UTSA, UT Health Science Center, UT Austin to offer Ph.D. in translational science

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(Dec. 12, 2011) -- It takes 24 years, on average, to translate a scientific discovery into an application that improves people's health. Today, a new breed of scientists is needed to lead research teams in labs and communities to speed up this noble endeavor.

That's why The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio (UTHSCSA), the University of Texas at Austin and the UT School of Public Health, Houston, San Antonio Regional Campus, have announced the establishment of a Ph.D. degree program in translational science. The new program, which welcomes its first cohort of students in fall 2012, joins fewer than 20 translational science Ph.D. programs across the country.

It is the first new Ph.D. program involving the Health Science Center in eight years, said Michael Lichtenstein, M.D., M.Sc., a geriatrician in the UTHSCSA School of Medicine. He is director of research education, training and career development for the Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science at the Health Science Center. This institute is funded by a major National Institutes of Health grant -- a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) presented in 2008.

"The goal of the CTSAs is to transform academic health centers so they will accelerate the pace and application of discovery, resulting in improved health for the public," Lichtenstein said. "The translational science Ph.D. is a linchpin of our push to make lives better and represents a sizable investment of time, people and resources by the four UT institutions."

The 11 CTSA partners in South Texas include the four Ph.D. program institutions.

Translational scientists will improve health care delivery, patient outcomes and community health by working as members of teams and interacting with scientists from other disciplines, engineers, health-care professionals, laboratory and other technicians, health services professionals, administrators and representatives of community organizations. Graduates will be prepared for research careers in academia, industry, health agencies, regulatory agencies, the military and research institutes, among other settings.

"The health problems in today's populations, such as diabetes and obesity, will require collaborative translational efforts from research disciplines at all levels of the scientific and translation continuum," said Dorothy Flannagan, dean of the UTSA Graduate School. "This joint, collaborative degree program combines resources to break down barriers, promote team science, and educate scientists who will impact human health in and beyond Texas."

Two translational science Ph.D. programs are currently offered in Texas, one at the UT Medical Branch at Galveston and the other at Baylor College of Medicine. Only two additional programs are located in a 12-state region surrounding Texas and only 17 are offered nationwide.

"The translational science Ph.D. is a pivotal addition to the training armamentarium of The University of Texas System," said Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., executive vice chancellor for health affairs with the UT System. "The collaboration among the UT institutions" faculty and administration members has been outstanding in establishing this unique graduate program."

Students in the new program will take 24 hours of core curriculum, then move into either of two tracks -- one that teaches translation of science from basic discovery to clinical trials, or a second that teaches movement of discoveries from clinical trials to community and policy.

"Consistent with the National Institutes of Health's design of the CTSA program, both types of translational scientists are needed, to ensure that worthy discoveries advance at a prodigious clip to the communities where people need them," said Patricia Hurn, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for health science research at the UT System.

Sharon Cooper, Ph.D., regional dean of the UT School of Public Health in San Antonio, said, "Translational science is multidirectional because community needs such as childhood obesity help set research agendas for understanding root causes, not only at the basic biologic level but at environmental and policy levels as well."

For more information about the program, contact Lisa Palacios, UTSA director of graduate recruiting at 210-458-6406 or Susan Stappenbeck, UTHSCSA senior project coordinator, at 210-567-4304.

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About UTSA

The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the fastest growing higher education institutions in Texas and one of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment. UTSA serves more than 30,000 students in 134 degree programs in the colleges of Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and Graduate School. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond.

About the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country's leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university's schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways "We make lives better," visit www.uthscsa.edu