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Rahal first to complete radiology resident-Ph.D. program

Posted on Friday, August 10, 2007 · Volume: XL · Issue: 16

Contact: Will Sansom
Phone: 210-567-2579
E-mail: sansom@uthscsa.edu

Six years ago, the Department of Radiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio became the first radiology department in the country to establish a Ph.D. program for radiology residents, and the program has become one that Harvard, Yale and other medical schools aspire to emulate.

The program is called the Dual Medical Residency and Ph.D. Program in Human Imaging.

A highly focused approach to research
“M.D.-Ph.D. dual-degree programs exist at health science universities, but they usually insert three years of doctoral research experience after the second year of medical school,” said Gerald D. Dodd III, M.D., professor and chairman of radiology and holder of the Stewart R. Reuter Distinguished Chair at the Health Science Center. “The dissertation research may or may not be related to the future clinical interests of the student. In our program, the participant, who is already a physician, conducts research in a medical area related to radiology while practicing that specialty at the same time. The residency experience focuses the research and makes it highly relevant to the rest of the radiologist’s career in medicine.”

Andres Rahal, M.D., Ph.D., is the first graduate of the Health Science Center’s resident-Ph.D. program.
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Andres Rahal, M.D., Ph.D., is the first graduate of the Health Science Center’s resident-Ph.D. program.clear graphic

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First graduate is now a member of the radiology faculty
In May, Andres Rahal, M.D., Ph.D., became the first graduate of the resident-Ph.D. program and has since joined the Department of Radiology faculty. Five more residents are in the six-year program.

Dr. Rahal performed translational research in musculoskeletal radiology, his chosen clinical subspecialty. He is studying the molecular structure of collagen, the material that makes up cartilage, tendons and related tissues. Cartilage is the spongy material that lines joints.

Dr. Rahal studies technique to improve early evaluation of joints and bone
“We are using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to visualize collagen and evaluate joints and bone,” Dr. Rahal said. “We believe this technique will allow for the earlier diagnosis of and less-invasive therapy of musculoskeletal disorders.”

Residents ready to practice sooner
Dr. Rahal, 35, completed medical school and radiology residency in Medellin, Colombia. He is on the medical staff of University Hospital and the South Texas Veterans Health Care System. He also noted that in traditional M.D.-Ph.D. programs, individuals typically take three more years to complete all their training and begin their academic careers.

Multiple research facilities enable program to exist
Gary D. Fullerton, Ph.D., professor and vice chairman of research in the Department of Radiology, supervises the radiological sciences Ph.D. portion of the program. Research facilities are located in several sites including the Department of Radiology, the Health Science Center’s Research Imaging Center, the Cancer Therapy & Research Center, Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Medical Center.

Participants gain leverage on extramural grant support
“An early indicator of the success of the human imaging program is the high rate of external grant funding for student applicants entering the research phase of studies, where five, or 100 percent, of human imaging applicants have received extramural grant support,” Dr. Fullerton said.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $536 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $14.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 22,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields.

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