Higher Education

GVSU MSU launch clinical trials program

September 21, 2012
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Grand Valley State University and Michigan State University made a historic first step Monday, creating their first joint graduate certificate program.

The new program offers graduate students a certificate in clinical research trials management. It was approved by the Higher Learning Commission of North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and made available to students in June.

Martina Reinhold, Grand Valley director of the clinical research trials management graduate certificate program, said this is the first time a West Michigan university has provided a formalized education for clinical trials management. The tuition is approximately $7,000, she said, and any GVSU or MSU student with a bachelor’s degree and at least a 3.0 GPA can enter with no prerequisite coursework required.

The program consists of four courses, two through GVSU and two through MSU, split between two semesters. The MSU courses are Regulatory Affairs: Project Management in Clinical Research, and Integrated Study Design: Research and Informatics for Clinical Trials. GVSU requires students to take Ethics and Professionalism in Science, but allows students to choose for their final course either Grant Writing, Statistics for Health Professions, or perform a clinical research trial practicum.

All classes are online, which should make the program attractive to local, national and international students, said Michael Rip, MSU director of public health programs. Professional certificates are becoming more popular, he said, allowing those who are educated but lack specific training in key professions to become qualified.

“The demand for a trained work force is quite large,” Rip said. “By having this online, we’re able to enroll a whole group of people who are able to get this certificate who never would have been able to before.”

Currently, there are six students in the program, only one of whom is from MSU.

Jean Nagelkerk, Grand Valley vice provost for health, said the students who go into clinical research and management typically have a background in bioscience, biomedical research, and health statistics or research.

That is true of Elizabeth Cowan of GVSU, who is pursuing a cellular and molecular biology master’s degree along with the clinical research trials management certificate. The Grand Rapids native said she plans to stay in Michigan and would like to work in a research lab and teach college on the side.

“I have a good lab job with Mead Johnson Nutrition, right now, as a chemist,” she said. “I can't wait for the rest of the courses that I will be taking.”

Grand Valley Provost Gayle Davis said she hopes the project will build social bonds in the community and retain young talent to “create a presence on the Medical Mile.” Partnering with MSU helps save the state and schools money, she said, rather than have each create their own certificate.

“They’re neighbors interested in the same areas, and we can save resources by partnering with them,” Davis said. “Together we share expertise, reduce the cost and supply resources for this area. Otherwise, we’d all be inventing the same new wheel and duplicating efforts.”

According to a 2012 report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, 3,424 clinical trials have been completed in Michigan since 1999. PhRMA reported a study by Archstone Consulting found that, in 2008, biopharmaceutical research companies supported nearly 95,000 jobs throughout the state, and employees working directly for the companies were paid $1.6 billion, leading to $57 million in state taxes and more than $388 million in federal taxation.

The funding clinical trials bring into Michigan is phenomenal, Nagelkerk said, and could be followed by a strong medical reputation nationally and an influx of jobs.

During development, GVSU reached out to all area hospitals, Nagelkerk said, asking if they would want the program’s students for internships or potential employers. The hospitals seemed excited, she said.

“This brings more talent into the state and gives our community members a chance to be a part of these cutting-edge trials,” she said. “This is a value add for our communities in Michigan.”

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