CTSI Researchers at UM and UF Join Forces to Improve Health Outcomes in Florida

The Clinical and Translational Science Institutes (CTSIs) at the University of Miami and the University of Florida are joining forces to improve health outcomes for the state’s residents, a collaboration highlighted at a recent program focusing on the Miami CTSI’s clinical research.

“We are creating a new Canes-Gators partnership to work for a healthier Florida,” said José Szapocznik, Ph.D., the Miller School’s chair of epidemiology and public health, at UM’s inaugural “CaneSearch,” a daylong forum dedicated to addressing the nation’s obesity epidemic.

The Cuban-born Szapocznik leads the University of Miami’s new CTSI, which is focused on advancing “culturalized health sciences” to promote diversity and end health disparities. Funded by a $20 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Miami CTSI will work closely with the University of Florida CTSI – the only other such center in the state – on translating medical research at both institutions into better care for Florida’s growing population.

Welcoming CTSI researchers from both centers to a February 27 reception at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park, Richard Bookman, Ph.D., the Miller School’s Senior Advisor for Program Development & Science Policy, emphasized the importance of taking a cooperative, rather than a competitive, approach. “Florida is a large and extraordinarily diverse state with a multitude of health issues,” said Bookman. “By working closely together, our universities can work more efficiently and have a much broader impact.”

Underscoring the depth of the new research partnership, UF’s CTSI director, David Nelson, M.D., professor of medicine, molecular genetics and microbiology and Associate Dean for Clinical Research, joined Bookman for a discussion on “One Florida: Working Together for a Healthy State,” during the CaneSearch day.

“We believe these two great universities can translate research and discovery into improving the health of our communities,” Nelson said. “We can align our strengths to leverage the NIH investment in our state.”

Bookman noted that the Miami CTSI researchers traveled to Gainesville several months ago to learn more about the work of their UF counterparts. “Since there will not be a third CTSI in Florida, it’s very important that our two institutes play to each other’s strengths,” said Bookman.

Nelson said researchers at the UF College of Medicine have been active in many fields, including translating genetic findings into better clinical care for individual patients. “Our personalized medicine program focuses on delivering the most appropriate care for patients in our healthcare system,” he said, adding that UF has partnered with Orlando Health, which has a larger volume of patients than the UF healthcare system in Gainesville. “We want to develop sophisticated programs to translate research into better care in the real world.”

In keeping with that objective, the University of Florida also has linked its clinical research programs with the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Orlando and Florida State University’s College of Medicine in Tallahassee.

“With the new UM CTSI, the opportunities to impact healthcare in Florida are even greater,” Nelson said. “South Florida has a very different patient population than what we see along the I-4 corridor. In addition, UM has strong scientific research programs in fields like spinal cord injury, genetics and neurosurgery.”

Nelson added that the two CTSIs also may team up toward building a common technology infrastructure, and reach out to more healthcare systems and physician-based networks across the state. As Nelson noted, “Having two CTSIs is clearly a win-win for the state of Florida.”

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