“As the current project director for the GCRC, Tom is the natural person to lead our efforts to coordinate clinical and translational research,” said Keck School Dean Brian Henderson. “Tom is a self-starter, and someone who clearly possesses strong leadership qualities, and as a funded National Institutes of Health clinical research investigator he has a perspective that will help him in his role as associate dean for clinical research.”
In his new role as associate dean for clinical research, Buchanan will to lead the Keck School’s efforts to coordinate its clinical and translational research programs. “In the short term, my main focus will be on developing a successful application, on behalf of USC, for one of the new NIH Clinical and Translational Research Awards (CTSA),” said Buchanan. “This effort will require hard work and collaboration by people across the university who are or would like to be involved in clinical and translational research. Receipt of a CTSA will provide a crucial nucleus for my long-term vision � an Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences.”
Buchanan is well aware of the importance of clinical research. His own endeavors focus on the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. In particular, he is known for his clinical research into ways to prevent the progression from gestational diabetes (which occurs in up to 5 percent of pregnant women) to type 2 diabetes (which occurs within four years of pregnancy in as many as 40 percent of previously obese women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes). He has not only demonstrated that defects in the insulin-secreting beta cells of the pancreas make women more likely to develop gestational diabetes, but has also shown that drugs that sensitize the body’s tissues to insulin can postpone the development of type 2 diabetes in women who are at increased risk because of their history of gestational diabetes.
His current research includes studies to determine which genes, if any, confer a genetic predisposition to diabetes, and clinical trials to look at the prevention of diabetes in overweight people with an early form of the condition.
Buchanan has played a key role in clinical and translational science since he was recruited to USC in 1988. In addition to his role as director of the GCRC, which is now the largest of the 77 federally designated GCRCs in the United States, he has also served as president of the National GCRC Program Directors Association.
“I am particularly pleased that Dean Henderson has placed such a strong focus on clinical research,” Buchanan said. “ This new position will allow me to work closely with people within the Keck School and across USC to develop an integrated and robust clinical and translational research enterprise.”
His colleagues point to Buchanan as a role model for interdisciplinary research.
“He represents the kind of translational scientist that has become increasing rare as regulatory problems and funding limitations have driven many clinical investigators out of the research arena,” said Richard Bergman, chair of physiology and biophysics and the W.M. Keck Chair in Medicine. “Also, I am proud to say that many of the concepts we developed in animal research have been successfully applied in Tom’s brilliant work, making the Keck School one of the most important examples of bona fide bench-to-bedside research that is so often touted as being a major goal of the National Institutes of Health.”