(Philadelphia, PA) - The University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine received $1 million from
the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to establish an integrated
graduate training program in clinical imaging and information sciences.
HHMI is partnering with the National Institutes of Health’s
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
in this effort.
Penn’s grant was one of 10 awarded by the HHMI-NIBIB Interfaces
Program to set up interdisciplinary graduate education programs.
The three-year, $1 million grants will be used to develop innovative
programs designed to produce a cadre of scientists with the knowledge
and skills to conduct research at the interface of biomedical, clinical,
physical, engineering, and computational sciences. The 10 recipients
of the HHMI awards were chosen from 132 applicants.
The Penn Department of Radiology is providing additional funds to
hire two new faculty members to support the program. By the end
of the three-year development period, 10 new PhD students, designated
“HHMI Trainees,” will be enrolled in the program, notes
Program Director Peter F. Davies, PhD, Director
of Penn’s Institute for Medicine and Engineering (IME).
The imaging sciences are well established at Penn, within multiple
schools and academic departments, but no formal integration of efforts
in graduate training existed prior to this program award. Through
this grant, Penn will recruit graduates in Engineering, Physics,
Chemistry, Applied Mathematics, and Computer Science who want to
learn clinical skills, and those in Biological Sciences with strong
“We’re extremely excited about this opportunity,”
says Nick Bryan, MD, PhD, Chair of the Radiology
Department. “The ability for this initiative to cross schools
is critical for the type of research and education that this program
IME is coordinating the new program, working closely with the Department
of Radiology, and coordinating with the Departments of Bioengineering,
Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and the basic science departments
in the School of Medicine. “We’ve purposely cast our
net wide because we want to bring basic scientists-physicists, applied
mathematicians, biophysicists, and fundamental biomedical researchers-together
to address imaging research in a clinical context,” says Davies.
“The innovation is that trainees will get a PhD in clinical
imaging and informational sciences, which will be a thorough grounding
in the fundamental science of imaging, but be closely integrated
with clinical medicine.”
The PhD program is unique in that students will complete many of
the classes in the School of Medicine curriculum. The program is
set to recruit five students at the end of the second year of the
grant to start in the fall of 2007 and an additional five at the
end of the third year of the grant in 2008. The grant begins January
“The main focus of these HHMI grants is to facilitate new
interdisciplinary programs in cutting edge areas for which there
are currently no coordinated training opportunities,” says
Jim Gee, PhD, Associate Professor of Radiologic
Science, and a co-principal investigator of the program along with
Andrew Maidment, PhD, Assistant Professor of Radiology.
“Imaging science has traditionally been developed in a variety
of disciplines and has allowed important advances to be made in
many fields, including medicine. Further progress, however, demands
programs that treat biomedical imaging science as a discipline in
its own right in the same way that computer science has emerged
as a primary discipline in the applied sciences. Our students will
graduate as medical scientists, but their primary focus will be
developing and using imaging as their primary tool. It is critical
that the students come away with the clinical and basic medical
perspective needed to develop new methods for detecting, diagnosing,
and treating disease.”
HHMI and NIBIB will work together to ensure sustaining support beyond
the start-up funds for the new programs. Following a second competition
to ensure that the HHMI-funded recipients achieved their original
goals, the NIBIB will support the second phase of this program through
five-year training grants. The overall program is aimed at sustaining
interdisciplinary graduate education.
PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise
dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical
research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists
of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in
1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of
Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation
for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in
U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top
research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty
and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide
for its superior education and training of the next generation of
physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System comprises: its
flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania,
consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll”
hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital,
the nation's first hospital; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; a
faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty
satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.