A medical doctor must understand the science behind the medicine to provide the best care for a patient, says Michael Friedlander, the vice president of health sciences and technology at Virginia Tech.

“It is also important that tomorrow’s biomedical researchers, including Ph.D.s in health sciences, are familiar with the medical challenges and problems that their research is addressing,” said Friedlander, who is also the executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

Friedlander will present these ideas during the opening symposium of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine’s annual meeting April 3 in San Diego, California. The symposium, “The Translational Scientist: Integrating Science and Medicine,” will focus on key concepts of translating discovery to health care.

Friedlander’s keynote address is titled “New Approaches to Training Health Researchers.”

“Interdisciplinary education and training programs that expose students to the full range of issues confronting our health system are essential. It is no longer sufficient for students to be solely focused on the genetics, cell biology, computational aspects, sociology, economics, or policy of a particular problem,” Friedlander said. “They must still go deep in a particular area of expertise but also be versed in the breadth of the issues that impact a particular problem.”

Friedlander pointed to Virginia Tech’s Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health graduate program as an example.

“We emphasize the T-shaped educational model — there is a deep vertical component as well as crosscutting trans-disciplinary components,” he said.

Ken Ramos, associate vice president for precision health sciences at the University of Arizona Health Sciences, and Michael Wood, vice president of AstraZeneca Neuroscience, also will present. Ramos will speak about the current state of physician scientist training, and Wood will discuss forging partnerships between academia and industry to transform scientific discoveries into medical treatments.

“Under Mike’s direction as the senior dean for research, the curriculum at the Virginia Tech Carillion School of Medicine incorporates a longitudinal aspect of research in physician training,” said Warren Zimmer, the society's president. Zimmer is the Scott Exter Professor and director of the medical science graduate program at the Texas A&M Health Science Center. “This is important to healthcare in the age of precision and personalized medicine that is driven by technological advances. One must be able to understand the technology to effectively treat the patient.”

Friedlander also will be one of four investigators to receive the Society’s Distinguished Scientist Award, along with Farzin Farzaneh of King’s College London; H. Rex Gaskins of the Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign; and Frederick Domann of the University of Iowa.

“Mike was chosen as a distinguished scientist because of his established contributions to science, specifically to neuroscience, and in recognition to his service to the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine,” Zimmer said.

The award is given in recognition of service to the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, as well as leadership in and out of the organization, including seminal accomplishments in biomedical research. Friedlander served as the president of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine from 2011 to 2013.

“The SEBM is a foremost organization that brings together experimental biology and scientists with medicine to catalyze translational research, education, and outreach to the scientific community and public at large,” Friedlander said. “As such, it serves an essential role in a time when the scientific community and the public demand the integration of the best science with the best medicine.”

The Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine was established in 1903 to encourage collaboration between scientific disciplines in biomedical research and foster the career development of students and new investigators. The society also publishes a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Experimental Biology and Medicine

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