The logistical hurdles of research
Date: February 9, 2012
One of the biggest obstacles that prevents scientists from embarking on clinical trials and outcomes research is obtaining sufficient funding. Figuring out where to start and how, once those coveted dollars are won, comes a close second.
When they first begin their research careers, says trauma surgeon Adil Haider, “young investigators especially may find themselves spinning their wheels” trying to learn about the logistics of conducting a study. It’s also not unheard of for a scientific investigator to embark on a study, completely unaware that around the corner is a surgeon, endocrinologist, pediatrician, nurse or radiologist with years of relevant knowledge and reams of relevant data.
This is where the Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research (CSTOR) comes in. Introduced about two years ago, the center is the brainchild of Department of Surgery Director Julie Freischlag. She envisioned, Haider says, a program that could bring together the wealth of knowledge, resources and manpower intrinsic to Hopkins so that faculty members could have the help they need to get launch their studies. To lead the center, she appointed Haider and hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgeon Timothy Pawlik. Both have extensive experience in starting and conducting the kinds of research that CSTOR aims to promote and assist.
“This is something new and relatively novel, both at Hopkins and across the country,” Pawlik says.
Some faculty, he adds, may want to do a clinical trial or perhaps are approached by someone in the pharmaceutical industry to test a new drug. “CSTOR, says Pawlik, “can help with budgeting and regulatory issues, as well as research nurses and assistants who can help run trials and recruit patients.”
Outcomes research is another crucial component of the program’s mission. “Some faculty members want to do research using large data sets,” Pawlik says, “and there are people in CSTOR who can help organize and analyze that data, and, as a result, help facilitate robust outcomes research.”
Before CSTOR, there was no structured way to track who already had which data set, meaning that the same set could be purchased multiple times—a waste of precious dollars on information already available to them through another faculty member.
“We are trying to take surgical research to a new level so we can improve the outcomes and lives of the patients we interact with,” Haider says. “That’s our ultimate goal.”