The power of partnership
Pamela B. Davis, MD, PhD
While our faculty and students may take wildly differing routes to their accomplishments, nearly every effort shares a single trait: They involved more than one individual.
The era of the lone investigator is over—if indeed it ever really existed. We all build on the breakthroughs of others, whether through formal associations or lessons learned following colleagues’ work from afar. Federal agencies increasingly require interdisciplinary collaboration, while batches of books herald the advantages of diverse approaches for everything from strategic business decisions to complex scientific questions.
Over the past five years, we have witnessed one of our institution’s single greatest experiments on the effectiveness of collaboration, the Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative (CTSC). Led by our School of Medicine, it is a partnership among schools and researchers within the university as well as with our hospital partners: Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center and University Hospitals Case Medical Center. The idea was relatively simple: By pooling our strengths, we could bring cures more quickly from laboratories to patients—that is, from bench to bedside.
Execution is where matters got complex. You’ve got five major institutions. More than 1,300 physicians and scientists. Thousands upon thousands of patients, volunteers, neighborhood activists and more. It can be challenging enough to get a half dozen people on the same page. We had to achieve the same goal with a population the size of a midsize town—and then get all of our processes and technology aligned as well.
They say that sometimes naiveté is an advantage. If you don’t truly understand how daunting something can be, you won’t be dissuaded from trying. In this instance, we had ample optimism borne of ignorance, but we also had something even more powerful: a sense of higher purpose. Everyone involved participated out of a fundamental desire to help people. Even the most stubborn obstacles struggle against that rationale.
The original National Institutes of Health (NIH) award that created the CTSC in 2007 totaled $64 million. Since then, we have leveraged those resources to attract $150 million in additional grant funding and $740 million in private sector investment. Our researchers have published more than 1,100 peer-reviewed journal articles and this year claimed three of the top 10 clinical research accomplishments as identified by the nonprofit group the Clinical Research Forum. This total is the most of any CTSA recipient in the nation.
As proud as we all are of our accomplishments—and when I say we, I mean me, co-investigator Richard A. Rudick, MD, from Cleveland Clinic and literally legions more—the most important opinion came from NIH evaluators. Their answer came this summer when we received word on our renewal application—$64.6 million for another five years.
Team science works: for investigators, for institutions and, most of all, for patients. And they, after all, are why we are here.