As an educational institution focused on the health sciences, UCSF is integrating translational medicine into all of its schools. UCSF’s world-class training programs deliver a cutting-edge curriculum to budding scientists, researchers and health professionals through initiatives ranging from the Medical Scientist Training Program for MD-PhD students to several programs for clinical investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US) is part of the UCSF School of Medicine curriculum. 

UCSF has long trained PhD candidates in translational medicine, according to S. Claiborne Johnston, MD, PhD, associate vice chancellor of research and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), a cross-campus institute that was one of the first 12 academic institutions selected to be part of NIH’s national clinical and translational science consortium. In recent years, the University has recognized a need to add master’s degree programs as well.

“Doctoral degrees tend to push people into academic careers, and while it’s great to have academics, we also need folks who can start companies or work in other companies and provide new directions,” Johnston says.

Programs Support Innovation

Several UCSF programs are aimed at encouraging that kind of innovation, including:

  • Graduate Education in Medical Sciences Training Program: Designed for students working toward their PhD degrees in the basic sciences, this program includes courses that focus on knowledge and skills for careers that integrate basic and clinical science. Courses cover, for example, the interaction of medicine, drug development and Food and Drug Administration policies.
  • Master’s in Translational Medicine: Co-sponsored by UCSF and UC Berkeley, this two-year program was launched in fall 2010 through a $1.5 million gift from former Intel Corp. CEO Andy Grove. “This is a great program,” Johnston says. “It was started in record time, and I’m confident it’s filling an important gap.” The program aims to address the critical need for expediting new therapies to treat devastating diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes.
  • Doctoral Degree Program in Epidemiology and Translational Science: This program is for individuals who wish to pursue independent research careers in epidemiology and translational science and who have completed training at the master’s level in epidemiology, public health or related fields. The program is based on the view that epidemiology presents a set of research methods that will move basic scientific discoveries toward practical clinical applications and will disseminate new basic science and clinical knowledge in population health settings.
  • The program includes a new course on device development taught by Shuvo Roy, PhD, director and principal investigator of the UCSF Biomedical Microdevices Laboratory, who is a lead scientist in development of an implantable, artificial kidney that could someday take the place of dialysis.

CTSI also offers programs such as Pathways to Careers in Clinical and Translational Research (PACCTR), which fosters the incorporation of clinical research training in the core curriculum of all medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy predoctoral students. 

For resident physicians – doctors who have received a medical degree and are undergoing training in a specialty – CTSI has established a research elective and other initiatives for those who plan to make research part of their careers. The goal is to support career development through a foundation of clinical and translational research methods and evidence-based medicine skills.

Opportunities for Undergraduates

For undergraduates, there is the Pre-Health Undergraduate Program (PUP), a summer clinical research training program for students currently enrolled at UC Berkeley. The program is for those planning to attend dental, medical, nursing, pharmacy or physical therapy professional schools after graduation, and who have an interest in a career in clinical research.

UC Berkeley students are paired with a UCSF professional student who is enrolled in the course. The purpose of the course is to train students to evaluate the medical literature, to design clinical and translational research studies, and to encourage long-term collaborations between UCSF and UC Berkeley students. 

The translational medicine initiatives actually span all the University’s professional schools, and Johnston says it is almost a misnomer to think only in terms of medicine. “We think of it as a translational health issue rather than just medicine,” he says. “It’s just as important for students in the schools of nursing and dentistry and pharmacy.”

At CTSI, which was established in 2006, Johnston says it is “our job to support the training and build the infrastructure and services to help this.” CTSI, which works with researchers and outside industry partners as well as the different schools, was the brainchild of an impressive cadre of more than 200 campus leaders and investigators during a six-month planning process, spawned by a five-year, $108 million NIH grant.