When a patient sits clutching his chest in pain in the emergency room, the doctor on call must think with razor-sharp focus to create a treatment plan immediately. The usual clinical suspects, such as heart attack or lung collapse, bear consideration. But anyone in emergency medicine research knows possible culprits vary widely and span the body’s organs. Unfortunately, research in this area has traditionally been spotty and uncoordinated — but perhaps not for much longer, thanks to the formation of a new Office of Emergency Care Research (OECR) unveiled earlier today by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“You can hear the excitement in my voice,” says Jill Baren, an emergency medicine physician-scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia. “This new office will increase the scope and breadth of emergency medicine research and will allow an amazing amount of coordination.”
The new office will be housed within the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences with an annual budget of around $400,000, but it will not issue research grants. Instead, the OECR will serve as a clearinghouse for extramural, or off-campus, academic researchers engaged in emergency medicine projects. According to OECR acting director Walter Koroshetz, such coordination is necessary for a field like emergency medicine, which is a facet of almost all of the medical research agency’s institutes and centers. “Research in the emergency setting is on an exponential growth curve because it is such a laboratory for serious health conditions,” says Koroshetz, who also serves as deputy director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
For several years now, Baren and Koroshetz have worked together on an NIH-funded project that relies on emergency department data to study acute injuries and illnesses that affect the brain. Following the establishment of the OECR — which came about in part at the recommendation of the US Institute of Medicine, which issued a 2006 report highlighting the shortcomings of emergency medicine care in the country — this project and others will now be under the new office’s umbrella.
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