The University of Texas System Board of Regents, meeting Nov. 7-8 at UT Tyler, approved a proposal to establish a Master of Science in Clinical Investigation degree program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The Health Science Center now will submit the proposed degree program to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for approval.
Clinical investigators interact with human subjects who are participating in research studies. Most of the master's degree candidates will be physician-scientists from the Health Science Center's School of Medicine, but outstanding graduates of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Dental School, School of Nursing and School of Allied Health Sciences also will be recruited. Trainees will become proficient in the preparation of clinical research protocols, informed consent documents, grant proposals and preliminary research manuscripts.
"Scientists who work with human subjects face an amazing variety of demands — to design research studies using the best and safest research methods, to ensure the recording of accurate and relevant biostatistics, to turn scientific findings into a consistent record of grant awards, to ensure patient safety through quality control, and to write scientific manuscripts. This new degree program promises young researchers a solid foundation to answer these many challenges," said Steven A. Wartman, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for academic and health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
Funding for the program is through a five-year, $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, which is supporting creation of M.S. in Clinical Investigation degree programs at major U.S. health universities. The Frederic C. Bartter General Clinical Research Center, a patient-oriented clinical research unit funded at the Health Science Center for the past 21 years, will coordinate the new degree program. The Bartter Center is located in the Audie Murphy Division of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.
The proposal establishes a unique, interdisciplinary 30-semester credit hour M.S. in Clinical Investigation degree program. Depending upon Coordinating Board approval, the first students would enroll in the fall of 2002.
The new program is designed to encourage physicians to enter fields of clinical investigation. The past 30 years have seen a decline in the number of physicians entering these fields. "The debt burden shouldered by new medical school graduates often forces them to pursue clinical careers rather than research careers in an academic setting," Dr. Wartman said. "Now that the human genome has been sequenced, there is a need for physicians and other health professionals with clinical backgrounds who can safely and knowledgeably investigate the effects of new drugs and gene products in human disease."
It is projected that approximately 10 students will enter the program yearly over the next five years with a total enrollment of 20 to 40 students. One unique facet of the program is that it will train students to conduct research in cross-cultural settings such as predominantly Hispanic South Texas.