New GHSU section to enhance clinical research

By: Press release from Media Relations, Georgia Health Sciences University
By: Press release from Media Relations, Georgia Health Sciences University

Thursday, July 7, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Georgia Health Sciences University has established a new section of experimental medicine in the Department of Medicine to advance clinically relevant research.

The new section, headed by Dr. David Pollock, renal physiologist and GHSU faculty member since 1995, will expand and coordinate basic and clinical research for the department, said Dr. Michael P. Madaio, Chairman of the Department of Medicine.

"I think it will be a way that physician faculty, young and old, can talk with basic scientists and think about new ways to address clinical problems and a way for basic scientists to talk with clinicians and ensure that the questions they are asking in the laboratory are clinically relevant," Madaio said.

The bottom line should be educating more physician-scientists – who treat patients as they pursue better treatment – for Georgia and better patient care, Madaio said.

There is a dearth of physician scientists nationally, said Madaio, who serves on the Association of Professors of Medicine's Research Committee charged with repairing the "leaking" physician-scientist pipeline. The National Institutes of Health also has made translational science, which has a clear path from the laboratory to the patient, a funding priority.

"It's where the money is but, more importantly, it's where we should be," Madaio said.

The kidney specialist and researcher has made research growth a departmental priority since he was named Chairman in 2008. Efforts to date include hiring basic scientists who work within the Sections of Gastroenterology and Nephrology as well as establishing a research tract for internal medicine residents enabling them to spend the majority of their first two years doing research. About six months ago, Madaio initiated conversations about further enhancements with Pollock, a regular participant in the Department of Medicine's academic programs.

"I am very excited about David and his capacity to interact with physicians and physician-scientists, along with the abilities of Jennifer (Pollock) and other members of his team to promote translational research at the University," Madaio said.

David Pollock, his research partner and wife Jennifer Pollock, a biochemist who directs GHSU's M.D./Ph.D Program, and Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, pharmacologist/physiologist, will comprise the initial Section of Experimental Medicine.

"You need to make sure you have ways of getting people in the same room," said David Pollock, who for years has been walking across Laney-Walker Boulevard from his office in the Vascular Biology Center to collaborate with hospital colleagues.

He, too, sees the section as a way to home-grow physician- scientists and strengthen GHSU's clinical research that can begin as early as medical or graduate school. Enhanced synergy speaks for itself. As an example, Dr. William D. Paulson Jr., GHSU nephrologist, talked with the Pollocks about problems with failing fistulas, a surgically created merger of an artery and vein that enables kidney dialysis. The Pollocks, who study the kidneys and blood vessels, are now working with Paulson in the laboratory to see if a popular impotency drug can help.

David Pollock notes that hypertension and kidney disease will be the new section's initial focus. While he and Madaio agree it's too early to know if their model will work university-wide, it should be a good learning tool. "I think we can learn a lot about how to do this," Madaio said. "To be a top research university, it has to happen," David Pollock added.


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