Tina Palmieri, UC Davis associate professor of burn surgery and director of the UC Davis Burn Center, is committed to ensuring that the outcomes of her burn patients are the best they can be. That is why she is participating in a two-year training program, offered at UC Davis Health System, designed to make her a better and more effective outcomes researcher.
"We have done a lot to increase patient survival after injury," says Palmieri, who is also assistant chief of burns at Shriners Hospital for Children Northern California. "Merely enabling a patient to survive a burn is not enough. We need to make sure that people can lead happy and fulfilling lives despite their burn injuries."
Yet Palmieri recognizes that to help her patients even more, she needs to enhance her research skills so that she can better address the issues associated with burn recovery. For instance, at a recent conference, she learned from
burn survivors that the itching they experience is a significant deterrent to their well-being, yet little research has been done to see what is the best way to alleviate this side effect.
Palmieri and other faculty from the health system, the School of Veterinary Medicine, the Department of Biomedical Engineering, the College of Biological Sciences and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are receiving just that kind of opportunity through UC Davis' Mentored Clinical Research Training Program. Designed to provide training and support for innovative, clinical research, the program received a $1.4 million federal grant in 2005 from the National Institutes of Health's K30 Clinical Research Curriculum Award.
"How to be an effective researcher is not something that was taught in medical school," says Palmieri. "I have a basic skill
set for research but I wanted to become the best outcomes researcher I could."
The program is guiding her in developing a multi-center, randomized study on blood transfusions in patients with burns – from crafting a solid hypothesis (that burn patients, who typically receive high amounts of blood, can fare well on fewer blood transfusions), to designing the protocol and signing up other institutions.
"This program has taught me how to bring people together," says Palmieri, who has participated in but never before been the principle investigator in a multicenter, randomized prospective clinical trial.
The skills she is developing in coordinating the multicenter trial have propelled her into other collaborative activities. Last fall, she organized a consensus conference on the state of science for research in burn surgery. The conference drew more than 200 participants, including physicians, basic scientists, nurses and burn survivors. The conference defined research priorities in burns for the next 10 years.
While she waits to hear if her blood transfusion project receives the federal funding she has requested, Palmieri is certain about one aspect: "The clinical research program has filled in a lot of holes in research knowledge that I didn't even know I had. I have gained many new tools and established contacts that will help me navigate through the complexities of clinical research."