Figure 1. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in relation to the location of nearby research facilities. TRP, Texas Research Park. UTSA, University of Texas at San Antonio. SFBR, Southwest National Primate Research Center and home of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute (TBRI). SAMMC, San Antonio Military Medical Center. Insert provides a layout of the central UTHSCSA campus within the 100 acre South Texas Medical Center.
Figure 2. The central campus of UTHSCSA. The yellow horizontal arrow indicates the location of the central campus of UTHSCSA while the double and single arrows are the University Hospital and the South Texas Veterans Administration Hospital, respectively. All institutions are physically connected and integrally involved in the UTHSCSA mission.
UTHSCSA, a component of the University of Texas System, is committed to programs of excellence in biomedical research and education, compassionate patient care, and community awareness. UTHSCSA serves San Antonio and a 50,000 square mile area of South Texas and is comprised of 8 campuses in four cities; the central campus is located in the South Texas Medical Center in San Antonio. UTHSCSA is the leading research institution in South Texas and is a major health sciences university. With a 2016 operating budget of ~$800 million, the Health Science Center is a chief catalyst for the $30 billion biosciences and health care industry, the leading sector in San Antonio’s economy. Over 32,000 UTHSCSA graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists, and allied health professionals) serve in their fields. The vision of community leaders, combined with the energy, talent and dedication of UTHSCSA students, postdoctoral research fellows, faculty and staff, make the Health Science Center a major force in the local bioscience sector.
UTHSCSA is composed of 5 schools, i.e., the Medical, Dental, Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS). There are ~1,700 faculty among all schools and ~1300 students graduated in 2015. All UTHSCSA schools are actively engaged in interdisciplinary research with support for research and other sponsored programs of $148 million for 2015. Given our distinguished faculty, institutional infrastructure, and strong academic programs, UTHSCSA provides diverse research and educational opportunities for pre- and postdoctoral trainees in biomedical investigation.
Originated as a medical school in 1968, the remaining schools were created by 1972. Facilities have been continuously updated over the years, and major renovations and expansion remain underway. For instance, construction has recently been completed on a new Academic Learning and Teaching Center (ALTC), a 125,000 ft2, four-floor building. The ALTC includes much-needed teaching/training space to enhance institutional educational missions. Most of the space in the new structure is devoted to flexible classrooms and lecture halls which support collaborative and inter-professional learning. Since methods and approaches to teaching have significantly changed since our facilities were first built, this additional new teaching space, with advanced technology, addresses a critical need. Moreover, many trainee-related career development programs will occur in this area.
Figure 3. Greehey campus of the UTHSCSA. Major components of the UTHSCSA research enterprise are consolidated in the nearby Greehey campus which is located ~0.25 mile from the central UTHSCSA campus.
In addition to the above, major expansion of infrastructure has enabled the consolidation of several UTHSCSA research programs into new buildings on the Greehey campus (Fig. 3). Of particular importance, this includes the South Texas Research Facility (STRF) which was completed in 2011. This state-of-the-art research facility (190,000 ft2) incorporates an open floor plan on a single floor! Investigators from diverse UTHSCSA academic departments conduct studies in six focused research areas (neuroscience, cancer, aging, diabetes, vaccine development, and regenerative medicine). Of note, this new research facility is centrally located on the Greehey campus and adjacent to the Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute, the Cancer Therapy and Research Center (a NCI designated cancer center), the Research Imaging Institute, the Medical Arts and Research Center (a facility for outpatient care and clinical research which opened in 2009) and the Center for Oral Health Care and Research which opened in 2015.
The top floor of the STRF is occupied by the administrative offices of the UTHSCSA Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS), the Office of Technology Commercialization, and the Institute for the Integration of Medicine and Science (IIMS). IIMS is home to the UTHSCSA Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) and includes the Office of Research Education and Mentoring. The IIMS sponsors many research-related activities of benefit to trainees, e.g., a monthly program, Seminars in Translational Research, and an annual program, Frontiers in Translational Science Day (held in January/February, a full day of research presentations by students, postdoctoral trainees, faculty, and invited speakers). The research education, training and career development activities of IIMS provide valuable career development programs for early career scientists (graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty). This includes K-paseo (a monthly series of lectures for those who are preparing applications for K grants) and Grant Writing with New Investigators (for junior faculty and advanced postdoctoral trainees). The IIMS also works in conjunction with the GSBS to provide an on-going series, Communicating Science, a quarterly program designed specifically for graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows to enhance communication skills. Further, in 2014, the GSBS established the Office of Career Development that works in tandem with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA; see below) to promote trainee career development through a variety of on-going programs.
As outlined above, the physical expansion of UTHSCSA has continued uninterrupted despite relative stagnation in national economic trends. Furthermore, the upper level of UTHSCSA leadership has been stable and has facilitated expansion of the entire institutional research enterprise. Consequently, modern research technologies are readily available to all UTHSCSA investigators via diverse, state-of-the-art institutional research core facilities (http://research.uthscsa.edu/RCL/aboutRCL.shtml). These include cores focused on Biomolecular NMR, Advanced Translational Technologies, Flow Cytometry, Mass Spectrometry, Macromolecular Interactions, MicroCT, Genomics, Nucleic Acids, Optical Imaging, and X-ray Crystallography. In addition, the Research Imaging Institute (RII) is fully equipped with positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) laboratories that actively sustain UTHSCSA research programs involving both human and animals. Consistent with this long-standing institutional support for biomedical research, new core facilities were only recently announced (January 2016), i.e., the Bioanalytics and Single Cell Core and the Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics Core. Thus, research support provided by the institution is expansive and promotes an exciting research training environment.
In addition to research and educational strengths in the basic biomedical sciences, UTHSCSA also supports important studies in the clinical sciences. For instance, the Department of Psychiatry leads active programs in clinical care as well as research into the etiology of mental disorders and/or chemical dependency. These pace-setting research programs target effective cures for behavioral disorders through interdisciplinary approaches. In example, the Division of Behavioral Medicine includes STRONG STAR (South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience), the only research consortium funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP); initiated in 2008, the goal of this $35 million program is to develop and evaluate the most effective early-interventions possible for the detection, prevention, and treatment of combat-related PTSD in active-duty and recently discharged veterans. STRONG STAR involves ~100 investigators at over 20 partnering military, VA, and academic institutions. Well-funded studies such as these explore important disorders that have high impact on modern society. Moreover, these programs expand the spectrum of translational studies that contribute to a vibrant research environment for our postdoctoral trainees.
The research enterprise at UTHSCSA also encompasses energetic programs designed to educate and train the next generation of biomedical investigators who will be adept at functioning with transdisciplinary teams to solve important questions regarding the diagnosis, treatment, and understanding of human disease. This includes traditional graduate studies within the GSBS. In addition, outreach to high school and college students is substantial and has been long sustained. For example, the Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy provides biomedical research education/experience in a college preparatory manner for San Antonio high school students; in this novel program, rising high school sophomores from diverse San Antonio school districts are partnered with outstanding UTHSCSA scientists for a 3 year period. In addition, a number of summer undergraduate research fellowship (SURF) programs provide a wealth of research training opportunities to diverse undergraduate students who subsequently engage in advanced biomedical training and/or pursue careers within the local biomedical workforce. UTHSCSA has also been the home for K-12 teacher enrichment activities in programs supported by a Science Education Partnership Award from the NIH, e.g., Minority Opportunities in Research Education. UTHSCSA recently (2015) received a highly competitive Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) from NIGMS to provide concurrent postdoctoral research and teaching training; this highly competitive award is yet an additional indicator of the strong institutional research training environment at UTHSCSA.
The UTHSCSA Office of the Vice President for Research provides oversight for diverse research-related activities including institutional research core facilities and offices that support research, e.g., Institutional Review Board (IRB), Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), Office of Clinical Research (OCR), and Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA). Newly established in 2012, the OPA has created a robust series of career development workshops and programs for trainees (postdoctoral research fellows and graduate students) and facilitated the organizational efforts of a local postdoctoral association. Regularly scheduled workshops include Orientation for New Postdocs (to introduce institutional resources and early career development to new postdoctoral fellows), Entering Mentoring (an 8 hour series that introduces effective strategies for successful mentoring), F-Troop (informal weekly meetings for 12 weeks to facilitate the preparation and submission of fellowship grant applications), and Spotlight on Research Integrity (to provide on-going training in the responsible conduct of research). The OPA sponsors a Mentored Teaching Award for postdocs to enhance teaching skills while under the supervision of an experienced teaching faculty at nearby undergraduate universities, e.g., St. Mary’s University (StMU); this highly competitive local award identifies motivated postdoctoral trainees and has been highly successful. Finally, OPA hosts the annual San Antonio Postdoctoral Research Forum (SAPRF) that includes postdoctoral research trainees from four San Antonio research institutions (the US Army Institute for Surgical Research, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, UTHSCSA, and UTSA); this half day event includes judged poster presentations and awards, networking opportunities, and a featured speaker arranged by the postdoctoral association. Recent SAPRF speakers included JR Haywood, former FASEB President (2015) and Frances Colón, Deputy Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State (2014).
Figure 4. Located in the Texas Research Park, Barshop Institute (right), South Texas Center for Biology and Medicine (left), and Institute of Biotechnology (center) at the TRP.
The Institute of Biotechnology is a component of UTHSCSA that was completed in 1990 at the nearby Texas Research Park (TRP). Located approximately 20 miles west of the main campus, this 1,200 acre site was developed to enhance San Antonio bioscience/technology ventures. The TRP is an innovative partnership between UTHSCSA and several private entities that serve medical education, bioscience research, and economic development. The TRP is home to several public and private organizations including the South Texas Center for Biology and Medicine which was completed in 2001 and houses laboratories and offices for scientists studying aging and infectious diseases. More recently, another UTHSCSA research building was completed that houses the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging, a world leader in the scientific understanding of the basic biology of aging (http://www.barshop.uthscsa.edu/main/core). The Barshop Institute is home to the San Antonio Aging Interventions Testing Program, the San Antonio Nathan Shock Center, and the San Antonio Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independents Center. High-bandwidth communications enable investigators, trainees, and staff from among all UTHSCSA campuses/buildings to participate in seminars and classes as if they were in the same classroom or laboratory. Shuttle buses provide continuous transportation among all UTHSCSA campuses in San Antonio. In summary, the TRP was designed to become a world-class center for life science research and education as well as economic development via university/industry relationships, i.e., bridged university research and technology commercialization. This enterprise benefits biomedical investigations throughout the greater San Antonio area.
The UTHSCSA houses the comprehensive Dolph Briscoe Library, located centrally on the campus. This library includes over 200,000 books and journals and provides electronic access to journals and information retrieval systems; these are available via numerous work-stations throughout the library as well as via seamless internet connections from off-site. The library has a robust collection of electronic journal subscriptions so that literature searches and scientific publications are continuously available to UTHSCSA investigators from office, laboratory, and other non-library locations.