As in most places of employment, the break room in Creighton University’s School of Medicine, Department of Clinical and Translational Science (CTS), is a haven from workaday stresses, a place to unwind, have a snack or a meal, and socialize with colleagues.
In the CTS break room at Creighton, you can do all that in about a dozen languages or cuisines.
“Lunch in our break room is a little like a mini U.N.,” said Sannette Hall, a doctoral student in CTS from Jamaica studying asthma and allergy. She is one of nearly 30 students or post-doctoral researchers in the department from 15 different countries.
“We take a little time to not talk science. With the kind of diversity we have, it’s a great way to interact in this global village and to realize that even though we might not be talking about science in that moment, we are getting great ideas about our scientific thinking from all around the world.”
As a scientific program, CTS relies on a global approach to research and pathology in the interest of searching out the best ideas that can then be applied to clinical settings.
Devendra “DK” Agrawal, chair of the department, said the key goal in CTS is in training and preparing the next generation of researchers for the betterment of the disease management process. To do that, he said, the program necessarily draws on the expertise of faculty and students from around the world.
“That global exposure has given us an enriched environment, not only in learning about and appreciating one another’s cultures and backgrounds, but to exchange ideas,” said Agrawal, a native of India who has also worked in Canada. He represents a diverse faculty in the program, with members hailing from seven different nations.
“The most important function of this department is finding new approaches that aid in a clinical setting to combat disease,” he said. “I’ve found that more exposure to the health challenges in other countries has been integral to our students’ thinking about disease and approaches to disease.
“They are thinking about health problems globally, in every sense of the word.”
The scope of the department’s projects, its publications, its network and its diversity are all part and parcel of that thinking.
In 2016 alone, CTS students and faculty published work in 59 publications on subjects including cardiovascular science, oncology, orthopedics, neurology, vitamin D, pulmonary diseases, diabetes, and asthma and allergy. Research in each of those fields, and several others, gets into some of the most cutting-edge science Creighton is doing.
And in the multifarious CTS lab, in its break room and in its hallways, the worldwide conversation rarely stops and there are always open ears and minds to ponder new ideas and answer questions.
“There are no borders for science,” said Sami Almalki, a CTS doctoral student from Saudi Arabia, working on clinical uses for stem cells. “To have that diversity in both nationality and experience, you feel more comfortable. You see it in our lab. We are a team that comes from all around the world, working on a common goal in better disease management. You feel confident that you can approach people with questions and get answers.”
Students credited Agrawal with that wide-open flow of ideas and perspectives and said it was a motivating factor in their choice of Creighton’s program, which continues to be perhaps the only clinical and translational science program of its kind in the United States.
View the rest of the article, and learn more about the cross-cultural CTS team and its cutting-edge work.