Success at First Annual Radiology and Biomedical Imaging Research Retreat

On April 21-23, 2015, the UCSF Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging held its first dedicated Research Retreat at the Marconi Conference Center and State Historical Park in Marshall, CA.  Overlooking Tomales Bay, the Marconi Conference Center offered a quiet and relaxing facility that allowed participants to communicate and focus in a picturesque distraction-free environment.  Nearly 100 MD and PhD researchers from the Department worked on the emerging and strategic needs for research. This gathering was a unique opportunity for the department’s faculty and scholars to collaborate with each other, while discussing science and having a good time in an extraordinary atmosphere.

Hosted by the department’s Research Retreat Committee, the retreat allowed researchers from different academic backgrounds to interact, understand areas of commonality and interest, and explore new approaches to biomedical imaging.  The two-day event began with active “speed dating”, where researchers met ten new people in the department and gave them a short pitch regarding their research.  “It was energetic and loud and set the tone for the next day and a half,” said Vice-Chair of Research, Sharmila Majumdar, PhD.

Amidst discussions of PET/MR, hyperpolarized 13C studies, musculoskeletal diseases, brain tumors and prostate cancer, researchers learned about the immense body of state-of-the-art research performed in Radiology and Biomedical Imaging.  Breakout sessions were described as informal introductions to -omics (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics), biostatistics, and clinical radiology. Researchers in the same specific fields had the opportunity to meet and share issues and solutions.  It was a perfect setting for people from various research groups to mingle.  Co-Director of the Research Retreat Committee, Susan Noworolski, PhD, described the retreat as a “reflection upon celebrating the success of research.”

Research is a passion in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, and faculty and scholars perform their innovative research with the ultimate goal of positive impact on patient treatment and care.

According to Thomas Link, MD, PhD, “PhDs and researchers are our greatest resource and a unique strength of our department, which sets us apart from other great departments in the country.  Our research program is strongly translational and has substantially benefitted patient care, and allows our department to be at the cutting edge.” He noted that, “Obtaining research funding is increasingly difficult and though our department is currently very successful, we also have to live with a high rejection rate.  We must not be discouraged by rejection or failure, and what characterizes truly great researchers is their ability to learn from failure and move on.”

Radiology research has a very important role, both for patients, and for radiologists who need to optimize clinical settings for the patients.  Post-doctoral Scholar, Hsiang-Ling (Sharon), PT, PhD, of the Musculoskeletal Quantitative Imaging Research Group(MQIR), said she has “a passion to develop intervention protocols, not only to help people diagnose their problems, but also make suggestions that they can do in their everyday lives.”  When asked about the most meaningful element of her current work, Brain RIG post-doctoral fellow, Julia Owen, PhD, referenced her research on sensory processing disorder (SPD.) “I get so many emails from people saying, ‘I found your research paper, and I want my child to come to UCSF’ and ‘I want to learn more,’ it has been very redeeming for us,” said Dr. Owen.

Though the main focus of the research retreat was to celebrate success and hard work, everyone needs a break once in a while.  Following intense research sessions, it became time for some more intensity -- dodging, diving, and kicking, also known as a competitive game of kickball! Other conference participants utilized the opportunity to spend their free time hiking, exploring, or jogging around the historical park.  Sharmila, Majumdar, PhD, noticed, “After kickball, hiking, and many breakout sessions, the camaraderie and unity amongst the researchers, both MD and PhD, were palpable.

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