Inaugural Research Development Day Promotes Collaboration Across Medical Center

Posted in GUMC Stories

OCTOBER 4, 2015—In an increasingly competitive grant funding environment, researchers need to collaborate with colleagues to develop successful proposals. On September 22 in the New Research Building, more than 150 students, faculty and staff members gathered to learn about opportunities for collaboration with the remarkable range of research centers and services offered at Georgetown University Medical Center.

At the first Research Development Day, the leaders of several on-campus research centers offered brief presentations on their current projects while representatives from different research support offices staffed booths where they discussed their work with attendees. The event was organized by the Office of Research Development Services and the Office of Sponsored Research, in collaboration with the Office of the Dean for Research.

“This is the first time we’ve attempted to put all of these services together in one place and allow people to come and learn a little bit more from the [services],” said Robert Clarke, PhD, DSc (new window), GUMC dean for research and professor of oncology.

“Some of you may know that we have a CTSA [Clinical and Translational Science Award] but have no idea what it is,” Clarke said. “Some of you may know we have a cancer center but not know how it’s structured or what work goes on. You’ll get to learn about those. You’ll get to learn about some other centers that you may not have even heard of before. And hopefully, all of these conversations will allow you to think differently about your own research and what you do and build new collaborations.”

Striving for success in a competitive funding environment

Despite recent cuts to federal research funding, researchers who take advantage of the services available at GUMC may increase their odds of submitting successful grant applications, speakers suggested at Research Development Day.

“We always want to make things better. At a time when it’s becoming much more competitive in the world outside these walls, we as an institution need to provide you with as much support to enable you to be as successful, as competitive as possible,” Clarke said. “And for all intents and purposes, that means providing support that allows you to spend more of your time doing and writing about the research and less of your time dealing with the institutional requirements.”

Before recently becoming executive VP for health sciences at GUMC, Edward B. Healton, MD, MPH (new window), served as chair of the neurology department, chair of the department of rehabilitation medicine and medical director at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital. “I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the table trying to get grants,” he said. “We know what success looks like, although this, I think it’s fair to say, is one of the most difficult times in our history in terms of the challenge of gaining federal funding.”

Seeking different sources of research funding

In addition to the cancer support center grant that helps fund research at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, GUMC recently received a notice of award announcing an additional five years of funding for the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (GHUCCTS) (new window).

“We’re one of the very few active medical centers to have both a cancer support center grant which underlies the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and a CTSA in one institution,” Healton said. “That’s a tremendous achievement and those two awards together is really quite extraordinary.”

Moreover, GUMC researchers have earned other categories of NIH grants, including Research Project Grants (R01s), Career Development (K) Awards and training grants, Healton explained. Recent research at GUMC has also received funding from non-NIH sources, including CDC, USAID and NASA.

“I think that obviously, NIH grants are where we want to focus a lot of our attention, but there are other opportunities to look at as well as we think through our research,” Healton said. “So we do know what success looks like and we have a lot to celebrate, but we also have a lot of support and work that we need to do to be as effective as we can at facilitating research for all of our faculty as we go forward.”

Looking ahead to the 2nd Annual Research Development Day

Clarke encouraged attendees to contact him with feedback about the event and research support services generally. “We’re going to do this [Research Development Day] every year,” he said. “We hope to have more conversations and more collaboration with some of our other research centers.”

Improving research support services is a major priority for Healton, who said that he is working with GUMC leadership to make them more organized and efficient. “I’m happy to help out in any way that I can and certainly know that we’ll be working hard to make the research support system continue to be as effective as it can be.”

Kat Zambon
GUMC Communications