Health Watch -- Improving Research

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How effective have efforts been to improve the quality of clinical research?

Government-supported medical research efforts are improving, but could be better, according to a report prepared by a doctor at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Dr. Jean Wilson, a professor of endocrinology at UT Southwestern, and a colleague at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute published a "report card" on efforts to improve federally funded clinical research.

An earlier report had found that one problem was getting young physicians to pursue clinical research. Most new doctors finish their medical training with enormous debt, so they're more inclined to find high-paying jobs than to pursue an academic career. New government programs to help with debt relief are making it easier for young doctors to afford to go into research.

There are also new training programs in place to help young doctors learn how to do clinical research. One program even provides money for medical students to take a year off from school to learn about research.

But Dr. Wilson says there's still work to be done. This report recommends that the National Institutes of Health-funded General Clinical Research Centers, such as one at UT Southwestern, get additional support personnel to help with research. The report also suggests that more funding go to translational research, in which doctors directly observe diseases and the effects of treatment in patients.