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The GW Hatchet

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Translational health sciences program enrollment triples

Sophia Young | Photographer
Experts said higher enrollment in the translational health sciences doctorate program could contribute to a health care field that more efficiently treats patients.

Enrollment in a health sciences doctoral program has more than tripled since its debut in 2016.

School of Medicine and Health Sciences officials designed the translational health sciences doctorate program to teach working health care professionals how to conduct research across medical disciplines. Health sciences experts said increasing enrollment in translational programs will accelerate medical research because health care professionals can administer the best available medical treatments to their patients more quickly.

University spokeswoman Lisa Anderson said the enrollment increase was “expected and projected.”

“We are proud of the work we’ve done these last few years to help students in the program create, translate, disseminate and integrate new knowledge across disciplines,” Anderson said in an email.

Anderson declined to say how officials have encouraged students to enroll in the translational health sciences program and how officials will continue to grow the program. She declined to say the benefits of increased enrollment.

Health sciences experts said increasing enrollment in translational health sciences programs will expedite medical research and help health professionals treat their patients with the highest possible standard of care.

Ronald Gimbel, the chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at Clemson University, said education in translational health sciences increases competitiveness among applicants for grants from agencies like the National Institutes of Health, which could explain enrollment increases.

“This is a very hot topic area – one that can help prepare you for a long career in clinical research and clinical discoveries and how you translate those products into something – things that are really useful to improve health,” Gimbel said.

Chris Frei, a professor in the division of pharmacotherapy and Pharmacotherapy Division Head at the University of Texas at Austin, said enrollment in translational health sciences programs is increasing because students who research new medications and treatments as part of the program “feel like what they’re doing matters.”

He said the interdisciplinary nature of translational health sciences quickens the pace of research projects because researchers consider medical methodologies involved in several medical specialities instead of limiting their focus to one discipline.

Frei added that the translational health sciences program at his university includes education on business, intellectual property law and the patent process, which he said helps researchers effectively market new medication and medical therapies.

“That’s very attractive for people who want to make a difference,” Frei said. “Like most people in health care and in science, if you ask them what they care about, they want to make a difference to people.”

Tim Carey, a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said the process of turning a research finding into a viable medical treatment usually takes several years. He said the influx of new medical research professionals studying multiple disciplines could help bring new medications and therapies to the public more quickly than before.

“This is a matter of emphasis and working across disciplines so that people who are in, just as an example, genetics or cell biology are now talking to clinicians who see patients in settings,” Carey said.

Doris Rubio, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said she has seen a similar increase in translational health sciences program enrollment at her own university. Rubio added that medical researchers and scientists were “siloed” and did not cooperate with one another or bring in insight from other medical disciplines to achieve new medical breakthroughs.

She said increased emphasis on translational health sciences will encourage more interdisciplinary collaboration on research now that translational health sciences programs are commonplace.

“Being a translational scientist really facilitates that conversation across these multidisciplinary teams because you as a translational scientist are able to see problems from a variety of perspectives as opposed to one specific narrow discipline,” Rubio said.

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