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Clinical investigation master's degree part of U.S. trend (5-07-02)

The new Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) degree program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is part of a national movement to educate young scientists about the complexities of research training involving human subjects, says the program's director, Michael Lichtenstein, M.D., professor of medicine at the Health Science Center.

"The old paradigm of learning all you needed to know about research with human volunteers from a single mentor and his or her laboratory is going by the wayside," said Dr. Lichtenstein, who is the program director for the General Clinical Research Center at the Audie Murphy Division of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS). "Investigators must be experienced in the responsible conduct of research, study design, biostatistics and data management as core knowledge areas for patient-oriented clinical research."

The MSCI program, approved this spring by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, is open to all post-graduate students who have professional degrees. June 1 is the application deadline for course offerings beginning this fall. Students are invited to contact Letha Garrison at (210) 567-4631 or Dr. Lichtenstein at lichtenstei@uthscsa.edu.

The interdisciplinary program includes an advisory committee representing the five Health Science Center schools and faculty from the schools. "All the courses are highly integrated and delivered at times during the two-year program when the degree candidates are most likely to need those skills in conducting their mentored research projects," Dr. Lichtenstein said. Details about the course sequence and structure may be found at the GCRC Web site (gcrc.uthscsa.edu/education.htm).

Institute of Medicine member Bettie Sue Masters, Ph.D., the Robert A. Welch Foundation Chair in Chemistry in the Health Science Center department of biochemistry, and Dr. Lichtenstein are the course directors for the Clinical Research Methods sequence. John Cornell, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and research scientist with the STVHCS, is course director for the Biostatistics sequence. Michael Stern, M.D., professor of medicine, Ken Williams and Sharon Fowler are the course directors for Data Management, Quality Control and Regulatory Issues. Theresa Guise, M.D., associate professor of molecular medicine, and Linda Smith, Ph.D., professor of clinical laboratory sciences, are course directors for Integration of Molecular Biology with Clinical Research. Steven Schenker, M.D., professor of medicine, and Angie Khan from the Institutional Review Board are the course directors for Responsible Conduct of Patient-Oriented Clinical Research. Larry Barnes, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, is course director for Scientific Writing. More than 30 faculty and staff make significant contributions to the MSCI degree program.

"This degree program is a resource for investigators in the five Health Science Center schools," Dr. Lichtenstein said. "We are collaborating with UT San Antonio in the biostatistics modules. Now that the human genome has been decoded, the next research questions are focused on gene expression and how the gene products are functioning in humans. We need a cadre of well-trained interdisciplinary clinical investigators to safely conduct these next investigations."

Contact: Will Sansom (210) 567-2570: sansom@uthscsa.eduWill Sansom