The Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Columbia University maintains an active clinical and translational research group (Lab) which functions as a central platform/hub for clinical trials, training courses/programs and organ transplant related activities. It primarily conducts variable research projects by a number of fellows (surgical residents, medical doctors, PhDs.,) and led by/collaborated with prominent professors/attending physicians as PIs within and outside of the Department and the university. The research group bears the following responsibilities:
- Carrying out both basic and Clinical research projects
- Assisting and facilitating clinical activities and trials
- Assisting clinical training courses/programs
- Procurement of organs and tissues
- Teaching and training base for future medical professionals
- Bridging and branding the Dept. through projects collaborations within and outside of the university.
The CTSR group's research projects are largely engaged in the following areas:
- Heart failure
- Valvular disease
- Heart and Lung Transplantation
- Atrial fibrillation
- Mechanical circulatory support
- Robotic and minimally invasive cardiac surgery
- Angiogenesis and myocardial regeneration
- Clinical outcomes assessment
The nature of clinical based activities has determined that the people involved will be at different locations in different hours for different activities.
While CTS lab is being productive from research activities, supporting training courses/programs and clinical trials, it also functions as a training center to nurture future medical professionals such as students from medical school, premedical programs as well as college students, international fellows and other types of students. They come on board to obtain knowledge and gain experience through actively participating basic and clinical research, clinical trials, transplantation, clinical training courses, etc. This knowledge and experience will help them pave the road to achieve their goals in becoming medical professionals in the near future.
RA Training Program
This training program is designed mostly as a hands on learning experience for one year in general, to the following (not limited to) areas.
Research projects include three areas:
- Basic research: this set of work requires RAs to be presented at all experiment activities. Depending on the specific project, research assistant responsibilities can include preparation, coordination (within and outside of the university), bunch work. collecting data, obtaining patient consent for research studies, participating actively in animal surgery. Research assistants will also be involved in planning new projects and carrying out statistical analyses. They have frequent interaction with the cardiothoracic attending surgeons and fellows. The working sites include the main office at VC15-201, collaborators labs, surgical procedure rooms and animal facilities located at PS 17th fl, 18th fl, and BB 18th fl and 19th fl. et al.
- Clinical Projects: These types of projects require RAs to be available most of the time to participate in sample/tissue procurement, document procedures and data recording et al. The time frame and schedules follow the trail (patients registered for those studies) schedules including early morning and late evenings at times and at clinical sites.
- Epidemic projects: the CT lab also occasionally takes on social responsibility to help promote the "fight the disease" programs in the country, Obesity for example. At times, we get funding to work with local schools to create programs, which teach the next generation how to live healthy lives. This kind of program requires RAs to work the hours of schools, and situate among schools, hospitals, school of public health, and other health organizations.
There are a number of clinic trials all year long, and the RAs involved are participating in patient follow-up, data collection, database maintenance and analysis. RAs also help coordination among patients, physicians, nurses, and health institutes whenever needed. The working sites and time schedule are based on trial activities.
Annually, there are approximately 100 heart and more than 60 lung transplantations performed at Columbia Medical Center. Organ procurement is the critical part of the clinical activities that RAs will be exposed to, trained and actively participate in. The RA will be trained as an integral part of the heart and lung procurement team for Columbia University Medical Center to perform the duties of a preservationist on the team. In average an RA will take calls approximately 5 days a month. When a procurement run is called, the team will usually fly to the donor hospital for organ retrieval. Teams go on procurement runs across all of eastern North America, ranging from Canada to Puerto Rico, Maine to Texas, back to Milstein hospital building, research labs at PS, and pathology at PS, VC and BB et al.
Another part of the responsibilities of an RA is to take tissue call (approximately 5 days of a month), during which the RA(s) is (are) responsible for collecting tissue samples for research purposes from a variety of surgical cases and cryogenically preserving them in the lab's tissue repository. This allows the research assistant to become familiar with the operating room and with the details of surgeries such as LVAD implantation and explantation, aortic root replacement, and orthotopic heart transplant, and affords ample contact with attending surgeons.
RAs will also be trained to assist surgeons with the MAZE procedure for treating atrial fibrillation while on tissue call.
Training course or programs
The Department of surgery is one of the national leading groups for training programs such as Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), Robotic procedures, minimal invasive surgeries etc. Trainees (physicians, nurses, administrators etc) from all over the United States or other countries forms a large group participating in training involving surgical demonstrations, lectures, discussions and follow-ups et al. The RAs are involved in large scale work prior to, during, and post-training. This includes coordination, preparations for equipment, instruments, supplies and animals prior to the course; process assistance, data collection and research conduction during the course, and organization/assemblage and summary post each course etc. Their schedules are subjected to the course schedule and their working sites are VC, PS, BB, Milstein, and PH at different floors.