Dr. Parvesh Kumar, the UNLV School of Medicine Vice Dean of Research, recently led the inaugural meeting of the Clinical Research Working Group (CRWG) at the school of medicine administration building. The overall objective of the CRWG is to increase transdisciplinary research across UNLV.
Representatives from several different schools attended, including faculty and residents from the clinical departments at the medical school. Also attending were representatives from UNLV Schools of Allied Health, Dental Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, Engineering, and Liberal Arts. Others on hand represented the UNLV Vice President of Research, the Supercomputing Institute, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and University Medical Center. Overall, a total of 25 representatives were present at this inaugural meeting —
in the future, representation from the UNLV School of Medicine Year 2 and Year 3 medical students is planned.
DR. PARVESH KUMAR
Were you pleased with the turnout?
“Yes, as almost all of the representatives from the various clinical and translational departments and schools came to join forces and collaborate on research projects.”
What typically holds people back from conducting research?
“They can’t find the time, they’re too busy, and very often there is a lack of mentorship or guidance. They want to do research but don’t know who to turn to. So we want to create a positive environment and venue for researchers to work together.”
Why put so much emphasis on cross-campus collaboration?
“I know from my own experience that progress in research is incremental, and it takes time. We’re hoping to capitalize on the diversity of research and researchers that currently exists around UNLV. Moreover, funding for research is very competitive, so an innovative approach such as transdisciplinary research is likely to maximize the chances that our UNLV researchers will get funding.”
Why is research so important in becoming a top tier university?
“If you look at all the top tier universities and medical schools, they’re known for research. Look at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC —
those are all top tier and they are known for making research discoveries. We have to ask ourselves, how are we going to distinguish ourselves from other universities.”
One of the other key participants and supporters for this inaugural meeting was Dr. Mary Croughan, the new UNLV Vice President of Research. Dr. Croughan's research includes work on infertility that has been supported by the National Institutes of Health. She also helped develop research policy at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. She also was executive director of the systemwide University of California Office of the President Research Grants Program.
DR. MARY CROUGHAN
Why promote cross campus collaboration?
“Interdisciplinary research, wherein a team addresses and approaches complex questions from multiple perspectives and disciplines, provides more comprehensive answers to the difficult issues that we need to address as a society. By combining our approaches and methodologies, we arrive at more accurate and reliable conclusions.”
Biggest challenges in the process?
“A big challenge can be getting researchers to think creatively beyond their own standard disciplinary approaches, embracing the collective wisdom from multiple integrated disciplinary approaches.”
How does the addition of the school of medicine help with cross campus research?
“Significant strength already existed in health-related research at UNLV, but the addition of the medical school further broadens our expertise and capability.”
Dr. Kumar made the clinical presentation at the inaugural meeting. He is currently the principal investigator of the Mountain West Clinical and Translational Research Infrastructure Network award, a five year, $20 million grant funded by the National Institute of Health —
the largest grant at UNLV.
As the former chair of the department of radiation oncology at both the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Dr. Kumar has initiated clinical trials on prostate cancer through the U.S. Department of Defense and on head and neck cancer through the National Cancer Institute. He’s also led or co-led several national cooperative group clinical trials in lung cancer, head and neck tumors, and prostate cancer.
Brian P. Hedlund, Ph.D., professor and researcher from the UNLV School of Life Sciences, made the basic science presentation, focusing on the effects of drugs and diet. He also presented on the human gastrointestinal microbiome, specifically on clostridium difficile, which causes over 600,000 infections, costing over $12 billion annually.
Both Drs. Kumar and Croughan voiced their genuine excitement about transdisciplinary research possibilities at UNLV. If the inaugural meeting of the Clinical Research Working Group is any indication, some of the brightest minds on campus are ready to begin leveraging their intellectual capital and energy to find solutions to complex health related problems and currently incurable diseases.