“Having this level of technology in our campus laboratory enables us to take medical initiatives to fruition,” says Scott Hammond, interim executive director of the translational medical research initiative at UCSB. “For example, we are at the forefront of optimizing objective MR and the full capability of functional MRI. A benefit for the Santa Barbara Neuroscience Institute is that, while a number of our initiatives are not neuro-specific, our core expertise revolves around issues affecting neuroscience.”
Mr. Hammond offers the large cognitive research center at UCSB as one example of a resource that can now more directly benefit patients with neurological deficits and conditions. One current UCSB/SBCH collaboration includes the inputting of data from 7,000 trauma patients into a system using commercial time-sensitive and time-dependent algorithms that had not been previously applied to medicine. The resulting real-time analysis is designed to speed diagnosis of patients with traumatic brain injury, create high-resolution, patient-based treatment protocols, and has the potential to benefit thousands across the country on a daily basis.
From Driving Force to Reality
The UCSB College of Engineering has a long history of collaborative research ties with other world-famous organizations, and is ranked in the top three of all engineering departments in the United States. The idea for a medical research joint effort originated with former UCSB Dean who also served on the Cottage Health System Board of Directors Matthew Tirrell, who proposed building a relationship with Cottage to facilitate clinicians’ and scientists’ access to medical technologies and resources for the purpose of performing clinical trials and expanding research capabilities.
“UCSB had already established medical research projects and conducted hundreds of clinical trials, and although Dean Tirrell did not view our lack of a medical school as an impediment, he also knew not having a teaching hospital limited our ability to do certain types of research,” says Mr. Hammond. “UCSB and Cottage joining forces was a very smart, novel idea.”
Because a structure like this had not been attempted before, each decision had to be carefully considered and involve the input of all stakeholders.
That integrative approach dovetails with the desire of both UCSB and Cottage to strive for excellence while working to create evidence-based solutions for patient diagnosis and therapy.
The collaboration is efficient by design due to the effectiveness and the cost-effectiveness of the translational approach when applying research to clinical care.
The most-cited research institute in the nation, the University of California, Santa Barbara, is listed on Thompson’s “High Impact U.S. Universities,” ranking second in electrical and electronic engineering, second in mechanical engineering and third in material sciences.
The Shared Culture of Translational Research
Much basic research does not have an endpoint, because scientists do not know what they will discover through their inquiries. In addition to the obvious challenge this presents for those seeking to quickly apply knowledge to patient care, another complication for medical researchers is cultural in nature, characterized on one side by the standard clinical reductionist point of view, or those seeking to enhance judgment by personally assessing individual and discreet disease states vs. the UCSB “systems approach,” a holistic system that utilizes advanced computational methodology to identify common areas for study from large groups of data (or patients) that are not otherwise intuitive or easily recognized.
“Translational medical research strives to create a common set of beliefs, attitudes, and values to ensure that scientists, researchers, and health practitioners are all playing in the same ballpark,” says Scott Hammond. “We take a systems approach to research that in effect involves analyzing both the forest and the trees by examining huge groups and then figuring out the commonalities. We bring together multidisciplinary teams with a shared vernacular and goals that include learning how to get from bench to bedside in the most efficient way.”