News Release: Admission and Financial Aid, University News

Sep. 21,  2010

Partnership Grant Focuses on Workforce Diversity in Women's Health and Reproductive Research

Endometriosis researchers will train minority college students

Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) have been awarded a five-year, nearly $3 million partnership grant to promote workforce diversity and education in the reproductive sciences and women’s health. This is the first time this grant has been awarded and it is one of only two in the nation to be funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Through the grant, the Atlanta Center for Translational Research in Endometriosis or ACTRE (pronounced “actor”) will be established. The Center represents a partnership between strong reproductive research programs at both Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine. ACTRE will recruit, support and train under-represented minority college students throughout Atlanta to study the health implications and biology of endometriosis taking a unique “bedside to the bench” approach.

Endometriosis is a condition in which uterine-lining tissue grows outside of the uterus, causing pain, work absenteeism and infertility. According to the Endometriosis Association, it is a health condition that receives less attention than it should despite the fact that it affects at least 6.3 million women and girls in the U.S.

“We are honored to have received this cooperative research grant from the NIH and look forward to working with Morehouse School of Medicine, our partner site,” says Robert N. Taylor, MD, PhD, the Leach-Hendee Professor and vice chair of Research, Department of Gynecology & Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine. “The goal of this grant is to introduce minority students to translational human reproductive research, demonstrating how cellular and molecular biology bridge the way to clinical reproductive medicine.”

Taylor and Winston E. Thompson, PhD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Morehouse School of Medicine, will serve as co-principal investigators of the grant.

“This grant will lead to progress in treating a painful medical condition impacting millions of women across the country,” says Thompson. “Diversifying the workforce in biomedical science goes to the very core of the mission of Morehouse School of Medicine. Working with Emory brings strength to both research teams and will broaden our reach into the community to translate any successful results we may generate.”

The ACTRE partnership between Emory and MSM was created within an established vibrant inter-institutional research consortium called ACTSI (Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute). ACTSI acts as a network among Emory, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia Institute of Technology and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments, engage communities in clinical research efforts and train the next generation of clinical investigators.

“Funding of the Atlanta Center for Translational Research in Endometriosis (ACTRE) by the NIH represents an important example of how the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute (ACTSI) is facilitating the growth and expansion of research at Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine,” says ACTSI Morehouse School of Medicine co-principal investigator, Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH. “We certainly look forward to seeing more funding opportunities that build on the complementary strengths of both institutions. Ultimately, the elimination of health disparities must rely on such rigorous training and mentorship of a diverse biomedical workforce.”

Following a competitive application process, two to three undergraduate students will be selected to join ACTRE per site per year to train with faculty leaders. Their scientific focus will be on endometriosis, particularly on understanding why uterine-lining tissue grows in other areas of the body, why the condition is resistant to programmed cell death and how the use of alternative medicines may overcome such resistance.

Through the grant’s educational and research components, scholars will learn about translational research, work in a basic science laboratory, understand the importance of clinical investigation and interact with physicians who care for women with endometriosis. In the process, the students will be exposed to a comprehensive curriculum that covers research ethics and methodology, reproductive physiology and the diagnosis and therapy of endometriosis.

“Over the next five years, we hope that ACTRE will promote collaborative investigation into the causes and possible treatments of endometriosis across the greater Atlanta biomedical research and patient care communities, while also encouraging workforce diversity in this growing field,” says Taylor.

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