UC Irvine School of Medicine is developing a comprehensive set of curriculum tracks focusing on the nation's acute need for doctors and scientists who can turn basic and clinical research into improved patient care.
Currently, less than 2 percent of active physicians pursue careers in research. At the same time, the number of biomedical discoveries has increased. Consequently, implementing those discoveries for clinical practice has become more difficult.
In the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) ‘Roadmap’, Dr. Elias Zerhouni called for the transformation of biomedical training and mentoring to promote synergy between physician-investigators and researchers and others trained in basic science and non-clinical disciplines (see EA Zerhouni, New Eng J Med 2005; 353: 1621-1623).
Dr. Francis Collins, the current director of the NIH, has underscored the importance of translational research, along with the development of comparative-effectiveness research, by placing the issues among the top priorities of NIH's research agenda (see E Dolgin, NatureNews 2009; 460:939).
The faculty leadership at UC Irvine clearly sees the need to expand local training opportunities in clinical research. Related shortages of qualified researchers also must be addressed across a broader range of the biomedical and translational science spectrum, including the study of disease on the molecular level, the conduct of clinical research on human subjects, the synthesis of evidence-based medicine and the development of guidelines to improve clinical practice.
Initially, our MS degree program curriculum is focused on the conduct and interpretation of clinical research and the assessment and improvement of healthcare quality. The long-range expectation is to offer additional fields of emphasis, especially in molecular medicine and population health sciences.
Molecular medicine will focus on the molecular mechanisms and molecular physiology of human disease. Population health sciences will focus on the application of epidemiologic research and research methods to clinical practice.
As the MS-BATS program expands, the faculty expects to offer medical specialty and disease-focused elective concentrations that correspond to medical specialties and sub-specialties throughout the School of Medicine.
The current curriculum design of our MS-BATS degree program is sufficiently flexible to encourage trainees from various departments to enhance their training through electives specific to the content focus of their department or research interests.
While we expect the trainees' research projects to be related to the content focus of the trainee’s department, a multidisciplinary approach is encouraged by the students' mentoring committee.