So What is Clinical Translational Science Anyways?

July 16, 2021

I have just moved to Cleveland, Ohio and am starting a doctorate program in Clinical Translational Science at Case Western Reserve University. This past month I have been bombarded by questions  from my family and friends. “So what degree are you actually getting, Jacqueline? What does translational science mean?” The truth is, I’m still figuring it out. 
I hadn’t heard of translational science until two years ago and ever since I have been exploring what that really does mean. When I decided to apply for PhD programs however, I knew two things. I did not want to only do bench research or animal research during my degree and I wanted to learn more about population data research. 
According to the NIH, translation is the process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public. So being a translational researcher provides a link between all areas of research to improve health. You may work in the lab (think Marie Curie or Nikola Tesla), in the clinic with patients (such as a physician or working with physicians), within the community (like Anthony Fauci), or a mixture of them. That is a huge breadth of science covered! It is also important to understand that we do not always begin science in the laboratory. Sometimes problems can be identified in the clinical world or community and then taken into the laboratory. As shown in the schematic below (also from the NIH), this is an interconnected pathway. Translation is a circle, with no beginning or end.

However, translation research and translational science are two different areas. Christopher Austin, M.D. defined translational science as a focus on common causes of inefficiency and failure within translational research. Therefore, translational science increases the efficiency and effectiveness of translational research. 
So family and friends, what I am really getting a degree in? Detection. I am going to be trained to find experimental flaws and hopefully provide solutions to create more effective research to improve the health of the public. I created this blog to showcase just that - this developing field of translational science. I hope that this chronicle of my PhD journey will allow future scientists and laypersons alike to explore and understand translational research and science. Warning: Expect this blog to discuss the eye and vision science often. Vision is my passion and the reason I wanted to learn what translational science was in the first place. But more on that next time. 


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