At his annual Town Hall meeting Monday, Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Steven R. Goodman, PhD, presented the newly approved Operational Strategic Plan for Research (OSPR), which outlines a major restructure of the research effort at UTHSC. The plan is designed to increase research dollars coming into the university, improve support for UTHSC researchers, and encourage collaboration among researchers on campus, as well as nationally and globally.
“The Operational Strategic Plan for Research is an aggressive five-year blueprint for our institution designed to help drive us to our goal of becoming a top-tier research university,” UTHSC Chancellor Steve J. Schwab, MD, said. “It carefully outlines our objectives and details the tools and resources necessary for our researchers and university to succeed. I applaud Dr. Goodman and all those involved in its creation, and I look forward to seeing our evolution.”
With meticulous detail, Dr. Goodman spoke about the writing process and committee members, areas of current and emerging strength, opportunities for growth, needed improvements in infrastructure, and the metrics and dashboards by which success will be measured. The Operational Strategic Plan for Research “lays out a pragmatic and ambitious course of action that will systematically strengthen and grow the research at all campuses at UTHSC,” Dr. Goodman said. It is thoughtfully designed to be a fruitful “five-year strategic roadmap.”
A committee of 25 research experts representing multiple UTHSC departments, colleges and campuses wrote the document, which took a year to complete. Robert W. Williams, PhD, and Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, ARNP-BC, FAANP, served as its co-chairpersons. While there were 25 active committee members, there were at least 50 people in total performing the writing. These writing groups were composed of faculty within the OSPR Committee, and subject-matter experts from the UTHSC research faculty community.
“At the last meeting, which occurred in August, we unanimously voted approval for the entire document,” Dr. Goodman said. The plan had been vetted multiple times by the OSPR Committee and received input from the Research Council and Faculty Senate Research Committee, before receiving final approval by Chancellor Schwab on Aug. 22.
Dr. Goodman explained that the Operational Strategic Plan for Research provides six Areas of Excellence, each with three Focus Areas that are a combination of current and emerging areas of strength. It goes on to further detail nine Cross-Cutting Platforms that are essential to each of the Areas of Excellence and Focus Areas. The goal is to stimulate the formation of interdisciplinary and interprofessional research teams around focused research areas. Then we must provide them with “a strong infrastructure and the resources needed to be successful,” Dr. Goodman said.
The Town Hall presentation included an example of integration across the research and patient care missions. Specific suggestions made in the document are continued support of the ongoing efforts to obtain a Clinical and Translational Science Award and the Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) Awards created by Vice Chancellor Goodman to stimulate new research partnerships; clear and publicized policies for faculty health care providers who wish to have more protected time to do research; and reduction of “the barriers for some of our faculty in conducting research at local hospitals,” he said.
The Operational Strategic Plan for Research explores the research infrastructure of UTHSC, proposing action items such as the seamless integration of pre and post award under the Office of Research, and ongoing review by the Office of Research to reduce the compliance and administrative burden on faculty. The plan also speaks to the importance of utilizing new and newly renovated space to stimulate formation of interdisciplinary and inter-college teams of researchers based on the Areas of Excellence and Focus Areas. Dr. Goodman explained the importance of operating Institutional Research Cores based on Business Plans, and creation of new cores and upgrading of existing cores. The OSPR further describes how Research Institutes and Centers will be defined and established moving forward. “Formation of institutes and centers is extremely important in creating interdisciplinary and interprofessional research teams,” Dr. Goodman said.
The document proposes several new initiatives aimed at creating internal and external collaborations and partnerships. He references establishing a statewide Clinical Trials Network and the importance of a future Biotechnology Park, which would include a bioincubator building for startups and a research park building for mature companies.
Dr. Goodman also made several key announcements during his Town Hall including: the first USA CORNET Award Winners — Dr. Kristin Hamre of UTHSC and Dr. Cynthia Kane of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The pair received a joint grant to study the effects of alcohol on fetal brain development. Other announcements included creation of the UT CORNET Awards in Cancer Research complete with a planned symposium and poster session that will take place in Nashville; and Gabor Tigyi, MD, PhD, was named the new associate vice chancellor for Research and Industry Relations. Dr. Goodman further hinted at the creation of a Global CORNET Award, which the newly appointed Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Global Partnerships Stephania Cormier, PhD, will help establish.
Dr. Goodman closed by stating that in order to be successful, it is going to take everyone working together. “To reach our communal research mission, vision and metric goals will require the entire UTHSC research community supporting this Institutional Operational Strategic Plan for Research and working in alignment toward organizational research goals,” Dr. Goodman said.