MSU, GVSU join for clinical research credits

October 8, 2010
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Starting next fall, Grand Valley State University and Michigan State University will team up to offer an online graduate certificate that will prepare students to manage clinical research trials.

The four-course, 12-credit certificate is being developed in anticipation of a surge in the number of clinical trials in the state, particularly in Grand Rapids, said Jean Nagelkerk, GVSU vice provost of health.

“Both nationally and at the state level, there is a real bright outlook for the future employment trends in clinical research related occupations,” Nagelkerk said, citing information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “It shows that the clinical research-related positions are continuing to rise.”

In addition, another report that compares employment trends among states predicted a 13 percent to 18 percent increase in the need for clinical research coordinators, clinical research associates, clinical data managers and statisticians.

“Collectively, the partners we have been working with in Grand Rapids are all engaged in one form or another in clinical research. Because of the synergies among the partners, there’s tremendous potential to become even more involved in clinical trials,” said Jeffrey Dwyer, associate dean for research and community engagement at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids.

“One of the things that becomes important is that we have well-trained people available to help conduct these trials. Certainly in Grand Rapids and in West Michigan, there are several well-trained people who work as clinical research coordinators already in place, but to manage increased volume we thought that collectively there was a real need to provide for the training of more individuals.”

Dwyer said the new program also provided an opportunity for the two universities to collaborate. “By working together, we get much more than just one plus one,” he said.

GVSU is starting to become more active in online course offerings, but Dwyer said MSU already offers a master’s degree in public health that is “almost entirely” online.

MSU’s third- and fourth-year medical students train at seven locations in many hospitals throughout Michigan, he pointed out.

“One of the real values here … is basically to create a network among our affiliations around the state for purposes of clinical trials and clinical research,” Dwyer said.

“By having a certificate available and having it online, then it creates the possibility of educating people — say, in Marquette, or Traverse City, or Midland — so that we can really stretch out that network and get the kinds of well-trained people in place in those kinds of environments.”

Dwyer said the program is expected to attract those students who are interested in the post-baccalaureate certificate alone and those who want a clinical research trial emphasis as part of a master’s degree.

The clinical research trial program is expected to be available in fall 2011.

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