The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) is an engaged, metropolitan university which serves a student body that is racially/ethnically diverse, represents a high proportion of lower socioeconomic status (SES) families, and has a high number of first generational college attendees. UTC is dedicated to meeting the diverse needs of the Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia region through strategic partnerships and community involvement. Tennessee ranks 43rd in the nation for adult educational attainment based on the number of adult Tennessee state residents who have a minimum of an associate's degree (Tennessee Higher Education Commission, 2012). The region is rife with a shortage of health professionals and ranks among the lowest in the county health rankings for the states of Tennessee and Georgia. With support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Biomedical/Bio behavioral Research Administration Development (BRAD) award, UTC will increase its likelihood of making a measurable difference in preparing students who represent challenging educational and economic disadvantages for pursuing careers dependent on exposure to excellent biomedical and bio behavioral research (BBR). The goal of the proposed UTC BRAD project, Chattanooga Research Enhancement: Advocacy, Training, and Expansion (CREATE), is to enhance and expand the existing organizational structure to build capacity among UTC faculty to successfully compete for BBR awards and thereby enhance the preparation and training of undergraduate and graduate students for potential BBR and health professional careers.
The specific aims of CREATE are to: 1) Identify key strategies in which to enhance the BBR environment/culture on the UTC campus;2) Advocate on behalf of and with faculty for improved research policies relative to the faculty functions of teaching/advising, service, and research;3) Improve faculty access to training opportunities in the research enterprise;4) Expand UTC faculty research capacity through collaborative efforts and partnering with extramural partners. Participation in CREATE will provide UTC's principal investigator/Extramural Associate (EA), Dr. Gregory W. Heath, with research administration training, support, and mentoring in association with Drs. Jerald Ainsworth, UTC Provost, and Dr. Donald Thomason, Dean, College of Graduate Health Sciences, University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), Memphis. Through such mentoring and the NIH BRAD summer internship, the desired outcome of CREATE is to enhance and expand BBR on the UTC campus as well as extend the reach of the Office of Partnerships and Sponsored Programs (OPSP) through capacity building, research training, and support to faculty. A component of the CREATE plan is the convening of a series of strategic planning sessions with key faculty and administrators around topics associated with BBR development and promotion. A related component to strategic planning is improved faculty access to workshops on topics including funding opportunity identification, grant writing, proposal development, and successful grant management in addition to individualized grant support. Finally, the CREATE plan seeks to actively engage community, regional, state, and national partnerships designed to foster collaborative BBR opportunities for UTC faculty and students.
UTC is an engaged metropolitan university serving a student population that is diverse in terms of race/ethnicity and socio-economic status (SES). The university is located in Southeast Tennessee bordering the states of Georgia and Alabama, and its regional constituency deals with limited access to healthcare and limited opportunity to engage in professional preparation programs, or biomedical and bio behavioral research (BBR). Faculty at UTC are currently engaged in a limited amount of BBR representing a variety of substantive areas including the study of aging and mental health;obesity prevention and physical activity promotion in children, adolescents, and young adults;the genetics of colon cancer;bioinformatics;and the biologic activity and potential health effects of discarded tobacco products, as well as other applied research areas in public health. Funding from the NIH BRAD program will enable UTC to further enhance its capacity to support these and similar fields of BBR among faculty as well as provide expanded research opportunities among graduate and undergraduate students who represent underserved populations. The results of such improved research activity on the part of UTC BBR faculty will also result in improved and informed instruction among undergraduate and graduate students with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes among residents of the greater Chattanooga region, the state of Tennessee, and the nation as a whole.