Research Day’s core message: Single is not most effective strategy
By Lin Lofley
The concept of team science dominated the inaugural Center for Translational Medicine Research Day at UT Southwestern Medical Center, as a number of the top researchers on campus, as well as those looking to learn more about multidisciplinary opportunities, gathered to discuss how to learn the skills of collaboration.
Dr. Helen Yin, Associate Dean for the Office of Women’s Careers, opened the event with a welcoming presentation that included the National Institutes of Health’s definition of translational science as being “the process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public – from diagnostics and therapeutics to medical procedures and behavioral changes.
“People do not work alone,” said Dr. Yin, Professor of Physiology and of Faculty Diversity and Development. “There have always been teams, but now those teams are larger, depending on the kind of research they are doing. Typically for single Primary Investigator [PI] investigations, the PI directs trainees and staff.
“But we’re in a different type of collaboration these days, and that involves multiple PIs directing an integrated research team that is doing multidisciplinary science.” In the larger teams being formed “it’s important to document your contribution and to be known for those contributions to the work as a whole,” she stressed.
To understand how researchers must go about embracing the “team” in team science, Dr. Yin laid out the building blocks for productive translational research. These include developing a shared vision, building and earning trust, committing to effective communication, handling conflict, and understanding the criteria for promotion and tenure.
The keystone of the Center’s Research Day was a panel discussion featuring the PIs of three teams currently combining their talents and efforts. Dr. Robert Toto, Associate Dean for Translational Research, Director of the Center for Translational Medicine, and Professor of Internal Medicine and of Clinical Sciences, moderated the discussion. He pointed out that now there are investigators who are studying the science of team science, and began the segment by echoing Dr. Yin’s observation, saying, “Team science is not new. We’ve been working together for a long time. It’s just that now we’re trying to understand how to work together better than we have in the past.”
Panel discussion participants included:
- The group led by Dr. David Gerber, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and of Clinical Sciences; and Dr. Rolf Brekken, Professor of Surgery, of the Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology, and of Pharmacology;
- The team of Dr. Kim Orth, Professor of Molecular Biology and of Biochemistry; and Dr. Steven Wolf, Professor of Surgery;
- The team of Dr. James Brugarolas, Director of the Kidney Cancer SPORE Program, and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine; Dr. Yang Xie, Associate Professor of Clinical Sciences and of Bioinformatics, and Dr. Payal Kapur, Associate Professor of Pathology, and of Urology.
In closing, teams of young researchers from UT Southwestern and UT Dallas took part in a Shark Tank-type event, trying to “sell” their favored research idea to a panel of “sharks” that included Dr. Brugarolas, Dr. Ethan Halm, Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Professor of Clinical Sciences, Dr. Beth Levine, Professor of Internal Medicine, and of Microbiology; Dr. Eric Olson, Chairman of Molecular Biology and Director of the Hamon Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine.
Dr. Brekken is an Effie Marie Cain Research Scholar.
Dr. Halm holds the Walter Family Distinguished Chair in Internal Medicine in Honor of Albert D. Roberts, M.D.
Dr. Levine, an HHMI Investigator at UT Southwestern, holds the Charles Cameron Sprague Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science.
Dr. Olson holds the Pogue Distinguished Chair in Research on Cardiac Birth Defects, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science, and the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research.
Dr. Orth, an HHMI Investigator, holds the Earl A. Forsythe Chair in Biomedical Science, and is a W.W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research.
Dr. Toto holds the Mary M. Conroy Professorship in Kidney Disease.
Dr. Wolf holds the Golden Charity Guild Charles R. Baxter, M.D. Chair.
Dr. Yin holds the Margaret Yin Chair for the Advancement of Women Faculty, and the Peter and Jean D. Dehlinger Professorship in Biomedical Science.